As we are approaching the last weeks of 2013, I thought I would take the opportunity to look back at the major changes, news and events that occurred with WordPress in 2013.
Every year is eventful with WordPress and 2013 was no different. There are two major updates every year that add new features to the WordPress core. This improves the default version of WordPress and gives plugin and theme developers the opportunity to extend WordPress even further. 2013 also saw some other big events such as the introduction of Twenty Thirteen and the tenth anniversary of WordPress’s launch.
WordPress Turned 10
One 27 May 2013, WordPress celebrated its tenth anniversary. During that time, most other blogging platforms have died a slow death whilst WordPress cemented its legacy by becoming the most used content management system in the world.
To celebrate the event, WordPress produced some tenth anniversary t-shirts. The t-shirts are more subtle than the original WordPress t-shirts they developed years ago with the huge WordPress logo.
Matt Mullenweg initially decided to fork the b2 blogging platform back in January 2003. He was not happy with TextPattern and MovableType and wanted to develop something better. Mike Little responded and the two founded WordPress. Over ten years later, WordPress continues to go from strength to strength.
Twenty Thirteen Theme
The classic blue Kubrick design was the default WordPress theme for many years. It was first included with WordPress in version 1.5 back in February 2005. It was not superseded until June 2010 in WordPress 3.0, which included the Twenty Ten WordPress design.
Twenty Ten was a clean professional design that proved very popular with WordPress users. Since then, every year we have seen a new default WordPress theme that was named after the year it was released. Twenty Eleven and Twenty Twelve improved upon the design of Twenty Ten; however they can be considered evolutionary designs. The release of WordPress 3.6 in August 2013 included the first stable release of Twenty Thirteen. The design was a big departure from the clean minimalist designs of Twenty Ten, Twenty Eleven and Twenty Thirteen.
It had lots of bright colours, cool typography and post formats support. The change that ruffled many feathers within the WordPress community was the one column design.
Twenty Thirteen was a significant event as it showed that WordPress are willing to try something different. They could have maintained their tradition of safe, clean and dare I say it, boring designs; however they decided to take a risk with something a little different.
3. Revamped Revisions
In 2013, WordPress took one of its best features and made it better. Introduced in WordPress 3.6, Revamped Revisions allows you to easily compare any two revisions. You can then restore the revision you want. This is particularly useful if you publish long articles as it allows you to go back and copy text and content that you later removed.
Post Locking & Augmented Autosave
Multi-author website owners were pleased when Post Locking was introduced. Before WordPress 3.6, any user could go into a post or page and edit it. The only thing that WordPress did was give a small warning message advising other users that someone was currently editing the post.
A simple warning message will not stop someone from editing over another user’s post. Some users may not even notice the warning message.
The new set up locks posts and explains exactly who is modifying the post.
When another user tries to edit a post, they are given the option of going back, previewing the post that is being edited or taking over the post. If they decide to take over the post, the other user will get locked out and receive a notification message that someone else is editing the post.
This is a much better system for multi-author websites as it ensures that only one user is editing a post at a time.
Another useful feature that was introduced in WordPress 3.6 is augmented autosave. Each user has their own save stream which is stored locally and on the server. This ensures that no posts are lost.
Updates While You Sleep
Updating can be a pain, particularly if you have many websites. WordPress made the process of updating easier a few years ago by allowing you to update your website to the latest version directly through the WordPress admin area.
Despite this, a high percentage of WordPress users do not update their websites to the latest version. This is particularly true for small-content websites and mini-sites which are rarely updated. As good a platform as WordPress is, you cannot simply build a website using WordPress and forget about it. If you do not update to the latest version of WordPress, the version that your website uses will get older and older. Sooner or later your website will be compromised in some way because of this; whether it is hacking, malware or a malicious script.
That should now be a thing of the past as WordPress 3.7 added a new feature to the core that allows WordPress to be updated to the latest version automatically. Yes you heard that correctly: WordPress can now update itself!
Stronger Password Recommendations
WordPress 3.7 added a new password recommendation system that advises users whether their password is strong enough. This should encourage more users to use stronger passwords.
I was initially hesitant at including this new feature in this list. It is good that WordPress is encouraging WordPress users to use stronger passwords as simple passwords are still the main way that websites are compromised.
My main criticism was that encouraging users to use stronger passwords is not enough: You need to force them. Humans are creatures of habit. Therefore, if a person uses a simple one word password on other accounts, they will use it on their website too. That is why I believe you have to force people to use a stronger password. Hopefully this is something that WordPress will address in 2014.
Ghost Joins the Blogging Platform
Competition is good. Unfortunately, WordPress has not had any serious competition for some time. As a content management system, WordPress’s closest rivals are Joomla and Drupal; however their share of the CMS market is low in comparison.
WordPress started life as a blogging platform and it looks like it is finally getting some competition on that front. Squarespace was the first good alternative to WordPress as a blogging platform. This year, another platform joined the blogging party.
Ghost is a beautiful open-source blogging platform that places an emphasis on simplicity. It is not weighed down with additional features that do not need. The interface is clean and and it features a fantastic distraction-free writing system that places markup on the left hand side and a live preview on the right hand side.
Ghost features a responsive design so looks great on all mobile devices. There are lots of great designs available for it too. At the time of writing, there are over sixty Ghost designs available on ThemeForest.
You may be wondering: Why is Ghost relevant to WordPress?
As I noted previously, competition is good. It is good to see another platform be received so well. Whilst WordPress’s position as the number one CMS in the world is not at risk, it is good to see other options available to bloggers and website owners.
One of the first things I noticed about Ghost was how modern and professional their interface was. The WordPress admin area looks dated in comparison. This competition should help raise the bar across the field. It would not surprise me if WordPress takes inspiration from platforms such as Ghost in the future and improve WordPress as a result. Here’s hoping :)
ThemeForest Continues to Grow
The number of premium WordPress themes available on ThemeForest continues to grow and grow. There are currently around 3,600 WordPress designs in their marketplace and that figure continues to grow every week. In comparison, the second biggest theme store, Mojo Themes, has around 600 WordPress designs.
It is easy to understand why designers gravitate towards the ThemeForest marketplace and release their designs there. The sheer volume of traffic that ThemeForest gets is astounding and as more and more designs get released there, traffic will continue to grow. I imagine the news that top WordPress designer Kriesi broke the $3 million profit mark this year is enticing more members too.
From a buyers point of view, I am a big supporter of ThemeForest. The number of themes available means that WordPress designers are raising the bar each and every month. This is driving WordPress to become a better platform. I have no doubt that this trend will continue in 2014.
The Rise of GPL Cowboys
Over the last few years, the main debate has been whether a WordPress theme or plugin had to be licensed under the General Public License. This year, the debate was about the ethics of reselling other people’s products. Perhaps it is better described as a backlash against WooTheme’s pricing policy.
Since forking from Jigoshop, WooCommerce has become the most popular eCommerce plugin for WordPress. One of the reasons the plugin is so popular is the number of extensions that are available for it. There are over two hundred extensions available: ranging from free up to $199. The best extensions are quite pricy and it is not uncommon for some shop owners to spend thousands of dollars on extensions in order to get the functionality they need.
This is a relatively small expense to a large online shop; however it is a big obstacle for small shops and companies. A few people have capitalised on this. WP Avengers and GPL Club both offer WooCommerce extensions at a reduced price.
GPL Club offers packages that include all WooCommerce extensions (worth thousands of dollars), several WooCommerce premium WordPress themes and several premium plugins such as Gravity Forms and BackupBuddy. People can download all items for $199 per year or $19 per month plus a one off fee of $28. WP Avengers have taken this further and are currently offering all WooCommerce extensions free.
I believe that this could do a lot of damage to the WordPress community. Since all WordPress products are licensed under the General Public License, it is perfectly legal to resell them. However, a premium market for quality WordPress products cannot exist if developers are not making money. If this trend continued, you may see many great WordPress developers move onto different platforms. At the moment, it seems that premium plugins are being most affected by this, but I do not imagine it will be long before similar websites arise that offer premium WordPress themes at bargain prices.
One thing is for sure, the GPL debate is going to be alive and kicking in 2014.
VaultPress Lite Launched
I have been using VaultPress backup service for years and consider it to be the best overall backup solution for WordPress. It allows you to automatically backup your website on Automattic’s servers and restore your website at any time.
The $15 basic plan was a bit too expensive for some people, so many looked at free alternatives. VaultPress responded to this by introducing a new lite plan that only costs $5 per month. It offers the same amazing functionality as the basic plan except backups are stored for 30 days rather than indefinitely. Plus a backup is only made once a day rather than one per hour.
For most website owners, this reduced frequently of backups is not a major issue as they only update their websites a few times per week. With the introduction of VaultPress Lite, you now have no excuses left for not backing up your website.
WordPress Founder Controls WordPress News
Matt Mullenweg is the co-founder of the WordPress platform and the founder and president of Automattic. Automattic is the company behind WordPress.com, VaultPress, Gravatar, Akismet and many popular WordPress themes and plugins such as bbPress and Jetpack. In short, Matt is WordPress (so to speak).
I think most people would agree that the company behind a product or service should not own the websites that break news about it. News should be impartial and for a website to be truly impartial, it cannot be owned by the same company. Web Tools Collection will remain as an archive, however Matt wasted no time in adding WPTavern to the “Other WordPress News” widget on the admin dashboard. This instantly added links to WPTavern on millions of websites online. Every post that is published there is added to your admin area.
I am a huge fan of Matt and love his views on open source, though I feel that trying to control how the flow of news is the wrong way to go. That should be left to the community. What do you think?
Dedicated WordPress Hosting Companies Growing in Popularity
These companies charge up to five times more than what regular hosting companies charge. The key difference is that you are getting a managed service. They optimise your website for WordPress and give you support on WordPress related problems whenever you need it. If you are a hands-on website owner, a managed WordPress hosting plan will frustrate you. Those of you who do not want to waste any time dealing with hosting related issues and problems should definitely consider looking more into using a WordPress hosting service.
The next default WordPress theme is…you guessed it…Twenty Fourteen. The first version of the design was released with WordPress 3.8 Beta 1. Whilst the Twenty Thirteen theme got a mixed response, I expect Twenty Fourteen to be better received. The theme looks great and is modern and practical.
It is essentially a three column blogging design, however the featured article area at the top of the design gives the impression of a magazine website. I never saw myself using Twenty Thirteen but Twenty Fourteen looks like a design I could use on one of my websites.
Technically, Twenty Fourteen should be in next years roundup, however the theme can be downloaded right now so I thought it was important to include the theme in this list :)
Over to You
In terms of features, WordPress did not evolve as much as it has in previous years. What they did was take a polished content management system and make it even better. Features such as post locking and automatic updates are a key indication of this.
I hope you enjoyed this look back at the major events in the WordPress world from 2013. What was the most significant WordPress event for you?