📆 This is the September 2023 edition of “This Month in WordPress with CodeinWP.”
Hey, WordPress fans!
We are back with another roundup of all the latest WordPress news and gossip from the past month.
Whereas the previous few months had been relatively quiet, the last month had two big happenings – the release of WordPress 6.3 in early August and WordCamp US 2023 in late August.
Beyond that, we also got some interesting sneak peeks at the future of WordPress, including a look at the upcoming Twenty Twenty-Four default theme and some early-stage design mockups for the WordPress admin redesign.
Plus, as has become the norm, there was another big acquisition in the WordPress plugin space.
Let’s get to all of the WordPress news from the past month…
In the biggest news of the past month, WordPress 6.3 was officially released on August 8, 2023.
On top of that, we also got the first minor release – WordPress 6.3.1, on August 29.
We already talked about some of the changes in last month’s news roundup, so we won’t go too in-depth here. But here’s a quick rundown of some of the most notable changes:
170+ different performance-focused updates to improve website load times.
Replaced with reusable blocks and block patterns with “Synced” and “Unsynced” patterns (which I’m guessing will not reduce confusion around the subject).
Some new blocks, including the Details and Footnotes blocks.
A revision history for styles to help you track and/or revert changes.
Option to preview block themes in the Site Editor before activating them on your site.
Distraction-free design mode in the Site Editor.
Better controls for things like padding/margin, image aspect ratio, and more.
On a negative note, the block editor now has an incredibly annoying process for making a link open in a new tab. It requires far more clicks than it did before, and I hope it gets reverted because it honestly makes no sense. /rantover
Then, on August 29, WordPress 6.3.1 fixed four bugs in the Core and six bugs in the block editor. It does not seem to have addressed any security issues – it’s purely focused on bug fixes.
Still, if you’ve already upgraded to WordPress 6.3, we recommend updating to 6.3.1 ASAP to fix those bugs.
Relive WordCamp US 2023 via livestream videos
In addition to WordPress 6.3, another big news story from the past month was WordCamp US 2023, which was held in National Harbor, Maryland from August 24-26.
As you’d expect, a lot of the talks focused on the Gutenberg project. However, there were plenty of non-Gutenberg talks as well, including both general talks, such as how to use WordPress to make a difference in the world, and more specific talks, such as those focused on digital accessibility.
If you weren’t able to attend or if you just want to catch up on your favorite talks, the full-day live streams are available on the WordPress YouTube page.
Here are links to the full-day streams of the different tracks:
Sneak peek of the Twenty Twenty-Four default theme
WordPress 6.4, expected in November 2023, will bring with it a new default theme – Twenty Twenty-Four.
In late August, we got our first look at what that default theme might look like.
As you’d expect, the theme is built with a block-first approach, meant to highlight the new Site Editor experience.
In the words of the introduction post, “the idea behind Twenty Twenty-Four is to make a default theme that can be used on any type of site, with any topic.”
To help make that happen, the theme will include a bunch of whole-page patterns and template variations.
Currently, it seems to be a mix of targeting regular end users of WordPress as well as developers who are building WordPress sites or extensions for other people. Overall, it seems like it’s slightly more targeted to developers, though, as it includes CTAs to create custom blocks, design block patterns, and build block themes.
In the aforementioned blog post, it was stressed that this page is just the beginning, and they would like to iterate to make it as useful as possible.
If you’d like to share your feedback and suggestions for the page, you can do so by leaving a comment on the blog post that I linked to above.
WordPress.com goes after Google Domains customers
If you hadn’t heard the news, Google decided to rug pull its customers yet another time when, back in June, it announced that it would be shutting down Google Domains, causing massive inconvenience for people (myself included).
In early August, WordPress.com announced that it would pay the domain transfer fee for the first one million customers who transferred their domains to WordPress.com.
As part of transferring the domain name, it will also extend your domain registration for one more year, which means that you’re essentially getting a free year of domain registration just for shifting your domain to WordPress.com.
On the business side of things, this also seems like a pretty smart marketing strategy from WordPress.com.
At cost, I believe it would cost them around $9.15 per .com domain name. Paying $9.15 to acquire a new customer seems like a pretty great deal for WordPress.com. I’m sure they would happily fork over the full $9.15 million if they were able to get one million new customers out of the deal.
WordPress.com and Jetpack go after newsletters
In addition to going after the former users of Google Domains, WordPress.com is also going after the current users of platforms like Substack with its new Newsletter product.
While the Newsletter product itself has been around for a few months now, WordPress.com has been iterating on it since then and is now making a big push into the space.
In a nutshell, the feature lets you automatically send your blog posts to some or all of your subscribers. Much like Substack allows, you can also create separate content that goes to free members and paying members.
One area where the WordPress.com Newsletter tool stands out is pricing. Whereas Substack only operates on a commission model, WordPress.com essentially lets creators choose how they want to pay, which is a big part of why WordPress.com made its monetization features free a couple of months ago.
On one end, creators can use the WordPress.com Free plan, where they would give up 10% of all the payments that they collect.
On the other end, creators can also go with the Commerce plan, which costs a flat $45 per month with zero transaction fees.
There are also three intermediary plans that mix a flat monthly payment with different transaction fee percentages:
Personal – $4 per month + 8% transaction fee.
Premium – $8 per month + 6% transaction fee.
Business – $25 per month + 2% transaction fee.
For successful newsletters, the non-free plans can offer considerable cost savings versus Substack’s flat 10% fee model, so it will be interesting to see if WordPress.com can make any inroads with well-known Substack creators.
Of course, WordPress.com/Jetpack is not the only way to use WordPress for newsletters. Our sister site Themeisle also covered some alternative methods in its Substack vs WordPress comparison.
WordCamp Asia 2024 call for speakers
Finally, if you’re interested in speaking at WordCamp Asia 2024, you might be interested to know that WordCamp Asia has officially put out a call for speakers for next year’s event.
WordCamp Asia 2024 will be held in Taipei, Taiwan, which is a great city to visit based on my personal experience.
There will be four different formats for talks, so you can choose the approach that works best for you:
Long talks – 30-minute talk plus 10-minute Q&A.
Lightning talk – 10-minute talk with no Q&A.
Panel discussions – around 60 minutes with Q&A.
Workshops – from 90 minutes all the way up to half a day.
If you don’t have videos of previous talks to share with the organizers, you can record a short 5-10 minute video of you talking about your topic and submit that.
Colin Newcomer is a WordPress power user who has been writing about WordPress for over seven years and using the WordPress software since all the way back in 2006. He also has hands-on experience with SEO, content marketing, affiliate marketing, and other digital marketing areas.