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WordPress 6.4, Elementor Pro Pricing Changes, “Woo” Rebranding 🗞️ December 2023 WordPress News w/ CodeinWP

📆  This is the December 2023 edition of “This Month in WordPress with CodeinWP.” 

Hey there, WordPress fans.

We are back with the latest roundup of WordPress news and happenings from the past month. If you’re in the USA, hopefully you can shake off the post-Thanksgiving turkey coma 🦃 to read about everything that’s going on in the WordPress space.

Over the past month, things were a little quieter than our previous roundup, with little of the #wpdrama from the previous month (perhaps because it was replaced by #seodrama, as you’ll see below).

However, there was still plenty of news with the release of WordPress 6.4, some big changes to Elementor Pro’s pricing, a rebranding at WooCommerce (oops, I mean “Woo”), and more.

Let’s get to all of the WordPress news and events from the past month…

December 2023 WordPress News with CodeinWP

WordPress 6.4 is released (along with a new default theme)

In the biggest news this month, WordPress 6.4 was officially released on November 7th.

In addition to a bunch of new features, WordPress 6.4 also brought a new default theme – Twenty Twenty-Four.

Here’s a quick rundown of some of the biggest new front-facing features in WordPress 6.4:

  • A new image lightbox feature for the Image Blocks
  • Improvements to the writing experience, such as more reliable pasting, improved keyboard shortcuts, a new toolbar for some blocks, and more
  • Background images for the Group block and other design enhancements
  • Boost to the Command Palette feature that was introduced in WordPress 6.3
  • Improved organization/management for synced and unsynced patterns
  • Improvements to the Outline/List view
  • Huge fix – you can now make links open in a new tab without five thousand clicks (some hyperbole, but this was something I found really annoying in WordPress 6.3)

Developers will also probably be happy with the new Block Hooks feature, which lets plugins automatically add blocks in certain conditions.

As I mentioned in the last news roundup, there were a couple of features that were expected to be in WordPress 6.4 but ended up being left out. Primarily, those are the sitewide font management system and improvements to pattern management for non-block themes.

WordPress 6.4 was quickly followed by its first minor release – WordPress 6.4.1 – on November 9th, just two days later. The minor release fixed four regressions that were introduced in WordPress 6.4. If you have already updated to WordPress 6.4, you’ll want to make sure that you’ve also applied WordPress 6.4.1 to fix those issues.

WordPress 6.4 and a new default theme Twenty Twenty Four

Big Elementor Pro pricing changes to Essential plan (but only for new customers)

Elementor made waves this month with the announcement of some big changes coming to its entry-level Essential pricing plan.

But first, I want to reduce your stress level:

If you’re an existing Elementor Pro Essential license holder, these changes will not affect you.

The pricing changes will only apply to new Elementor Pro Essential license purchases made after December 4th, 2023.

Additionally, there don’t seem to be any changes to the other pricing plans (Advanced, Expert, and Agency).

So – what will be different with the Essential plan going forward?

Well, it seems like the price itself will not change. Instead, Elementor will drop some key features from the entry-level Essential plan.

Most notably, new Essential license holders will no longer have access to the following features:

  • Access to all 82 Pro widgets – the Essential license will only give access to 50 Pro widgets instead
  • Custom code, custom CSS, and Global CSS tools
  • Form widget (including submissions and form integrations)
  • Popup builder
  • Integrations with ACF and Pods
  • WooCommerce builder functionality
  • PayPal and Stripe integration

The Essential license will still give access to the theme builder functionality, just without the ACF and Pods integrations for dynamic content.

Those are some pretty big subtractions that will remove a lot of the value from the Essential plan, so I can see why some people are upset.

But again – if you are already holding the Essential license (or purchase yours before December 4th, 2023), you will not lose access to those features.

For existing license holders, it’s not all good news, though. While you will still keep access to all of the features that you already have access to (even those that will be restricted for new customers), you might not get access to new features that are added to the higher-tier plans in the future.

This could end up pushing some legacy license holders to upgrade anyway. And, while I don’t think it’s unfair for Elementor to do this, I’m sure that it will still upset some legacy license holders who might miss out on new features going forward.

The Advanced, Expert, and Agency plans will continue to receive access to all current and future features (barring additional pricing changes).

Finally, it’s worth noting that these pricing changes seem to only apply to the plugin version of Elementor Pro. If you use the all-in-one Elementor Hosting plans, you’ll still keep access to all current and upcoming features, even on the cheapest plan.

Elementor pricing

You may also be interested in:

AI content creation stirs up drama in the Twitter SEO community

Okay, this one isn’t specific to WordPress, but a lot of WordPress site owners will have some involvement with SEO.

And given that AI is also a hugely popular topic, I thought it would be interesting to briefly share an AI-focused SEO story that stirred up a lot of debate on Twitter (X).

Basically, a guy who was promoting his AI content creation tool shared a thread on how he helped one of his clients “steal” 3.6 million in traffic from a competitor.

The basic process went like this:

  1. Scrape the URLs of all of the posts on a site using that site’s sitemap.
  2. Plug those URLs into the guy’s AI writing tool (which he’s clearly promoting).
  3. Generate thousands of AI posts based on the inputted URLs.
  4. Post them on your site and profit.

He claimed to have published 1,800 articles “in a few hours” which have generated 490,000 in monthly traffic.

Side note: I read some of these articles and, as you’d expect, the quality was pretty garbage.

This thread then kicked off a ton of debate in the Twitter SEO community (both in replies to the thread and elsewhere), with some people positioning it as highly unethical while others took the “if it works, it works” approach.

The owner of the site that had its traffic “stolen” (Exceljet) even chimed in, and others posted tips on how to make it more difficult for competitors to do the same thing.

The basic issue seems to be whether you see any difference between a human SEO writer creating posts targeting the same keywords or an AI writer doing so.

Some people even called on Google to take a more forceful stance against tactics like this…which I don’t think makes much sense given that Google is basically trying to do the same thing with its Search Generate Experience (SGE).

One thing is for sure, though – these types of ethical issues and debates around AI content generation are not going to go away any time soon.

For example, around this same time, Sports Illustrated also got busted for posting AI articles from AI-generated authors, which kicked off another round of debate about using AI in digital publishing.

If you’re interested in this topic, we also have a post with some more ethical ways to use AI for SEO.

SEO drama

WooCommerce rebrands itself to “Woo”

Over the past several months, I started noticing a weird thing whenever I went to the WooCommerce website.

Rather than calling itself WooCommerce, the website started referencing the company as “Woo.”

However, absent an official announcement about a rebranding, I was left a little confused about what was happening.

Now, we finally know what the deal is, as WooCommerce officially rebranded itself to “Woo” right at the end of October. The woocommerce.com domain name now redirects to woo.com and a number of other services have now switched to the Woo moniker.

However, “WooCommerce” is not gone. The actual open-source ecommerce plugin will still be known as WooCommerce.

What’s changing is everything around the plugin.

The main company behind WooCommerce is now Woo. That is, you can say things like “Woo’s core offering is the WooCommerce plugin.”

Other related names have also changed:

  • WooCommerce Payments is now WooPayments.
  • The WooCommerce Marketplace is now Woo Marketplace.
  • The WooCommerce Experts program is now WooExperts.

The new hosted offering was already launched as WooExpress instead of WooCommerce Express, so that won’t require any rebranding.

Overall, this seems to be an attempt to separate Woo “the company” from being just associated with the WooCommerce plugin. This makes sense as Woo is increasingly offering more “SaaS-like” features, such as the all-in-one WooExpress service.

Wordfence launches its own bug bounty program

Wordfence already does a lot of first-party research to detect security issues in WordPress. But in November, Wordfence made that focus even stronger with the launch of its own official bug bounty program.

Security researchers can now get paid for finding bugs in popular WordPress themes and plugins, with the price running from $1,600 to $80 for vulnerabilities in plugins with more than one million active installs, depending on the severity of the issue.

You can also earn bounties for bugs in less popular plugins, but the payouts will obviously be much smaller. The minimum threshold is 50,000 active installs for all researchers, while researchers who earn 1337 Wordfence Vulnerability Researcher Status can get paid for bugs in plugins with as little as 1,000 active installs.

You can also get bonuses for achieving various goals, such as having proof that a 0-day vulnerability is being actively exploited already.

Wordfence will confidentially triage disclosed vulnerabilities to the plugin developer and then responsibly disclose them in Wordfence’s free vulnerability database after the issue has been patched and users have been given enough time to update.

What I like about this program is that Wordfence is not just hoarding these vulnerabilities to make the Wordfence Premium plugin more valuable. Instead, Wordfence is responsibly disclosing them to everyone so that all WordPress users can benefit from more secure sites.

If you’re interested in learning more, you can check out the Wordfence announcement post here or go directly to the bug bounty program homepage.

A look at the WordPress 2024 roadmap

While we just had a major release this month, the WordPress core team is already gearing up for 2024 and putting together a product roadmap – and we just got a look at it in early November.

For now, the proposed schedule includes three major releases in 2024, with a focus on collaboration functionality (which is “Phase 3” of the Gutenberg project):

  • WordPress 6.5 in late March.
  • WordPress 6.6 in mid July.
  • WordPress 6.7 in early November.

Josepha Haden Chomphosy suggests that WordPress 6.5 and 6.7 will hold the bulk of the new collaboration functionality, while WordPress 6.6 will be there for “maintenance and general polish of the software.”

Again, this is all subject to change. But it should give you a basic outline of what to expect in 2024.

WooCommerce 8.3 moves Cart, Checkout, and other pages to blocks (by default)

For a good bit of time now, WooCommerce has offered editor blocks to help shop owners set up their cart, checkout, and other similar areas.

However, while these blocks were available, WooCommerce still defaulted to using shortcodes when automatically creating those pages for new stores.

That is no longer the case as of WooCommerce 8.3.

Going forward, new stores will default to using the blocks for those important pages, which marks an important step in the “block’ification” of WooCommerce, so to speak.

There are still a few WordPress Black Friday 2023 deals around

While most of the WordPress Black Friday 2023 deals have expired by this point, there are still a few deals floating around in the first few days of December.

To see what’s still on offer, you can check out our full roundup of 2023 WordPress Black Friday deals.

Sarah Gooding leaves WP Tavern

Finally, we just wanted to end with a quick note that Sarah Gooding has announced that she’s leaving WP Tavern after around 10 years at the publication and 3,021 published articles.

We’ve leaned on Sarah’s reporting quite a bit for a lot of our news roundups, so we wanted to give her a shoutout and wish her well in her future endeavors.

On a related note, WP Tavern is also hiring someone to fill the position that Sarah is vacating. So, if you’re interested in writing about WordPress news and events, you can learn more here.

That sums up our December 2023 WordPress news roundup. Anything we missed?

Don’t forget to join our crash course on speeding up your WordPress site. Learn more below:

 

Layout and presentation by Karol K.

Colin Newcomer

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