WordPress Planet

November 25, 2015

Post Status: Interview with Automattic CEO, Matt Mullenweg, on Calypso and more

I had the opportunity to interview Matt Mullenweg about an ambitious project that included more than a year and a half of development to create an all new WordPress.com interface, both for the web and a desktop app. The project was codenamed Calypso, and we talked about many aspects of Calypso, as well as a variety of subjects that relate to it.


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Why did you make such a big bet on Calypso?

Matt has talked for a while now about his vision that WordPress can become an “app platform,” and this is an example of what that meant to him.

He also notes how he’s always  looking for things that will “move the needle” for greater WordPress adoption. We were both thinking about the same statistic: that roughly 96% of WordPress.com users (and probably a high number of WordPress.org users too) essentially abandon their websites after a short tenure. So anything that can increase that number, to say 8% or 15% of folks that stick with it long term, can make a huge difference.

How do you think about investing in feature development for WordPress.com, and how it affects WordPress as well?

When Matt considers where he wants to invest Automattic developer and designer time, he says he thinks of WordPress as a whole first, before considering specifics for WordPress.com. He’d rather see WordPress.com as a gateway to a self-hosted install. And whether someone stays on .com or moves to a self-hosted install, he wants to help ensure that their problems are solved.


It’s new to me, but Matt says he’s been saying it for years, that he calls WordPress websites “WordPresses,” after a long time internal debate about whether to call WordPress.com websites sites or blogs.

WordPress.com as a network versus a platform

The new homepage for logged in users, or users in the WordPress.com app, defaults to the Reader view of the interface, versus the writing view. This intrigued me, as I don’t personally think of WordPress.com as a read-first ecosystem, but rather a place to write. I think more of Tumblr or Medium when I think of a destination for reading, where I may also write.

Matt and I talked about the merits of WordPress as a network versus a platform. He thinks it can be both. And I think this touches on one of the big goals for Calypso that we haven’t discussed yet: to make WordPress a better network.

To me, WordPress.com is a platform, but WordPress (both .com and Jetpack enabled sites) are ripe to be a hugely successful network, through the huge number of websites and independent publishers that are interconnected via WordPress.com.

There is more evidence that this is a goal for them too, with the launch of Discover WordPress along with the release of the new interface. Discover WordPress is a project by the editorial team to surface the best writing across WordPress.com and Jetpack enabled websites.

Furthermore, beyond the human curated content, much could be done in the future algorithmically. We didn’t get as much into this stuff as I would’ve liked, but I think it’s  an enormous growth area for Automattic.

Open sourcing Calypso

The Calypso project code is fully open source, and is a top trending project on Github right now. There are few requirements to run the code locally, so you can pretty quickly get a working web view.

There are a slew of fancy React components that could be pretty easily lifted from Calypso and used independently, as well as a guide to getting started with the full codebase.

How can the community anticipate the future, with more abstracted implementations of WordPress?

As WordPress projects continue to use REST APIs to create fully custom frontends, backends, and inbetweens, I was curious what Matt thinks the community can do to anticipate and educate users on how to deal with these scenarios, that may fragment WordPress and be confusing for people who expect WordPress plugins and code to interact well with one another.

He doesn’t think it’s too much of a problem, but says it’s important that we experiment and learn from our experiments; he was hesitant to call the potential for confusion fragmentation as much as experimentation. Either way, I do think education and documentation will be important as other folks continue to use parts of WordPress to make impressive things, without supporting every specific thing that can also run on WordPress.

An example of this is the WordPress.com app itself. You can manage Jetpack enabled sites through it, but that doesn’t mean you get everything in the editor you’d get with a WordPress.org site, like custom fields and other plugin functionality that the desktop app doesn’t support.

What is Automattic’s differentiating factor?

I wanted to know what Automattic’s differentiating factor is, in Matt’s mind. He defaulted, I guess unsurprisingly, to “everything,” but as I pushed him a little further, he dug a bit more into some of the things that make Automattic interesting.

From a self-hosted perspective, WordPress.com integrated tools like Stats, VaultPress, and Akismet are difficult to match with other tools.

For WordPress.com, he thinks the potential power of the Reader and network can be compelling. I agree there that the diversity of the WordPress.com and Jetpack author audience could make for a compelling Reading product, that has more potential than I see right now in a competitor like Medium, which is quite tech heavy.

Matt says, “We’ve built up a lot of trust in the community, and that goodwill definitely pays back.” Part of what makes it hard to identify Automattic’s specific differentiator is that they do a lot of things. Matt acknowledged this, but counters by saying that they work hard on user experience and being a good community citizen.

How have teams changed at Automattic over time?

Automattic scales by splitting teams when they get too big. Today, there are 46 teams. Some of those teams are embedded in larger teams and have some hierarchy, but the company is still quite flat for a company of 400 people.

The rule of thumb Matt wants to maintain is that someone should have no more than 10 people that report directly to them, though he has around 23.

According to the standards of the tech world, Automattic’s scale in terms of the number of employees may be somewhat ordinary, but they have still had massive and consistent change over the decade of the company’s existence. And they are hiring as fast as they can to this day.

The challenge of customizing WordPress sites

A couple of years ago, someone from Automattic told me how concerned they were about the WordPress customizer’s ability to scale, both for use on mobile devices, and as a utility that could manage a lot of features. And I wanted to know how Matt thinks that has evolved, now that the customizer is in such significant use on both WordPress.com and for self-hosted websites.

As he notes, the customizer has undergone a lot of positive iteration over the last several releases, and today the WordPress.com and WordPress.org customizers are using the same base code; whereas for a while WordPress.com had their own custom implementation.

But he still says that, “If we’re candid with ourselves, … customization is still the worst part of WordPress, you know? It’s the hardest. It’s where people get stuck. It’s where there’s a real gap between the promise and what people are able to realize and create when they get started using WordPress.”

It’s not as much a problem with the use of themes, or if you can code, but for new users, “it’s their biggest struggle.”

One idea that I have is to have a more Medium-like interface be the “default” view, versus a changing default theme. That way, WordPress.com could be more opinionated about the default view, and change the theme at will, or along with trends, versus giving new users the default theme of a particular year and then that theme is untouched unless the user decides to switch.

Matt said they have that a bit on the Reader view, but that is what someone in the WordPress.com network would see, versus what an outside website visitor would see.

Anyway, there are definitely challenges ahead for enabling customizations and, more importantly, just ensuring sites look good for users. I think that this is an area where other platforms — like Medium and Squarespace, though in different ways — are doing a good job.

The first line of the Automattic creed

The Automattic creed states at the very beginning, “I will never stop learning.” That was part of Matt’s response when I asked just how they managed to cross-train a workforce that was primarily made of PHP developers to create a world-class JavaScript driven application.

Additionally to the natural desires that Automattic employees should have to learn, they created internal resources for helping people, and are considering releasing some of that material, maybe in the form of webinars or an online conference.

Matt said Automatticians will also be sharing what they learn at other conferences, like the upcoming A Day of REST, where two Automatticians will be speaking.

Matt did admit that he hasn’t made the PHP to JavaScript switch yet, and personally feels more comfortable in PHP; though some of his team have said it wasn’t as intimidating as it sounds.

Bug bounties

Did you know all Automattic properties are on Hacker One, the bug bounty community? If you find a security bug, you can get a bounty if you report it. I didn’t know this until the Calypso launch.

How is Automattic thinking about revenue?

With my napkin math and a few small things I know about Automattic, I’d guesstimate they are somewhere in the neighborhood of $100 million in annual revenue. I didn’t even attempt to get confirmation of this, because I know they don’t reveal this kind of information. So instead I wanted to get more insights of how Matt thinks about revenue at Automattic.

Generally, he says they put their focus in, “three main buckets.” They use that focus both for revenue purposes and product purposes. Those areas are WordPress.com, Jetpack, and WooCommerce.

They group things like VaultPress and Akismet under Jetpack; so it’s basically their WordPress.org SaaS revenue stream. Those are paid subscription products.  They have been transitioning that offering, as Matt shared, “a big trend over the past few years, has been to move away from a la carte upgrades, and have more bundles.”

They’ve discovered that bundled plans of $100 per year and $300 per year have been successful. Here are those plans, for both WordPress.com and WordPress.org, as shown in the new WordPress.com/Calypso interface:


It appears they get most of their revenue from this stream. I do know, and have previously reported, that at least at one point, WordPress.com VIP accounted for upwards of 25% of overall revenue, and though that gross number has gone up over the years, its percentage of overall revenue has gone down, meaning that these paid plans have outpaced VIP, growth-wise. I’d guess VIP revenue is now less than half of that 25% number now, but can’t confirm it.

Total sites, versus engagement

There are a lot of WordPress.com websites, but as Matt noted, it’s a vanity metric due to the fact that such a small percentage are active, engaged users. So they are trying more to track engagement versus total sites.

I tried to get him to share the number of active websites, but that’s not something he could share.

Helping site owners monetize, and WooCommerce integration to WordPress.com

I talked about the roadmap some, and asked Matt about what they may offer in the future to help authors monetize their sites. They currently have a WordAds program, but that is a pageview driven strategy, and I’d love to see them introduce a way for authors to get paid via a tip jar, private paid posts, or subscription system like I’ve heard Medium is investigating. It’s not on their current roadmap, but he says he’d be open to it.

He also noted that since WooCommerce is now “part of the family,” that there may be future monetization opportunities through that, though he said they don’t have current plans for a hosted version of WooCommerce on WordPress.com. I was honestly pretty surprised by this:

In the beginning, our focus is really going to be on people hosting their stores, you know, with web hosts. Because, part of the beauty of why WooCommerce is so popular is the flexibility, and I don’t think the usability is there — yet — to be competitive with, like, a  Shopify, or a BigCommerce. So, it’s just a lot of work to do there.

Matt said he thinks of WooCommerce as how WordPress was around version 1.5. He called it, “very early days”, in that people are using it and see the potential, but says, “there’s just so much to work on and improve to make it accessible to a wider audience.”

He says the Woo team is now 63 people, and a number of Automatticians are doing “Wootations,” or rotations with the Woo team.

What to expect next in the new WordPress.com interface

They are still working on a lot of things for the new interface. There are certain things that aren’t there yet. For instance, showing and hiding your sites you are personally attached to still requires the regular admin. I actually experienced this myself. Some parts of the interface are pretty circular and confusing.

But they plan to do more going forward; their values on the project state that, “we are here for the long haul.” They want to see what there is demand for, and what other people do with the open source nature of the project.

Matt also noted that he’d like to “loop back” to content blocks (code named CEUX) — the project that stalled last year. And he’s like to see what can be done around collaboration, editing, and the suggestion process.

Power and ease of use

One of the biggest challenges for WordPress is to continue to get easier to use, as other avenues for sharing information have gotten easier and easier, while continuing to enable powerful, feature rich implementations of WordPress.

Matt thinks this balance is important, and that we must continue to improve in both directions to continue WordPress’s growth.

Wrapping up

I really enjoyed my first audio interview with Matt. He says we can expect more announcements around WordCamp US, which starts next week.

The Calypso project is a fascinating one, and it’s a great example of what we should continue to expect: powerful, catered tools that run on a RESTful API. They aren’t always going to be tools for use everywhere, but we can expect to continue to see WordPress used in innovative ways, and be an exceptional platform for all kinds of applications.

And finally, at the end of the interview, I pitched Matt on one of my most harebrained ideas. The naming conflict between WordPress.com and WordPress was really bad with this project, as nearly everyone not deeply embedded within the WordPress world got it wrong, and conflated Automattic’s WordPress.com with WordPress the software.

And I think Jetpack’s brand has really blossomed. I think there is an argument to be made that Automattic could change the name of WordPress.com to Jetpack, and both Automattic and WordPress would win from the change. It wouldn’t be easy, but all I asked from him, is whether he’d read my post if I wrote one to give the pitch. He said he would, so expect that sometime soon.

Thanks to Matt for the interview, and thanks to Mark Armstrong for helping me get going with the new WordPress.com app and arranging the interview.

* Photo credit Sheri Bigelow

by Brian Krogsgard at November 25, 2015 07:13 PM under Everyone

WPTavern: The WordPress Theme Directory Replaces Download Counts With the Number of Active Installs

Earlier this year, the WordPress plugin directory was redesigned. As part of the redesign, download counts were replaced with the number of Active Installs to reflect more accurate data. The WordPress theme directory has finally followed suit by replacing download counts with the number of Active Installs.

Active Installs of Twenty FifteenActive Installs of Twenty Fifteen

As you can see from the above screenshot, the Twenty Fifteen default theme included in WordPress 4.1, 4.2, and 4.3, is active on more than one million sites. Active themes are those that are activated and in use on a site. Themes that are installed and not activated are not counted, neither are child themes.

In the Themereview Slack Channel, Tom Usborne explains why active installs for child themes should be counted.

I think an argument for child themes to be included in the active installs count can be made. For example, we offer a completely blank child theme for our customers so they can make CSS and PHP adjustments. This means our install count isn’t accurate on w.org, even though those people are using the theme actively.

Dion Hulse, WordPress lead developer, agrees that child themes should be counted but the team doesn’t have the data yet. Some theme authors are concerned that new themes will have a tough time making it on the popular themes page.

Originally, the popular themes page was determined by the number of downloads over the previous week, which led to some authors to try to game the system. Hulse says, “The actual comparison between active installs and the previous week’s downloads were very similar, except for a handful of themes that had a lot more downloads than installs.”

Hulse plans to experiment with the algorithms to give newer themes a chance, “I’m also looking at ranking popular themes based on the age of the theme and installs, which will help promote some of the newer themes,” he said.

Thanks to active install counts for themes, we can see which default WordPress theme is the most popular.

  • Twenty Fifteen 1+ Million
  • Twenty Fourteen 800K+
  • Twenty Twelve 500K+
  • Twenty Eleven 500K+
  • Twenty Ten 300K+
  • Twenty Thirteen 300K+

Download counts are a terrible way to determine a theme or plugin’s popularity which is why I support this change. It’s more accurate and helps to further level the playing field for authors. Are you a fan of the change and if you’re a theme author, what other stats would you like to see?

by Jeff Chandler at November 25, 2015 08:31 AM under active installs

November 24, 2015

WPTavern: Justin Tadlock Is Seeking Beta Testers for His First Major Commercial Plugin

Justin Tadlock, founder of Theme Hybrid, is looking for beta testers for a new plugin aimed at theme developers. The plugin is called Theme Designer and allows authors to manage themes in the WordPress backend. It also displays them on the frontend similar to WordPress.com and WordPress.org’s theme pages.

Tadlock has moved beyond using WordPress pages to display and manage themes, “I’m not sure what everyone else is doing, but I’ve been building and tweaking a custom solution for a number of years. I’ve just never packaged it up and made it useful for others,” he said.

Manage Themes in the WordPress BackendManage Themes in the WordPress Backend

Under the hood, it uses a custom post type, taxonomies, custom metadata, and a number of hooks. Theme Designer can pull data from the WordPress.org theme directory API and store it on your site. There’s also a built-in feature set for adding custom meta fields to the edit theme screen.

In addition to managing themes, Tadlock plans to create add-ons and integrate Theme Designer with other plugins. He’s already created an add-on for Easy Digital Downloads and it’s possible he’ll create one for WooCommerce.

Tadlock’s First Commercial Plugin

During the beta testing period, Theme Designer will be free of charge. When the beta is complete, Tadlock will charge for access making it his first major commercial plugin. Theme Designer will come in two flavors, a supported and non-supported version.

The supported version gives customers a developer level membership to Theme Hybrid which is currently $35 a year. The non-supported version contains the plugin only. Both versions will have free lifetime updates.

To participate in the beta testing process, grab the free plugin from GitHub. Pull requests and reporting issues are welcomed. It’s important to note that Theme Designer is only compatible with WordPress 4.4 and is a work in progress so it should not be used on a live site.

by Jeff Chandler at November 24, 2015 10:26 PM under theme management

WPTavern: Stanko Metodiev’s First-time Experience Contributing Patches to WordPress Core

Stanko Metodiev, project manager for Devrix, shares his experience contributing a patch to WordPress core for the first time. While browsing Trac, Metodiev discovered a bug report with the menu customizer.

Although a patch was already attached to the ticket, it didn’t work, “The change didn’t fix the issue for me, so I submitted a new patch to adjust the size by a few more pixels,” Metodiev said.

The change was merged into core by WordPress lead developer, Helen Hou-Sandí.

Merged into CoreMerged into Core

It’s a small change but as I learned from my experience contributing to core, every merged patch is important no matter how small it is. Metodiev offers the following advice to new contributors, “Don’t be scared and don’t be shy. The core team is hospitable, especially for first timers and they will give guidance and advice if needed, so feel free to contribute patches!”

Since his experience with WordPress 4.3, Metodiev continues to contribute to core and has seven merged patches in WordPress 4.4. If you’re thinking about contributing patches to core but don’t know where to start, I highly encourage you to read the Core Contributor Handbook. In it you’ll find best practices, testing techniques, and how to submit patches to Trac.

by Jeff Chandler at November 24, 2015 08:55 PM under contributor

Matt: Calypso, 24 Hours Later

The reaction to yesterday’s Calypso announcement has really blown me away.Here’s a tiny selection of of the coverage, analysis, and reactions to Calypso and the new WordPress.com:

“If you’re a regular user, you’ll notice a new look and feel. If you’re a code geek, you’ll notice something more remarkable below the surface: JavaScript instead of PHP.” Wired

“…I am personally extremely excited about this. Not only because the new UI is really nice and pleasant to use but also because this finally shows the modern side of WordPress, or at least starts to…” VersionPress

“What I love most about the whole project is the lessons it has for everyone regarding innovation.” Chris Lema

“So why did Automattic, the company behind WordPress.com, go through this painful rewriting process? WordPress.com now feels and works like a modern web app. It’s back in the game against newcomers, such as Medium.” TechCrunch

“Calypso looks like a huge leap forward for a project that seemed to stagnate for many years.” The Next Web

“Clean, responsive, faster than ever… WordPress is such a great success story. I’m very happy I chose to use it over six years ago.” Mac Stories

“Calypso is a great example of what’s possible with the WordPress REST API.” WP Tavern

“I think the new WordPress.com editor, and the corresponding WordPress.com app, are a great improvement to the writing experience… [T]he investment they’ve made is a smart one.” Post Status

“… the fastest and most streamlined WordPress experience so far.” 9 to 5 Mac

VentureBeat also reported on the launch yesterday, and there’s a longer interview with me up there today.

So far, we’ve seen articles in French, Indonesian, German, Spanish,  and Russian. Calypso is a trending repo on GitHub. The news was on top of TechMeme, and voted to the top of Product Hunt, and even Hacker News.

One of my favorite takes was from Om Malik, in “Some Thoughts on the New WordPress.com and Mac App”:

I view the shift to this newer, more flexible model as a way for WordPress.com to adapt to become a growing part of the open web. Blogging has always been mistaken for its containers, tools, the length of the posts or just a replacement for the rapid-fire publishing of old-fashioned news. In reality, blogging is essentially a philosophy built on the ethos of sharing.

Today sharing on the internet is a major social behavior: We share photos, links, videos, thoughts, opinions, news. Except instead of sharing on a blog, we do the sharing in increasingly proprietary and corporate silos: Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Periscope and LinkedIn. You see, the blogging ethos is alive and well. However, the old blogging tools have to embrace change.

At the end of the day, it’s not about technology for technology’s sake, it’s about technology at the service of human voices. Embracing change to support the free, open web where everyone has a voice.

Finally, it was a weird coincidence we didn’t even notice, but the Calypso announcement was ten years to the day after we opened up WordPress.com.

by Matt at November 24, 2015 07:42 PM under Automattic

November 23, 2015

WPTavern: Automattic Unveils Open Source WordPress.com Desktop Application for the Mac

In the last two years, Automattic has made significant improvements to WordPress.com and Jetpack. From managing plugins, themes, and other updates to New Dash and a revamped post editor. The individual changes represent iteration but when seen as a whole, show off an entirely new WordPress.com.

Automattic has announced that the improvements its made in the last two years are part of an internal project named Calypso. The company also released a WordPress.com desktop application for the Mac and open sourced the code on GitHub.

The application is written entirely in JavaScript using the Node and React libraries. It’s also 100% reliant on APIs, including the REST API.

My Experience with Calypso

Over the weekend, I tested the application on my Macbook Pro. I initially thought it was inconsistent as there were many instances where a button opened a browser and took me outside the app. However, Calypso has gone through a number of updates and most of the inconsistencies have disappeared.


Most of what you’re able to accomplish in the WordPress backend you can do in the app including, editing posts, creating drafts, and moderating comments.

Calypso2Although there is the occasional Beep….Beep….Boop, the application is fast. Some of the pages within the app feel like they load faster than their browser counterparts. Some things still require action from within a browser such as applying updates. This doesn’t make sense considering the Jetpack Manage module is enabled.

When managing themes, I noticed at least two of the them don’t include the white bottom bar making the titles difficult to read. Also, the details link loads a browser window to the backend of the site I’m managing. It feels like an interruption instead of a seamless experience. There should be no reason to load a browser window except for previewing a post.

Calypso3Managing Themes in Calypso

If you’re familiar with or use the WordPress.com post editor, the editor in Calypso is pretty much the same.

For years I’ve written posts with meta boxes on the right and getting used to them on the left will take a while. The editor has most of the features available in WordPress. For example, oEmbed support which many other third-party WordPress apps don’t have.

When the application is in full-screen mode, it looks great and blocks out distractions. In the most recent update however, the Preview button acts like a Save button and doesn’t show a preview of the post. This is likely a bug and will be fixed in a later version.

CalypsoPostEditingScreenCalypso is a great example of what’s possible with the WordPress REST API. There are still a few instances when clicking a button takes you outside the app but those will be fixed in future updates.

Overall, it’s convenient to have access to most of WordPress’ features without interacting with a browser. For those who use a Mac, I can easily see Calypso being the preferred way to interact and manage WordPress sites.

As Matt Mullenweg mentions in his post, there’s still a lot of work left to do, “This is a beginning, not an ending. (1.0 is the loneliest.) Better things are yet to come, as all of you dig in.” Calypso is available for free but you’ll need a WordPress.com account which is also free.

If you own a Mac and test drive Calypso, please share your experience with us in the comments.

by Jeff Chandler at November 23, 2015 06:01 PM under calypso

Post Status: Automattic has released an open source WordPress.com Mac app

Today, Automattic released their official WordPress.com Mac app, that was codenamed Calypso during development, that allows users to manage both WordPress.com and Jetpack enabled websites using a desktop interface. The code behind the app is also the foundation for a new version of the WordPress.com browser editor.

Here’s a quick video walkthrough:

The new WordPress.com app development occurred over the course of at least 18 months, according to the press release, with input from more than 140 Automatticians. Andy Peatling, who has been at Automattic since 2008, was the project lead.

If you could rebuild the admin from scratch

Matt Mullenweg said that Automattic wanted to completely rethink the WordPress admin experience, without the burden of backward compatibility that WordPress core must hold sacred:

What would we build if we were starting from scratch today, knowing all we’ve learned over the past 13 years of building WordPress? At the beginning of last year, we decided to start experimenting and see.

Calypso was an ambitious project. Not only does it bring the WordPress editing and publishing experience to a Mac app, but pretty much the entire WordPress.com admin experience is now available on the desktop, from stats to theme shopping.

While the app is definitely geared toward the experience one would expect on a WordPress.com website, you can also manage Jetpack enabled websites with it. The Jetpack Manage feature must be enabled for it to work, and I admit I struggled to get it to function with my own (personal) website. However, I’m sure it’ll get any kinks worked out, and anyone looking for basic website management, but are on WordPress.org, may enjoy the experience.

Open sourcing WordPress.com

The most important part of the announcement is that Automattic is open sourcing Calypso and the many APIs that help drive it.

A lot of people thought we should keep this proprietary, but throughout my life I’ve learned that the more you give away, the more you get back. We still have a ton to figure out around plugins, extensibility, contributions, Windows and Linux releases, API speed, localization, and harmonizing the WordPress.com API and WP-API so it can work with core WordPress. Thousands more PHP developers will need to become fluent with Javascript to recreate their admin interfaces in this fashion. I’m also really excited to revisit and redesign many more screens now that we have this first version out the door.

I’m really glad they chose to open source it. I agree with Matt that both the app and the broader community will benefit from the decision; though I don’t doubt it may have been a tough sell to investors.

I also agree with Ben Thompson (a former Automattician, by chance), who once said that proprietary software itself isn’t necessarily what makes a company successful, but rather, “companies that are built on software but differentiated by a difficult-to-replicate complement to said software.”

In Automattic’s case, open sourcing the techniques to build the app isn’t giving away what is most valuable. What is most valuable to them is what they gain from the open source nature of the software, that will allow them to improve the experience for their vast WordPress.com user base.

Calypso is a good step forward for WordPress.com

I’ve worried for a while now that Automattic may be letting their audience slip, by falling behind the ease of use of other tools, like Medium. I think the new WordPress.com editor, and the corresponding WordPress.com app, are a great improvement to the writing experience, and I think that the investment they’ve made is a smart one.

I’ll be digging more into the code and developer components of the new APIs and the Mac app soon. I didn’t have access to that data prior to launch.

The new app is available for download from WordPress.com now, or you can of course test drive the browser version directly on WordPress.com. You can also see the developer features, code on Github, the backstory from Andy Peatling, and see both WordPress.com’s announcement, as well as Matt’s.

by Brian Krogsgard at November 23, 2015 05:06 PM under Site Owners

Matt: Dance to Calypso

One of the hardest things to do in technology is disrupt yourself.

But we’re trying our darndest, and have some cool news to introduce today. When I took on the responsibility of CEO of Automattic January of last year, we faced two huge problems: our growth was constrained by lack of capital, and the technological foundations of the past decade weren’t strong enough for the demands of next one.

The first has a relatively straightforward answer. We found some fantastic partners, agreed on a fair price, issued new equity in the company to raise $160M, and started investing in areas we felt were high potential, like this year’s WooCommerce acquisition. This “war chest” gives us a huge array of options, especially given our fairly flat burn rate — we don’t need to raise money again to keep the company going, and any capital we raise in the future will be purely discretionary. (Since last May when the round happened we’ve only spent $3M of the investment on opex.)

The second is much harder to address. The WordPress codebase is actually incredible in many ways — the result of many thousands of people collaborating over 13 years — but some of WordPress’ greatest strengths were also holding it back.

The WordPress codebase contains a sea of institutional knowledge and countless bug fixes. It handles hundreds of edge cases. Integrates constant security improvements. Is coded to scale. Development moves at a fast clip, with six major releases over the past two years and more around the corner. Its power and flexibility is undeniable: WordPress just passed a huge milestone, and now powers 25% of the web. You can run it on a $5-a-month web host, or scale it up to serve billions of pageviews on one of the largest sites on the web, WordPress.com.

The interface, however, has been a struggle. Many of us attempted to give it a reboot with the MP6 project and the version 3.8 release, but what that release made clear to me is that an incremental approach wouldn’t give us the improvements we needed, and that two of the things that helped make WordPress the strong, stable, powerful tool it is — backward compatibility and working without JavaScript — were actually holding it back.

The basic paradigms of wp-admin are largely the same as they were five years ago. Working within them had become limiting. The time seemed ripe for something new, something big… but if you’re going to break back compat, it needs to be for a really good reason. A 20x improvement, not a 2x. Most open source projects fade away rather than make evolutionary jumps.

So we asked ourselves a big question. What would we build if we were starting from scratch today, knowing all we’ve learned over the past 13 years of building WordPress? At the beginning of last year, we decided to start experimenting and see.

Today we’re announcing something brand new, a new approach to WordPress, and open sourcing the code behind it. The project, codenamed Calypso, is the culmination of more than 20 months of work by dozens of the most talented engineers and designers I’ve had the pleasure of working with (127 contributors with over 26,000 commits!).


Calypso is…

  • Incredibly fast. It’ll charm you.
  • Written purely in JavaScript, leveraging libraries like Node and React.
  • 100% API-powered. Those APIs are open, and now available to every developer in the world.
  • A great place to read, allowing you to follow sites across the web (even if they’re not using WordPress).
  • Social, with stats, likes, and notifications baked in.
  • Fully responsive. Make it small and put it in your sidebar, or go full-screen.
  • Really fun to write in, especially the drag-and-drop image uploads.
  • Fully multi-site for advanced users, so you can manage hundreds of WordPresses from one place.
  • Able to manage plugins and themes on Jetpack sites, including auto-upgrading them!
  • 100% open source, with all future development happening in the open.
  • Available for anyone to adapt to make their own, including building custom interfaces, distributions, or working with web services besides WordPress.com.

A lot of people thought we should keep this proprietary, but throughout my life I’ve learned that the more you give away, the more you get back. We still have a ton to figure out around plugins, extensibility, contributions, Windows and Linux releases, API speed, localization, and harmonizing the WordPress.com API and WP-API so it can work with core WordPress. Thousands more PHP developers will need to become fluent with JavaScript to recreate their admin interfaces in this fashion. I’m also really excited to revisit and redesign many more screens now that we have this first version out the door.

This is a beginning, not an ending. (1.0 is the loneliest.) Better things are yet to come, as all of you dig in. Check out these links to read more about Calypso from different perpsectives:

This was a huge bet, incredibly risky, and difficult to execute, but it paid off. Like any disruption it is uncomfortable, and I’m sure will be controversial in some circles. What the team has accomplished in such a short time is amazing, and I’m incredibly proud of everyone who has contributed and will contribute in the future. This is the most exciting project I’ve been involved with in my career.

With core WordPress on the server and Calypso as a client I think we have a good chance to bring another 25% of the web onto open source, making the web a more open place, and people’s lives more free.

If you’re curious more about the before and after, what’s changed, here’s a chart:



by Matt at November 23, 2015 05:01 PM under Automattic

November 20, 2015

WPTavern: Nearly Half of the WordPress Plugins in the Directory Are Not Updated After Two Years

Luca Fracassi, founder of Addendio, an alternative search engine for the WordPress plugin and theme directories published an in-depth look at the WordPress plugin directory. The post includes data that shows the number of plugins added to the directory per year, what year the plugins were last updated, and other metrics.

My favorite data point is the number of plugins approved per year. Based on this data, it looks like it’s going to be another record year for the directory. The five active team members including, Mika Epstein, Pippin Williamson, and Samuel Wood have their work cut out for them.

Number of Plugins Added Per YearNumber of Plugins Added Per Year

According to the data, about 22K plugins have been updated in the last 24 months representing a little more than half the directory. This means that approximately half of the plugins in the directory are displaying a notice that the plugin hasn’t been updated in two years.

Update Notice After Two Years of No UpdatesUpdate Notice After Two Years of No Updates

Fracassi says that based on the data, “Two out of ten plugins are updated after three years. If you pick a free plugin that is released today, there’s a 80-90% chance that in three years time you won’t have any more updates.”

There are a number of possibilities as to why a plugin doesn’t get updated for two years or more.

  1. The developer burns out or moves on.
  2. The plugin doesn’t need an update.
  3. Lack of donations.
  4. Support is too much of a burden.
  5. No time.

The data doesn’t spell doom and gloom for users but it clearly shows that many plugins within the directory don’t have a long shelf life. I encourage you to read Fracassi’s post and review the data he’s collected. Also check out our guide on how to choose a WordPress plugin.

by Jeff Chandler at November 20, 2015 07:36 PM under plugin directory

WPTavern: How to Add Right to Left Support to Plugin Banners

Now that the WordPress plugin directory is using language packs, translated plugins will start to show up in international directories. For some plugin banners however, this is a problem. For Right to Left languages, the icons and titles are displayed on the opposite side of the banner.

Ninja Forms in the Hebrew Plugin DirectoryOld Ninja Forms Plugin Header in the Hebrew Plugin Directory

To fix this issue, plugin directories have implemented Right to Left support for plugin banners. To take advantage of RTL support, create a new banner and add -rtl to the end of the file name. Banner images live in the assets directory.

Here’s an example of a plugin banner on the Hebrew directory that has RTL support.

English Plugin BannerEnglish Plugin Banner Hebrew Plugin BannerHebrew Plugin Banner

Although RTL banners are active on WordPress.org, they are not available in core. Banners won’t display properly but the team is working on adding it in time for a WordPress 4.4.1 release.

by Jeff Chandler at November 20, 2015 05:36 PM under right to left

WPTavern: WPWeekly Episode 213 – Aesop Interactive Acquired

In this short and sweet episode of WordPress Weekly, Marcus Couch and I discuss the news of the week including, WordCamp Europe 2016, a credit card scam hitting freelancers, and Envato Sites. We also unmask the anonymous buyer who purchased Aesop Interactive.

Stories Discussed:

Tickets on Sale for WordCamp Europe 2016
Aesop Interactive LLC Acquired by Anonymous Buyer
WordPress Freelancer Adam Soucie on the Dangers of Accepting Credit Cards
Introducing Envato Sites

Plugins Picked By Marcus:

PayPal Multiple Emails for WooCommerce allows you to set up a second PayPal email address so you can use a different PayPal account to process payments in WooCommerce when a product in a specific product category is added to the customer’s shopping cart

WP Video Floater allows you to insert a video to a page and as the user scrolls down, the video is pushed to the bottom-right.

Customize Submit Button for Gravity Forms lets you customize the submit button in Gravity Forms by switching it to a button element and changing its CSS classes

WPWeekly Meta:

Next Episode: Wednesday, November 25th 9:30 P.M. Eastern

Subscribe To WPWeekly Via Itunes: Click here to subscribe

Subscribe To WPWeekly Via RSS: Click here to subscribe

Subscribe To WPWeekly Via Stitcher Radio: Click here to subscribe

Listen To Episode #213:

by Jeff Chandler at November 20, 2015 08:06 AM under credit card fraud

November 18, 2015

Matt: Cool Uses of WP-API

What’s the coolest uses and applications built on top of WordPress APIs that you’ve seen? I’m looking for some examples to highlight in the State of the Word next month.

by Matt at November 18, 2015 03:25 PM under Asides

WPTavern: How to Replace WordPress’ Default Avatars With Wapuu

Out of the box, WordPress allows you to configure the default avatar that displays for commenters that don’t have one. The choices leave a lot to be desired. Thanks to a new plugin created by Lee Willis, called Wapuuvatar, you can replace default avatars with images of Wapuu.

Settings for WapuuavatarSettings for Wapuuavatar

If you’re not familiar with Wapuu, it’s the official, GPL Licensed mascot of the WordPress project. Throughout the year, a number of WordCamps and local communities across the world have created local versions of the character. In fact, the Tavern has its own Wapuu.

WP Tavern WapuuWP Tavern Wapuu

The plugin has two settings. You can either replace the default avatar with random Wapuus or replace all Gravatars with Wapuu. Wapuuavatar uses a library of images from the official Wapuu GitHub repository and art work created by Michelle Schulp. Here’s how it looks in action on WP Tavern.

Wapuuavatar on the TavernWapuuavatar on the Tavern

Wapuuavatar is an easy way to replace boring avatars with works of art. The plugin works without issue on WordPress 4.4 beta 4 and is available for free on WordPress.org.

by Jeff Chandler at November 18, 2015 02:24 AM under wapuuavatar

November 17, 2015

WPTavern: Why Some Theme Authors Are Waiting Two Months or More for Their First Review

photo credit: Βethan - ccphoto credit: Βethancc

Within the last few weeks, we’ve received emails from readers wanting to know why it’s taking so long for new themes to be reviewed on WordPress.org. Some theme authors are having to wait two months or more for their first review.

Ashley Evans submitted her theme in June and she’s yet to complete the review process. Throughout that time period, both Evans and the reviewer experienced delays in responding to each other. A few months into the review, the reviewer disappeared and Evans was assigned a new reviewer two days ago.

Understandably, the experience has discouraged Evan’s from submitting anymore themes to the directory:

Back in August, I said, ‘Screw it’ and released the theme as a free download on my blog. This process has basically made me vow to stick to adding plugins to the repo and stop adding any more themes.

I’m not blaming the theme review team since I can only imagine how much stuff they have to wade through. It’s just sad that the process has discouraged me from ever doing it again.

On October 9th, Tammie Lister updated the Theme Review queues and identified a number of themes that fell through the cracks. Most of those themes were approved or are still in the review process.

The System is Broken

Members of the WordPress Theme Review team agree that the system is broken. In June, the team published its suggested roadmap to improve multiple facets of the review process. One of the items on the list to help cut down the review queue is the auto-approval of theme updates. However, the team is still hard at work trying to code and implement changes to improve the system.

Help Them Help You

photo credit: Rob Shenk via - ccphoto credit: Rob Shenk via – cc

One of the items high on the team’s to-do list is to put more effort towards education. In order to do that, Justin Tadlock says the team has to free up resources, “We need to free up our biggest resources, which are the team members themselves. However, we can’t free up those people when they’re spending 100% of their time doing reviews.”

The most important thing theme authors can do to speed up the review process is to check that your theme meets the Theme Review Requirements. According to Tadlock, “The majority of themes submitted don’t follow the guidelines which considerably slows down the process. Themes will often have 20-30 issues or more. If we can get to a point to where the majority of submissions only have a few minor issues, we really wouldn’t have a queue.”

Theme authors who test their themes against Theme Unit Test Data and the Theme Check Plugin substantially improve the system for everyone. What the team needs most is help. Tadlock offers three ways contributors can get involved to improve the situation.

  1. Doing reviews.
  2. Tackling Meta Trac tickets related to the theme directory.
  3. Writing tutorials.

Tadlock isn’t sure how to get theme authors to raise the quality of their themes before the initial review, “That’s the sort of feedback I want to see from fellow theme authors. What do we need to do to help them get their themes ready before submission?”

How to Get Involved

The team is always in need of more theme reviewers. Reviewing themes is a great way to learn theme development and what not to do. If you’re interested in reviewing themes, read the following document from the Theme Review Handbook. It explains how to set up a testing environment with an example of a testing workflow.

The Theme Review Team also has a project meeting every Tuesday, November 10, 2015, 1:00 PM EST in the #themereview channel on Slack.

Exercise Patience

Exercising patience is a difficult thing to do if you’ve already waited eight weeks or more for the first review. However, fixing the system is going to take time. If you want to know about the status of your theme and it has an assigned reviewer, you should ask for a status update within the ticket. If your theme doesn’t have an assigned reviewer, you can ask about its status in the Theme Review Team Slack channel with a link to the theme.

by Jeff Chandler at November 17, 2015 05:20 PM under theme reviews

WPTavern: Imperva’s Web Application Attack Report Shows Spam Is WordPress’ Largest Security Threat

Imperva, an international cyber security company founded in 2002, published its 2015 web application attack report. The report includes a thorough analysis of attack data obtained through its WAF or Web Application Firewall.

In the report, Imperva’s application defense center group analyzed 297,954 attacks and 22,850,023 alerts on 198 of the applications it protects behind its WAF. The data is from January 1st, 2015 – June 30th, 2015 and provides a solid overview of the number and types of attacks web applications are experiencing.

The report covers a lot of ground but for the purpose of this site, I’m focusing on WordPress.

Analysis Methodology

Automated tools recorded the web applications’ traffic and malicious events were documented in log files. Imperva’s application defense center group analyzed the data using special-purpose software and its knowledge base.

You can find more information that explains how the data was analyzed on page seven of the report.

WordPress Is the Most Attacked CMS Application

Out of the 198 applications protected, Imperva identified 55 that are CMS-based, 20 WordPress applications, 11 Drupal, and 24 that are based on 11 other CMS frameworks.

Average Number of Incidents per Applications CMS SliceAverage Number of Incidents per Applications CMS Slice

According to the report, CMS applications suffered an average of three times more attacks than non-CMS applications. WordPress applications suffered from 3,497 attacks in the reported period which is 250% more than non-CMS Applications. Note from the above image that spam attacks against WordPress outnumber all other types of attacks.

Imperva says the attraction to CMS applications, especially WordPress is not new.

CMS frameworks have an open nature,  with open developer communities that generate a never-ending sequence of plug-ins and add-ons, with varying levels of security. This situation has led to corresponding never-ending flow of CMS vulnerabilities, with WordPress as the leading CMS taking the lead also in the amount of published attacks.

Furthermore, the fact that WordPress and other CMS applications resemble each other facilitates automated scanning attacks that work effectively on all applications of this type with only minimal adjustments.

Varying levels of security in plugins have led to many vulnerabilities making WordPress the leader in the amount of published attacks.

Proportions of Attacks

Taking spam attacks out of the equation, the most popular attack type against WordPress applications is (RCE) Remote Command Execution with (RFI) Remote File Inclusion taking second place.

Proportion of Attack TypesProportion of Attack Types
  • Remote File Inclusion (RFI) is an attack that allows an attacker to include a remote file, usually through a script, on the web server. This attack can lead to data theft or manipulation, malicious code execution on the web server, or malicious code execution on the application client side such as JavaScript execution, which can lead to other attacks. This vulnerability occurs due to the use of user-supplied input without proper validation.
  • Remote Command Execution (RCE) is an attack that allows the attacker to execute operating system commands in a system shell. The attack exploits applications that suffer from insufficient input validation in conjunction with passing this input to a system shell. The attacker’s payload is executed with the same privileges of the vulnerable application and can lead to full compromise of the server.

Even though the other monitored CMS applications are written in PHP, RFI attacks on WordPress are significantly higher than all other applications. Imperva offers one possible explanation:

Attackers don’t target a specific application, but start with scanning the Internet for vulnerable applications. A Low Hanging Fruit approach that is simple and effective for the detection of potential RFI targets, would be to run a WordPress test and mount an RFI attack in case of success.

The report goes on to show geographic attack trends, PHP vs non-PHP attack incidents, traffic volume, case studies, and more.

No Need to Panic

Even though it’s only six months of data, the results don’t surprise me. WordPress is used on a quarter of the top 10 million websites ranked by Alexa so of course its going to be the most attacked CMS.

The data in the report reinforces my belief that every public site online is likely being scanned or attacked multiple times a day. Unless you’re using a service or plugin that logs these types of attacks, its hard to know how popular of a target a site is.

If you’re aware of a plugin or service that provides a user-friendly interface that shows and explains the attacks it’s protecting against a site, please send me a link in the comments.

Basic Security Principles

It’s imperative that you use a strong password and two-factor authentication. Consider using a service like Clef that allows you to login to WordPress without a password. I also highly encourage you to read the WordPress security whitepaper to learn how WordPress protects itself against common attacks mentioned in Imperva’s report and how to responsibly disclose a WordPress security vulnerability.

by Jeff Chandler at November 17, 2015 02:11 AM under imperva

November 16, 2015

WPTavern: WordPress Freelancer Adam Soucie on the Dangers of Accepting Credit Cards

If you’re running or opening a new WordPress business, you should read Adam Soucie’s warning on the dangers of accepting credit cards. Soucie, a WordPress Developer based in Orlando, Florida describes what happened after working with a client that claimed to be hearing disabled.

Soucie went through the usual process of sending over a contract, bringing in a designer, discussing scope, and sending over an invoice. The client then claimed to be in the hospital and requested help to pay for one of the contractors involved in the project because he didn’t accept credit cards. According to Soucie, this should have been the red flag:

But I ignored it because I’ve also been a trusting person who is sympathetic to people with disabilities.  Plus I figured I had proof of everything, so I’d be protected.  I was so wrong.

To make a long story short, the ‘client’ was paying with stolen credit cards and the other contractor was in on the scam.  I discovered the scam when they started getting pushy about the contractor receiving his payments.  When leaving to make the final payment, I got a call from the person whose credit card info was stolen.  I reached out to my ‘client’ and she had disappeared.

As the merchant, Soucie was liable for the transaction. After not receiving help from the FBI Cyber Crimes division and the credit card companies, QuickBooks, Soucie’s payment processor, went after him for the total amount of $10,000. He was able to get the amount slightly reduced after working with QuickBooks. What looked like an awesome project quickly turned into a nightmare.

I highly encourage you to read his article as it includes tips to protect yourself and why you shouldn’t be too trusting. What advice do you have for freelancers who accept credit card payments? What signs should freelancers look for to avoid fraudulent scams like this one?

by Jeff Chandler at November 16, 2015 06:26 PM under fraud

November 13, 2015

WPTavern: Aesop Interactive LLC Acquired by Anonymous Buyer

aesopEarlier this year, Nick Haskins, founder of Aesop Interactive LLC, announced he was selling the company. Haskins was initially going to list the company on Flippa but after receiving advice from Syed Balkhi, used FE International to facilitate the sale. FE International is composed of website brokers that do the heavy lifting to help businesses find buyers.

An anonymous company based on the US East Coast without ties to the WordPress community is the new owner of Aesop Interactive LLC. Although terms of the deal are not public, Haskins confirms that he received close to his asking price of $100K.

When Haskins put the company up for sale, he specified two conditions the new owner must follow.

  1. Aesop Story Engine MUST absolutely be maintained and kept free.
  2. Editus must continue forward with development, in some way shape or form.

It’s unclear what the new owner’s plans are for Aesop Story Engine, Editus, and Story.AM.

Advice for Selling Your Company

The WordPress ecosystem is filled with thousands of companies from individuals to 50+ person agencies. Haskins offers the following advice for those thinking about selling their business, “Make sure that the books are buttoned up tight, because every check, every payment, every expense will be scrutinized and will ultimately determine what the appraisal price will be. Run a lean ship as the less overhead you have, the better.”

During the appraisal process, Haskins had to account for and explain every check number written during the last few months. Although it was a lot of work on his end, he highly recommends using FE International as they manage the negotiating, contract writing, and appraisal processes.

What’s Next for Haskins?

Haskins isn’t giving up WordPress development as he continues to work with the software on a daily basis managing CGCookie. When I asked what’s next in his WordPress journey, he replied, “Overall, there will be another project. It’s just that this chapter of the story is finished. I want to eventually write and publish an eBook on my experiences of starting, running, and selling a business.”

Who do you think the buyer is and what do you think will happen to Aesop Story Engine, Editus, and Story.AM?

by Jeff Chandler at November 13, 2015 10:31 PM under story engine

November 12, 2015

WPTavern: Tickets on Sale for WordCamp Europe 2016

WordCamp Europe Featured ImageNearly seven months before the event takes place, tickets for WordCamp Europe 2016 in Vienna, Austria on June 24-26 are on sale. There are two types of tickets available, General admission and Microsponsor.

General admission tickets are € 40.00 each and cover both days to the event, access to all sessions, lunch, coffee breaks, warm up events, and the after party. It also includes a WCEU 2016 t-shirt, stickers and other swag.

Microsponsor tickets are € 150.00 and includes everything the general admission ticket offers. The major difference between the two besides cost, is that the microsponsor ticket is a great way to support the European WordPress community. Microsponsorships shows appreciation of the event and grants you a special mention on the sponsorship page.

Before you purchase tickets, it’s important to note that due to Paypal’s 60 day refund policy, the event is not issuing refunds. If you buy a ticket and want to give it away as a gift, or sell it to someone, you’ll need to edit the details using the link in your ticket purchase confirmation email.

Although the schedule is not yet posted, WordCamp Europe has an established history of being one of the best WordPress events of the year. Let us know if you plan on attending.

by Jeff Chandler at November 12, 2015 08:02 PM under wceu

WPTavern: BuddyPress 2.4.0 “Pietro” Contains Major Improvements to Accessibility

BuddyPress 2.4.0 “Pietro” named after an authentic Italian restaurant in Paris, France is available for download. This release includes support for cover photos that users can add to their profile or a group.

BuddyPress Cover Photo SupportBuddyPress Cover Photos

Cover photos are built on top of the BuddyPress Attachments API meaning they should seamlessly integrate into themes. If you need to fine-tune the output for your site, check out the following Codex article.

Initially added in BuddyPress 2.2.0, Member Types allows developers to categorize the members of their community in a variety of ways. If you use this feature in your community, you can now specify that profile fields be made available to either one, some, or none of the registered Member Types.

Member Type FieldsMember Type Fields

Two companion stylesheets are included with 2.4.0 to make sure content looks great on both the TwentySixteen and TwentyThirteen themes.

Companion StyleSheetsCompanion StyleSheets

This release also includes major accessibility improvements to front-end templates and the Dashboard screens. According to BuddyPress developers, accessibility is a major focus of the project and there is a concentrated, ongoing effort to make the software more accessible to users of all abilities.

Thanks to a new template hierarchy, groups can now have unique header images and layouts. Simply use the new front.php template inside the single groups templates directory.

Unique Homepages for GroupsUnique Homepages for Groups

In addition to all of the improvements listed above, 2.4.0 has over 100 bug fixes. It also contains the security patch applied in 2.3.5. BuddyPress is available for free from the WordPress plugin directory and if you run into any issues, you’re encouraged to report them in the support forums.

by Jeff Chandler at November 12, 2015 07:25 PM under cover photos

WPTavern: A Field Guide to Major Features in WordPress 4.4

The WordPress 4.4 field guide is available and covers all of the major features in WordPress 4.4. The guide explains what the features are and more specifically, links to posts that explain how they work.

WordPress 4.4: Field Guide

While it doesn’t cover every single change, it gives developers and site maintainers an opportunity to learn and understand the major features before WordPress 4.4’s release.

If you haven’t tested your plugins and themes with WordPress 4.4, now is a great time to do so. In testing WordPress 4.4 betas on WP Tavern, I discovered two broken plugins. I notified the developers and they quickly released an update addressing the issues.

WordPress 4.4 is scheduled for release in December.

by Jeff Chandler at November 12, 2015 06:18 PM under field guide

WPTavern: WPWeekly Episode 212 – Criticizing Criticism

In this episode, Marcus Couch and I discuss the last two weeks of WordPress news. We go in-depth on what’s coming in WordPress 4.4 and I share a story of how upgrading WP Tavern to WordPress 4.4 beta 4 generated a white screen of death.

We cover what’s new in BuddyPress 2.4 and celebrate the milestone that WordPress is used on 25% of the top 10 million sites ranked by Alexa. Last but not least, we discuss how WordPress may reach 50% and what it means for the web.

Stories Discussed:

WordPress 4.4 Beta 4 Released
WP Remote Is Up for Sale
Pro Plugin Directory Is Seeking a New Owner
BuddyPress 2.4.0 – “Pietro”
More Than 250 Tickets Still Available for WordCamp US
A Quarter of the Top 10 Million Sites Ranked by Alexa Use WordPress

Plugins Picked By Marcus:

Ad Blocking Advisor adds a simple and elegant notification bar to your site that only displays to visitors who are using ad blocking software. The purpose of the notification is to ask (or advise) visitors to whitelist your site.

MatchHeight adds the MatchHeight jQuery plugin to make the height of all selected elements exactly equal.

WP Term Images by John James Jacoby allows users to assign images to any visible category, tag, or taxonomy term using the media library, providing a customized look for taxonomies.

WPWeekly Meta:

Next Episode: Wednesday, November 18th 9:30 P.M. Eastern

Subscribe To WPWeekly Via Itunes: Click here to subscribe

Subscribe To WPWeekly Via RSS: Click here to subscribe

Subscribe To WPWeekly Via Stitcher Radio: Click here to subscribe

Listen To Episode #212:

by Jeff Chandler at November 12, 2015 05:55 PM under w3techs

WPTavern: WP Remote Is Up for Sale

Human Made LTD is selling its WordPress remote management service WP Remote. Launched in 2009 as a plugin called Site Monitor, the service has evolved over time to allow users to upgrade themes, plugins, and WordPress remotely. The service allows an unlimited amount of sites to be tracked for free.

Human Made is not able to devote the time and resources necessary to maintain the service, even as it continues to do well. According to Tom Willmot, Co-founder and CEO of Human Made, the team backed out of the premium version of the service due to a lack of resources:

We had ambitious plans for a version 2, we introduced a premium version that we backed out of because we didn’t have the resources to run and grow it, and we’ve got lots of great ideas both from its users and ourselves that we haven’t been able to act on. We’re too busy with other things, including Happytables, our client work, events, and more.

WP Remote has over 18K users with more than 96K sites monitored. Here are some other notable statistics:

  • 1,850 people logged in during the past 30 days.
  • 1,200 of those have more than five sites added to their account and 110 of them have more than 50 sites monitored.
  • In the past 30 days WP Remote was used to perform over 20,000 plugin updates.
  • Each week between 50 and 100 new users sign up and over half of them go on to add a site.

Although WP Remote converted 60 free users to its premium service, the company eliminated it due to the lack of internal resources to support, develop, and market it. WP Remote also has key relationships with web hosting companies such as, Pressable, BlueHost, and SiteGround.

Before inquiring about purchasing the service, I recommend that you read the history on how it was created. If you’re interested in acquiring WP Remote or have questions, contact Tom at  tom@hmn.md. The company plans to decide who the buyer is by the end of February 2016 and is in early discussions with a few interested parties.

by Jeff Chandler at November 12, 2015 12:52 AM under human made

November 11, 2015

WPTavern: Pro Plugin Directory Is Seeking a New Owner

Steven Gliebe, creator of Pro Plugin Directory, is looking for a new owner. The site launched earlier this year and has more than 170 plugins listed in the directory. Gliebe doesn’t have the time to manage the project anymore and is looking to give it to someone who is capable of maximizing the site’s potential.

Since May of this year, commercial plugin developers have slowly added their products to the directory. Gliebe explains his original strategy for monetizing the site, “Build the directory up (get authors to list their plugins) in order to attract traffic (plugin buyers) then monetize it with display ads, affiliate links and/or sponsorships (not yet started).”

Gliebe spends 1-2 hours per week managing the directory which includes, moderating submissions, moderating comments, moderating reviews, answering emails, and responding to tweets. He suggests that the new owner will need to spend more time marketing in order for the project to keep growing.

One of the most interesting parts of the sale offer is where Gliebe explains what powers the site:

The site is powered by Easy Digital Downloads, the Frontend Submissions extension, the Product Reviews extension and Array’s Checkout theme (using a child theme for customizations like showing categories on the homepage).

Looking at the analytics, the site is experiencing low traffic numbers compared to when the site was launched. However, organic search traffic is steadily rising thanks to the content published on the site’s blog.

Pro Plugin Directory TrafficPro Plugin Directory Traffic

Outside of Codecanyon, Pro Plugin Directory is one of the only other directories exclusively catered to commercial plugins. Here’s what Gliebe will give the buyer after purchasing the site:

The buyer will receive the domain, website files, database dump, mailing lists and Twitter account. Easy Digital Downloads add-on licenses and Checkout theme licenses will be transferred. You will need to purchase a new SSL certificate. I am looking for a capable buyer but if you require migration assistance or technical support after the sale, I will offer my services at $200/hour (five hours max).

Escrow will be used to facilitate the sale between both parties. If you’re interested in taking over the site or have questions, contact Steven Gliebe.

by Jeff Chandler at November 11, 2015 10:51 PM under steven gliebe

Post Status: How to design a commercial WordPress theme — Draft podcast

Welcome to the Post Status Draft podcast, which you can find on iTunes, Stitcher, and via RSS for your favorite podcatcher.

Joe is away this week, so Brian goes solo. Brian highlights WordCamp US and A Day of REST and describes why you should attend these events. He also tells the story of his first ever WordCamp San Francisco (the precursor to WCUS). Then, he interviews Mike McAlister, of Array Themes, and they talk about the process of building a commercial WordPress theme from the ground up.

The interview with Mike starts around 14 minutes in.


Direct Download
Topics & Links

Event Links

Interview with Mike

by Katie Richards at November 11, 2015 07:13 PM under Everyone

WPTavern: BuddyPress 2.3.5 Patches Privilege Escalation Issue

BuddyPress 2.3.5 is available and patches a security vulnerability that may allow privilege escalation for logged-in users. BuddyPress 2.3.4 and previous versions are affected however, versions 2.0.4, 2.1.2, and 2.2.4 include the patch.

According to the BuddyPress development team, there is no evidence that the bug has been exploited in the wild. If your WordPress site supports automatic updates to point releases, it will likely be updated by the time you read this post.

Slava Abakumov discovered the vulnerability and responsibly disclosed it to the development team. If you run into any issues with the update, you’re encouraged to post on the BuddyPress support forums.

by Jeff Chandler at November 11, 2015 07:42 AM under patch

November 10, 2015

Matt: Arthur C. Clarke on Distributed Work

I saw the new Steve Jobs movie a few days ago, which I enjoyed as a movie even though the main elements were fiction and it should have been titled something else.

But they had an awesome video interview with the amazing Arthur C. Clarke in 1974, which I’ve embedded above, where he said the following right around 0:56.

Interviewer: I wonder though, what sort of a life will it be in social terms if our whole life is built around the computer, if we become a computer-dependent society, computer-dependent individuals.

ACC: In some ways, but they’ll also enrich our society because it’ll make it possible for us to live anywhere we like. Any businessman, any executive could live almost anywhere on earth and still do his business through a device like this, and this is a wonderful thing, it means we won’t have to be stuck in cities, we can live out in the country or wherever we please, and still carry on complete interaction with human beings, as well as with other computers.

Wow, extremely prescient. Remember, this was 1974! The dominant technology companies of today still follow the same office-centric model as when computers took up entire rooms, but the dominant companies of tomorrow will be built and grow in a completely distributed fashion. (And of course, we’re hiring.)

See also, from 2012: Automattic, Forbes, and the Future of Work.

by Matt at November 10, 2015 10:00 PM under Automattic

WPTavern: More Than 250 Tickets Still Available for WordCamp US

WordCamp USA Featured Imagephoto credit: vgrigoriucc

In a little less than a month, the first annual WordCamp US will be underway in Philadelphia, PA. There’s still 251 tickets available to attend the event in person. The schedule and sessions are published and it looks like an informational packed two-day event.

There are three tracks available, two of which will have typical length sessions with a third track dedicated to lightning talks. I highly encourage you to view the schedule and create a list of sessions to attend as the first day has over 40 of them.

Reed Gustow, one of the event’s primary organizers says they’re expecting a lot of attendees, “We’re expecting 2,000 attendees from across the United States and from many other countries, and it will be a wonderful opportunity to learn, share knowledge and meet others in the amazing WordPress community.”

In addition to WordCamp US, there will be a WordPress contributor day on December 6th. During contributor day, people from all walks of life get together and contribute to various parts of the WordPress project whether it’s the support forums, core code, documentation, and more. Mentors will be on hand to help new contributors.

Last but not least, the most important information is where to eat a great tasting cheesesteak. After all, it’s one of the things Philadelphia is known for. The WordCamp US organizing team has you covered with a post that describes the different types of cheesesteaks and where to find the best tasting ones.

Hotel and venue information for the event is on the WordCamp US website. Unfortunately, I’m not attending the event this year, but Sarah Gooding will be there. If you see her, stop her and say hi.

by Jeff Chandler at November 10, 2015 05:39 AM under cheesesteak

WPTavern: A Quarter of the Top 10 Million Sites Ranked by Alexa Use WordPress

According to Matthias Gelbmann of W3Techs, 25% of the sites it surveys are using WordPress. The milestone comes two years after reaching the 20% mark.

Quarter of the WebQuarter of the Web

The following image shows WordPress’ rapid growth from 13.1% in January 2011 to 25% today.

WordPress' GrowthWordPress’ Growth

Drupal and Joomla, two other popular open source content management systems combine for 4.9%, slightly less than 1/5th of WordPress.

W3Techs counts both self hosted WordPress and WordPress.com sites, “We only count the hosted sites if they are reachable via their own domain (not only as subdomain of wordpress.com), and they must qualify like all other sites in our surveys by getting enough visitors on that separate domain to make it into the top 10 million Alexa sites,” Gelbmann says.

This means that only those sites on WordPress.com that use domain mapping and have enough traffic to be in the top 10 million Alexa sites are counted leaving millions of WordPress.com sites uncounted. Only 1.25% of WordPress sites in the survey are hosted at WordPress.com.

The Fastest Growing CMS

The survey also shows that WordPress is still the fastest growing CMS, “Every 74 seconds a site within the top 10 million starts using WordPress. Compare this with Shopify, the second-fastest growing CMS, which is gaining a new site every 22 minutes,” Gelbmann says.

When sites are broken down into languages, WordPress is used on 37.3% of English language sites. Portuguese, Spanish, Swedish and Turkish sites are inbetween 38-40% while Bengali is 51.3% and 54.4% for Bosnian. Only 10.6% of WordPress sites are in Chinese with 6.9% for Korean.

About 94% of sites surveyed use a Unix-like operating system such as Ubuntu. Windows servers host 6.2% of WordPress sites making it the most popular CMS running on Windows servers.

Matt Mullenweg, Co-founder of the WordPress project, says the largest opportunity for growth is in the 57% of sites not using any identifiable CMS. Earlier this year, we learned that Jetpack is going to play a significant role in WordPress gaining 50% or more of market share.

In an interview with Adam Silver on the KitchensinkWP podcast, Mullenweg explains the path to 50% and beyond.

The next goal is the majority of websites. We want to get to 50%+ and there’s a lot of work between now and then. As the percentage increases, it gets harder and harder to grow the market share, and we have to grow the market share by doing things we haven’t done in the past – really thinking about the onboarding process, really thinking about the integration with social networks, and with how WordPress works on touch devices, which is going to be the predominant computing platform of the future. These things are going to be really important.

What got us here isn’t going to get us there. Once we get to 50%, we can decide something new we want to do

Automattic is experimenting with a new side project called Jetpack Onboarding. The project is an attempt to improve WordPress’ new user experience. Hosting companies that choose to implement it can modify, add, or remove steps.

Jetpack Onboarding ScreenJetpack Onboarding Wizard

Keep in mind that W3Techs’ market share numbers are based on the top 10 million sites in Alexa. Fifty percent market share is 5 million of those 10 million sites. Are these the sites WordPress should be targeting with development efforts? Are they more important than the millions of sites not ranked by Alexa? I don’t think so but only time will tell.

by Jeff Chandler at November 10, 2015 04:34 AM under w3techs

November 09, 2015

Matt: AVC On Tracking

If you listed the habits of successful people, tracking and measuring would be near the top of that list. I see it with people, companies, and teams that I work with. I see it in my own behavior.

Fred Wilson writes on Tracking and Measuring. Lack of measurement — picking stats and watching them before and after a launch — is one of the most common mistakes I see product teams make, certainly inside of Automattic.

by Matt at November 09, 2015 11:29 PM under Asides

November 08, 2015

Matt: Seventy-Five to Go

People are abuzz because it looks like the W3Techs survey of the web now has WordPress at 25% market share.

Screen Shot

Sometimes it goes up and down through the course of a month, but it’s still a pretty fun milestone that we can now say about one in four websites are now powered by the scrappy open source underdog with its roots stretching all the way back to a single person in Corsica, France. We should be comfortably past 25% by the end of the year.

The big opportunity is still the 57% of websites that don’t use any identifiable CMS yet, and that’s where I think there is still a ton of growth for us (and I’m also rooting for all the other open source CMSes).

If you want to celebrate with us come to the first-ever WordCamp US event next month in Philadelphia (tickets still available) — it’s shaping up to be an amazing event. We just published the schedule and there are some amazing speakers and sessions.

by Matt at November 08, 2015 01:15 PM under Asides

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November 27, 2015 03:15 PM
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