Footnotes #408

WordPress 5.5 Release

WordPress 5.5 “Eckstine” was released this week, and so far it has been getting good reviews and feedback. The top three areas of focus were speed, search — with a new sitemap addition to core — and accessibility. Security and block improvements also shone during this release. ⭐

Matt Mullenweg, Jake Spurlock, and David Baumwald led the 5.5 release. It represents the work of 805 volunteer contributors who dealt with more than 523 tickets on Trac and over 1,660 pull requests on GitHub! 🙌

Right before the release, wp_cache_get_multiple() was added to core. It can improve performance retrieving cache objects. 💨

The WordPress 5.5 field guide should be required reading for active developers; check it if you haven't yet.🦮

Also, Carlo Daniele from Kinsta has a nice, visual roundup of what's new in this release.

🏁 WordPress 5.6 release planning is already underway! Led by Josepha Haden, this will be the first all-women release squad. 👩‍💻


Ad Astra Per Aspera

Last week, the popular Astra theme was suspended from the theme directory for five weeks because it was “violating prohibitions on affiliate links.” Search Engine Journal talked to the theme review team and Brainstorm Force (the owners of Astra) about the suspension. 😕

Here is the particular comment in Trac that many people have been focused on. Ronald Huereca explains the technical details and discusses the official response from Astra on their Facebook group. 💬

Although Astra was removed from the WordPress directory, a few days later (on August 10th) it was back but not listed anywhere in the popular theme lists. Alexandru Cosmin, the Themes Team Lead, stated on Twitter that they “found a hacky way to get them off the Popular list (for 5 weeks).” Alexandru points to a newly opened Trac ticket to “Add delist option to theme directory” and noted at the time that “if this patch is ready by then, we'll use it on Astra too.”

Sujay Pawar, CEO and Co-Founder of Brainstorm Force, issued a public apology letter but didn't include any new information or propose any course of action.

There is a new discussion taking place now about what should happen when a theme in the directory doesn't “follow the guidelines,” no doubt instigated by Astra's situation.


Mozilla vs. The Bottom Line

Sad news from Mozillathe company has laid off 250 people. If that wasn't bad enough, it appears that certain features in Firefox that many developers treasure may be vastly reduced or simply eliminated soon. 😱

This tweet from Kat Marchán, if accurate, reflects what is known at the time of this writing:

…the following teams at Mozilla have been either eliminated or gutted to oblivion: Firefox devtools, Firefox incident/threat management team, Servo, MDN, WebXR/Firefox Reality, and possibly DevRel/Community.”


Mozilla is also going to stop trusting SSL certificates issued for more than a year. This applies to new certificates issued on or after 1 September 2020. If you have an existing two-year certificate, you can continue to use it until it expires. 🔒


🧪 A proposal from Francesca Marano aims at bringing E2E (End-to-End) testing to WordPress core:

“E2E testing tests the higher-level functionality of an application that the user sees, typically including the interface and the inputs and controls that the user interacts with.”


After WordCamp US was cancelled, Joe Casabona shared some thoughts on virtual event fatigue. He says he starting noticing it during his webinar series. 😫

Joe proposes a way to solve virtual event fatigue — make the events asynchronous and more portable:

“If people don’t feel like they need to be tied to their computer at a specific time, for hours on end, they’re more likely to consume the content at their leisure.”


Joe Howard explains at Torque how to begin developing headless WordPress sites. The main advantages are flexibility and control, easier multi-channel content publishing, and better security and speed. 👤🪓

Joe names three tools to help you get started: GraphQL API, GatsbyJS Framework, and Static Fuse‘s Gatsby themes and plugins.


Troy Hunt is open-sourcing the “Have I Been Pwned” codebase. He explains his reasoning and what it will take for this massive project to continue. 🔒


Iain Poulson recently launched Plugin Rank, an SEO tool for developers who want to monitor their rankings and performance relative to competitors. 👀

A similar freemium plugin exists in the WordPress repo from Rank Math.


Laws of UX is a collection of established maxims and principles from Jon Yablonski that designers should take to heart when building user interfaces. ⚖️


Nexcess has a new resource page focused on getting your WooCommerce store up and running. 🛒


🤝 Recently Joomla developers from JoomUnited handed off the Advanced Gutenberg plugin to Steve Burge and PublishPress. Looking ahead, Steve says:

“PublishPress has focused on the admin area of WordPress… With the addition of Advanced Gutenberg, we're also going to focus on the front-end. We'll keep improving Advanced Gutenberg with a strong focus on publishers. So we'll add blocks that focus on content.”


Jill Binder — who (among other things) leads the Diverse Speaker Training group in the WordPress.org Community Team — has been selected as a finalist for a major technology prize, the BraveIT Award.

This comes as a well-earned accolade for Jill's work in WordPress and other technologies that empower people from underrepresented and marginalized groups around the world to become inspiring speakers and leaders. 🙏

If you would like to take a few seconds to vote for Jill as a way to say “Thanks!” for her work in the WordPress space, you can do so here. 👈 🗳️


📅 Conference and Event Updates

  • 🔌 Brad Williams and Cory Miller will be holding a webinar on “Building Your First WordPress Plugin” on August 20, 2020, at 01:00 PM CDT (UTC -5) in North America. You can RSVP here for free. Based on the popularity of our first webinar on this topic, we're bringing it back. It's an extension of Brad's awesome, newly updated book, Professional WordPress Plugin Development. Very, very practical and helpful for anyone getting started.
  • 💼 WPMRR Virtual Summit (September 23rd and 24th.) Free, online. The focus will be “100% focused on helping you make monthly recurring revenue work for your WordPress business.” Scroll down the homepage where they publicly list the MRR (monthly recurring revenue) numbers from the speakers who will be participating! 💸

DAVID'S PICKS 📬

Video Picks

📹 Here's the video pick of the week:

  • Courtney Patubo Kranzke and Cami Kaos from the WordPress Community team lead this introduction to the WordPress open source project. They cover all the contributor teams and how you can join one. As part of Learn WordPress, there's a discussion group on Meetup to go with this workshop. This is a good one to share it with someone new to WordPress or for discovering something you didn't know about the project and its history. 🆕

Podcast Picks

🎙️ Here are some good podcasts I've enjoyed this week:

  • Matt Report: Matt Medeiros has a take on the Astra incident in his latest podcast. I don't agree with all of his points, but I think I agree with him about Jetpack.
  • Exceptions Welcome: This is a new podcast focused on brand new or early-in-their-career software developers. A recent episode has an interview with Chris Ferdinandi on vanilla JavaScript.
  • C2C Podcast: Here's a good interview with Sal Lucatero, on how he found ways to retain and add value for members who could no longer attend his in-person C2C events.
  • WPMRR Podcast: In episode #106 Joe Casabona talked to Augustin Prot about co-founding WeGlot, a service that helps you make your website multilingual. They cover the reasons why premium subscriptions should offer more, and how community support adds value to a business service. Another recent episode I recently enjoyed featured Joe and Christie Chirinos talking about running the podcast itself, including cost and their equipment.