Footnotes #430

Executive Code

When President Joe Biden took office this week, the official White House website was completely replaced β€” and it's still using WordPress. Of course, this sparked a public conversation (and also some private ones) about the theme and plugins the revamped whitehouse.gov site is running, among other technical details.

One of the first things noticed was the addition of a dark mode, a high-contrast mode, and a large text mode along with other improvements aimed at inclusivity and accessibility. Prominently displayed on the site is an accessibility statement from the administration that they plan on working toward compliance with Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) version 2.1, level AA criteria.

In terms of performance and page load, the site also appears to do well in Lighthouse scores β€” according to Wes Bos and some of the replies to his tweet.

Like others, I noticed a “hidden message” in the site source code for any developers interested in working in the Biden administration.

Unsurprisingly, the White House site uses a custom theme. The first plugin many spotted was Yoast in the sitemap index XML file. I also noticed fairly quickly the use of Bootstrap at the same time others confirmed the use of Sass and jQuery. The Rest API appears to be locked down.

Dave Amirault, Pagely Director of Marketing, and Jeff Matson documented many of the things that I discovered about the site as well. Check out their post, as it's a nice collection of observations and theories β€” although not everything on their list is accurate. For example, I've been hearing from reliable sources that the site does not use the TablePress plugin. πŸ”Œ

I also observed whitehouse.gov is using WordPress multisite, primarily for the separate language versions of the site. (Currently, these are Spanish and English.)

The site does have its critics. Robert Jacobi notes that the site at launch apparently isn't “fully functional if an ad blocker is running” although this isn't completely confirmed yet.

As far as who or what agency was responsible for building the new WordPress site, there has been no official confirmation at the time of this writing. However, if you look at some comments on Twitter and in other spots, fingers point to 10up. πŸ™Œ


WooCommerce core and “related ecosystem plugins” appear to be transitioning away from semantic versioning and adopting WordPress versioning. 5️⃣.0️⃣

According to Allen Smith, this transition will begin with WooCommerce 5.0, which will be a non-breaking change.


Mika Epstein explains why the plugin emails sent to developers (who have plugins in the WordPress.org repo) are anonymous. The bottom line: plugin reviewers were finding themselves targeted in rather terrifying ways, including death threats and credible threats against their safety at upcoming WordCamps. 😲

Mika explains how bad this got for our volunteer reviewers:

“2019 was the worst year on record for categorical abuse of the members of the team. It’s difficult to express without violating confidence (and in some situations, legal cases still pending) exactly how bad… Because of the attacks on people’s safety and out of a desire to protect their health and well being, we have chosen to make all emails from the Plugin Review Team anonymous.”

The fact that these completely appropriate steps needed to be taken β€” and that some plugin developers were making threats β€” predictably brought sadness and some rage to our community, which I share. 😑 Brad Williams summarized my feelings well:

“I honestly can't believe the WordPress plugin review team is still voluntary. Think about how big an industry premium plugins have become and free WP.org plugin listings are (for most) a requirement to gaining users and promoting their paid products and services.”

It's fine to be passionate about your plugin and your products β€” many people make a living off of their plugins in the repo. But not treating others with common decency and going so far as to criminally threaten to harm people is completely unacceptable. πŸ™…β€β™‚οΈ


πŸ† Chris Lema shares why Liquid Webbuilt him a better review plugin” for WooCommerce:

“We built a WooCommerce extension that would help store visitors evaluate the reviewer and understand the context. And that's what makes the plugin better than the other ones out there. We took our inspiration from UnderArmour.”


Leonardo Losoviz thoughtfully explores the question of whether the GraphQL API for WordPress plugin establishes a bridge between the two paradigms:

Can the WordPress philosophy that depends on server-side architecture co-exist with a JavaScript-based query language that passes data via an API?

More fundamentally, Leonardo notes how WordPress represents the prioritization of user needs over developer convenience while a GraphQL server can prioritize certain behaviors over others. πŸ‘©β€πŸ’»


Lewis Warren explains what SVG files are, what they're used for, and why developers should be using them:

“SVGs are easier to manage, will improve the load speed of your web pages, and won’t require an update every time a new resolution display splashes onto the market with a higher PPI (pixels per inch). Additionally, you can animate and make modifications to the styling of your SVGs without needing or knowing how to use [an app].”


πŸ›’ If you build WooCommerce sites or have products and services for WooCommerce, please spend a few minutes filling out this survey from Do The Woo to let them know how 2020 played out for you.


Nice to see Jetpack listens to feedback β€” and criticism. πŸ™‚


GiveWP has over 100,000 users now, and on February 5th at noon Pacific Time they are holding an “online gathering” of music and giveaways. 🎡


Drew DeVault believes that “open source means surrendering your monopoly over commercial exploitation.” πŸ’‘


With all the talk about Full-Site Editing (FSE) coming to WordPress, you may want to read FrÀnk Klein's post on what he learned from building a full-site editing theme. 🎨

FrΓ€nk believes “The introduction of Full-Site Editing in WordPress will be a shift as profound as the addition of the Block Editor.”


For those following accessibility news, WCAG 3 is in the works. Shawn Lawton Henry and Jeanne Spellman explain what to expect from it.Β  They discuss the new approach WCAG 3 represents and the ways it differs from WCAG 2.

Wilco Fiers also has an excellent take on what to expect from the first public working draft.


Malte Ubl, an engineer at Google, has some tips for optimizing image loading in 2021. He demonstrates eight techniques in the form of annotated HTML “to make it easy for folks to reproduce the results.” πŸ’¨


πŸ”’ Restrict Content Pro has acquired Skillful Plugins, a company that has been building Restrict Content Pro plugins for some time, including the Restrict Content Pro – Avatax plugin and the View Limit plugin. Started by Tanner Moushey, Skillful Plugins is the product arm of his digital agency, Mission Lab.

AJ Morris comments for Restrict Content Pro:

“we’ve gone in and canceled any existing recurring plans for existing customers. Skillful Plugin Customers are likely Restrict Content Pro customers as well and may already have an existing plan with us that includes these plugins. If they do not have an existing plan, we’ll be offering them a special offer.”


Ben Sibley shares his top picks for the best bbPress-supporting forum themes for WordPress in 2021. πŸ‘‘


A member of the WordPress community, Dan Beil, passed away recently. Michelle Schulp has a touching post about Dan, and she invites you to share your memories of him. 🧑


Upcoming Events πŸ“†

  • Wordfest Live 2021 is underway now β€” a 24-hour event loaded with great speakers.
  • WordCamp India 2021 will take place over three weekends from January 30 to February 14, 2021!
  • The last WordPress Mega-Meetup that happened on Jan 19th can be found here with Taco Verdonschot (From Yoast SEO), David Yarde, Gary Smith, and Valerie Pierce.
  • Coming up on March 4th is DE{CODE} β€” WP Engine‘s virtual developer conference.
  • There is a free webinar on Jan 29th on the subject of WordPress's Full Site Editor and themes. It will be hosted by Carolina Nymark, Ari Stathopoulos, Anne McCarthy, and Birgit Pauli-Haack.

DAVID'S PICKS πŸ“¬

Video Picks

πŸ“Ή Here are my video picks of the week:

Podcast Picks

πŸŽ™οΈ Here are a few podcasts to listen to that I heartily recommend: