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WordPress.com Pricing Changes, WooCommerce FSE, Divi Cloud Launches 🗞️ May 2022 WordPress News w/ CodeinWP

📆  This is the May 2022 edition of “This Month in WordPress with CodeinWP.” 

Hey, WordPress fans! We are back with another round of the latest WordPress news that happened last month.

In the biggest news story of the month, WordPress.com made huge changes to its pricing structure with very little fanfare. Free users are upset, but paid users will benefit from a much cheaper price (that will likely put more pressure on the self-hosted WordPress space).

Beyond that, WooCommerce stores will be able to benefit from full-site editing soon, WebP images are delayed, Divi users got a cool new feature, and headless WordPress fans just got a new solution from WP Engine.

Let’s get into all the WordPress news from last month:

May 2022 WordPress News with CodeinWP

WordPress.com makes big changes to its pricing

In one of the biggest bits of news this month, WordPress.com made huge changes to its pricing plans – changes that might very well have an effect on the self-hosted WordPress ecosystem (read about the difference between WordPress.com and self-hosted here).

WordPress.com did this pretty much without any announcements, which caught a lot of people by surprise.

The high-level gist is that WordPress.com did two things:

  1. It radically simplified its pricing plans. There are now just two options – Free and Pro.
  2. It cut its prices for “full-featured” WordPress almost in half. This makes it cheaper than ever to use WordPress.com while still being able to install your own plugins and themes.

The new WordPress.com Pro plan will cost $15 per month (billed at $180 per year) and includes a lot of features that were previously reserved for the ~$25 per month Business plan, including the following:

  • Install unlimited custom plugins and themes.
  • Create WooCommerce stores.
  • Collect payments using built-in tools (also available via Jetpack).
  • SFTP and database access.
  • Automatic backups.

At just $15 per month, this may attract people who value simplicity but might otherwise have gone with a budget WordPress host like Bluehost.

With that being said, while paying customers will probably be happy with WordPress.com’s pricing changes, one group of users was not happy – free plan users.

Free plan users got hit with much stricter storage limits initially, dropping from 3 GB down to just 500 MB. Additionally, there’s no longer a cheap option to just pay to connect a custom domain name. Before, that would have cost around $8 per month, but now you’d need to go all the way up to the $15 WordPress.com Pro plan.

There also seem to be monthly traffic limits on both plans – 10,000 on the Free plan and 100,000 on the Pro plan.

As a result of negative feedback on platforms like Hacker News, WordPress.com made some tweaks to the changes and released new plans.

The new plans remove the traffic limits and also increase the storage on the free plan to 1 GB, though that’s still well under the original 3 GB.

Existing free plan users are supposed to be grandfathered into the old storage limits, though.

Additionally, WordPress.com has plans to offer some add-ons, such as a cheaper way to use a custom domain name.

WordPress.com will also soon adjust the prices based on geographic areas, which is something it did before. For example, users in India had access cheaper prices when paying in Rupee.

Overall, with a new cheaper price point for the full-featured Pro plan, WordPress.com is going to continue putting pressure on the self-hosted WordPress space, so it will be interesting to see the long-term effects of these changes.

For more on WordPress.com, check out our in-depth WordPress.com review.

WordPress.com makes big changes to its pricing

Is Google AMP on the way out?

Google AMP has always been a controversial technology, ever since its launch and heavy-duty promotion by Google.

At first, publishers were almost forced to use it, as your site had to be using AMP to show up in the “Stories” area of Google mobile search (though this is no longer the case).

AMP also pushed hard for WordPress adoption, releasing an official AMP WordPress plugin in conjunction with Automattic and WordPress core contributors.

Since then, though, publishers have been pushing back against AMP because of issues with privacy, control, and lowered revenue.

There’s even a lawsuit going on alleging that Google throttled non-AMP pages and did other anti-competitive things to force publishers into using Google AMP, even though Google allegedly knew that publishers earned 40% less revenue with AMP. We wrote about this back in our January 2022 news post.

AMP has already been dying a slow death because of publisher pushback, but the technology was just dealt another big blow:

DuckDuckGo and the Brave browser will now automatically bypass AMP content, opting instead to serve the publisher’s own URL (rather than the AMP version hosted on Google’s servers):

Given Google pushing AMP less aggressively, publishers moving away from AMP, lawsuits over AMP, and now these types of changes, my guess is that AMP is on the way out as a technology.

Google AMP on the way out

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Elegant Themes launches its new Divi Cloud service

If you’re a fan of Divi, Elegant Themes just released a really cool new feature – a Divi Cloud service that lets you save your layouts (and soon other content) to the cloud so that you can quickly reuse them across multiple sites.

Think of it like Dropbox for all your Divi layouts. Once you save a layout to the cloud, you can access it from any site where you’re signed in to Divi Cloud, even if you’re working on a client’s site.

Now, the feature is pretty cool by itself and worthy of a mention, but what really interests me about Divi Cloud is its pricing structure.

Unlike a lot of other WordPress businesses, Elegant Themes still offers a lifetime pricing option. For a one-time $249 payment, you can get lifetime support and updates on unlimited sites.

That’s great for consumers. But the reason a lot of WordPress businesses have moved away from this model is that it basically relies on constant growth to survive, which is tough to sustain.

An agency could use Divi to build 100 client sites per month, but Elegant Themes won’t get another cent from that agency after the initial $249 payment. In contrast, Elementor’s highest tier earns them $999 per year, which lets them earn revenue even without attracting new customers.

So how does Divi Cloud fit in?

Well, all Elegant Themes members will be able to store up to 50 items in the cloud for free. But beyond that, they’ll need to pay.

This limit is set so that casual users will be fine with the free option, but agencies and freelancers building client sites will need the paid option.

The paid option isn’t expensive at $8 per month, but it is one thing – a recurring subscription.

So with Divi Cloud, Elegant Themes now has a way to try to earn some recurring revenue from all those agencies and freelancers who purchased a lifetime option.

I don’t know their exact thought process so I can’t say if/how much this factored into their decision. But I do think it’s an interesting (and smart) way to try to build a recurring revenue stream while still taking care of their existing lifetime users.

Some other businesses have tried to earn additional revenue from lifetime customers and run into huge pushback. For example, Advanced Custom Fields after the acquisition by Delicious Brains. But by doing it like this, Elegant Themes gives itself a chance to earn new, recurring revenue from lifetime users without making users feel like they’re being taken advantage of.

Elegant Themes launches Divi Cloud

No more default WebP images (for now)

In the April 2022 WordPress news, we mentioned that the core team was considering enabling WebP images by default in WordPress 6.0.

However, after negative feedback, it seems like this is no longer a possibility, at least for WordPress 6.0.

So what’s the problem with WebP by default? The main criticism seems to be the associated storage requirements and costs.

If you uploaded a JPG image under the proposed functionality, WordPress would automatically convert it to WebP but also preserve the original image. So at that point, you’d have two images on your server – the JPG and WebP version.

But it gets worse because of WordPress thumbnails. You’d also have two versions of every single thumbnail, which can be a lot of different image sizes depending on your theme and plugins.

For example, if your site generates 20 thumbnails (which is, unfortunately, not unrealistic), that would mean 40 image files for every one image you upload!

Some people also expressed concerns that Google engineers are leading the performance team and pushing a Google-created file format (WebP), so there might be some conflicts of interest there.

Regardless, there’s no longer any chance of WebP images being a default feature in WordPress 6.0. However, WordPress did add WebP support in WordPress 5.8, so you’re free to use WebP images if you prefer.

If you want the simplest way to benefit from WebP images and other image optimization strategies, you can use the Optimole plugin.

Full-site editing for WooCommerce single product templates

In WordPress 5.9 (released in January 2022), WordPress users got their first taste of full-site editing with the block editor.

If you’re not familiar with this term, the basic idea is that you can use the native WordPress block editor (“Gutenberg”) to design your theme’s templates using blocks. Basically, it’s similar to theme builders like Elementor Pro or Beaver Themer, but uses the native WordPress editor.

If you have a WooCommerce store, you’ll be happy to know that the WooCommerce team is getting closer to releasing full-site editing support for single product templates.

When this feature arrives, you’ll be able to fully customize your store’s product templates using the editor, which will be a really useful feature for store owners.

If you want to learn more about this functionality and when it might arrive, check out Darren’s WooCommerce full-site editing roadmap post.

WP Engine releases Atlas, a headless WordPress solution

Headless WordPress has been generating a lot of buzz lately.

If you’re not familiar with this term, the basic idea is that you use WordPress on the backend but a different technology on the frontend, such as Gatsby or a React app. You can then pull in information from the WordPress backend using the WordPress REST API or something like WPGraphQL.

For an example of this in action, consider TechCrunch’s headless implementation of WordPress.

In April, WP Engine released its own solution for headless WordPress sites – Atlas.

Atlas is a “complete headless WordPress platform, enabling exponentially faster dynamic sites with the flexibility and security that comes with headless solutions.

If you’re interested, you can try the Atlas Sandbox for free. You will need to enter a credit card for verification, but you can play around with a dev environment at no cost.

If you want to go live, Atlas hosting plans will start at $49 per month, which is a little bit higher than WP Engine’s standard WordPress hosting plans.

That sums up our May 2022 WordPress news roundup. Anything we missed?

Don’t forget to join our crash course on speeding up your WordPress site. With some simple fixes, you can reduce your loading time by even 50-80%:

 

Layout and presentation by Karol K.

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