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WooCommerce’s Own Hosting Service, iThemes Rebrands, Twitter API Ban πŸ—žοΈ May 2023 WordPress News w/ CodeinWP

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

Hey, WordPress fans, we are back with the latest roundup of WordPress news and events from the past month.

In the biggest bit of news, WooCommerce officially launched its own managed WooCommerce hosting service, named Woo Express. Shop owners can now spin up a store right from the WooCommerce website (powered by WordPress.com infrastructure).

Beyond that, iThemes, a pillar of the WordPress space, will be rebranding and ditching the iThemes name. WordPress.com (and Jetpack) also had to stop its Twitter auto-posting service because of Twitter’s API changes.

Let’s get all of the WordPress news from the past month:

May 2023 WordPress News with CodeinWP

WooCommerce launches its own Woo Express hosting service

In the biggest news this month, WooCommerce has officially launched its own managed hosting product named Woo Express.

WooCommerce had already soft-launched this service in March, but in April they fully opened it to the public.

While Automattic has already kind of offered a managed WooCommerce hosting experience via the WordPress.com eCommerce plan, this is a much more focused offering that’s bound to cause some tremors in the WordPress hosting space.

Woo Express still does use Automattic’s WordPress.com infrastructure. However, store owners can sign up directly via the WooCommerce website rather than needing to use WordPress.com.

In addition to the hosting itself (and live chat support), Woo Express also bundles in free access to a number of different extensions, including the following:

  • Product Add-Ons
  • Product Bundles
  • WooCommerce Gift Cards
  • Product Recommendations
  • A bunch of shipping extensions including UPS, USPS, FedEx, and more
  • see the full list here (there are two plans and the extensions vary between them)

With the WordPress.com-powered infrastructure, stores also benefit from SFTP access, SSH access, direct database access, a native GitHub integration, and WP-CLI.

If you’re interested in playing around with Woo Express, the service offers a 14-day free trial to let you test everything at no risk to your wallet. It works similarly to Shopify in that you’re able to build your store without paying but you need to upgrade to a paid plan to make it public.

The free trial also has some other limitations, such as not letting you install custom plugins beyond the plugins that come bundled with Woo Express. You can install custom plugins on the paid plans, though. This limitation only applies to the free trial.

After the free trial, there are two pricing plans:

  • Essential – $40 per month billed monthly or $25 per month billed annually.
  • Performance – $70 per month billed monthly or $45 per month billed annually.

These prices make it a little more expensive than the managed WooCommerce hosting offerings from Bluehost and GoDaddy, but they are still very competitive for the space.

If you’re interested, you can go to the Woo Express landing page to start. However, the page is a bit basic in terms of details. To see all of the nitty-gritty stuff, you’ll want to read this documentation page.

And if you want to learn more about the background of this service and where it might go in the future, you can read this WP Tavern article, which includes a number of quotes from WooCommerce employees. Or, you can check out this ‘Do the Woo’ podcast episode with Beau Lebens from WooCommerce.

Woo Express

iThemes launches a big rebrand to SolidWP

For as long as I’ve been working with WordPress, iThemes has always been one of the most well-known and recognizable WordPress brands.

But soon, iThemes will no longer exist…

Don’t worry – all of iThemes’ products and people will still be there. They’ll just no longer be known as “iThemes.”

Instead, iThemes will soon rebrand to SolidWP.

From a logical perspective, I think that the rebrand makes a lot of sense. IThemes hasn’t been known for “themes” for a long time now.

In fact, I’ve been working directly with WordPress for 7+ years now and I can’t ever remember seeing a theme from iThemes. Instead, iThemes is known for its plugins such as BackupBuddy, iThemes Sync, and iThemes Security.

In addition to changing the main brand name, iThemes will also rebrand all of its products to use the “Solid” moniker:

  • iThemes Security will become Solid Security.
  • iThemes Sync will become Solid Central.
  • BackupBuddy will become Solid Backups. This one actually could’ve stayed BackupBuddy because there was no “iThemes” in the name, but I guess the iThemes team wants to make it consistent with their other products.
  • iThemes Training will become Solid Academy.

Obviously, because of the size and history of iThemes, this is going to be a rather large project. While rebranding the products can be done immediately, it might take the iThemes team a little longer to update all of the blog posts, documentation articles, webinars, eBooks, course content, and so on.

As part of the rebranding, iThemes might also change some of its offerings and focuses. Matt Cromwell said that they don’t plan to change prices at this time, but it could still be on the table.

Here’s a quote from the SolidWP website about what to expect:

“Over the next few months you’ll be seeing updates to core products that will directly benefit you as we rebrand to SolidWP. Expect more features, improved functionality, and even better documentation.”

If you want to learn more and see some additional quotes from Matt, you can read this article on WP Tavern.

The SolidWP website is also live. However, right now it just shares information about the rebrand – it’s not replacing the original iThemes website quite yet.

SolidWP

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WordPress.com can no longer offer automatic posting to Twitter

Last month, there was lots of drama over the new Twitter API plans, which caused issues for a lot of apps and services.

As part of those issues, WordPress.com experienced issues with its API access, culminating with WordPress.com no longer being able to offer its automatic tweet posting tool. This also affects the same functionality that was available via Jetpack.

Let’s start at the beginning, though:

On April 3, WordPress.com had its access to the Twitter API suspended, which caused the functionality to break for all WordPress.com sites, as well as sites using the Jetpack plugin.

On April 4, WordPress.com was able to get access to the Twitter API again and things seemed to be fixed.

All good, right?

Wrong, unfortunately.

On April 29, Automattic announced that Twitter sharing would be officially coming to an end. The main issue is the huge increase in pricing for the Twitter API, which makes it cost-prohibitive for Automattic to offer any kind of automatic tweet posting.

Given just how big the increase is, it’s totally fair for Automattic to react that way (and Automattic is far from the only service that’s having to cut back on automatic tweet posting).

The other social sharing in WordPress.com/Jetpack will not be affected – you can still keep sharing to Tumblr, Facebook, and LinkedIn. Automattic is also working on adding support for Instagram and Mastodon, soon.

Automattic also got in a bit of a parting jab at Twitter at the end of the announcement post:

“If your recent experiences with Twitter have left you dissatisfied, go take Tumblr for a spin — we hear it’s quite a party over there.”

Advanced Custom Fields finally adds support for custom post types

This isn’t huge news, but it is something that’s long overdue, at least in my opinion.

Advanced Custom Fields, or ACF for short, has always been one of the most popular solutions for working with custom fields on WordPress. However, unlike solutions like Pods, Toolbox, and Metabox, ACF was always just for custom fields.

However, given that a lot of people use custom fields to extend custom post types, this left a gap in the marketplace. To fill that, most people relied on Custom Post Type UI (or similar plugins).

Now, that’s no longer needed as ACF has finally added support for creating and managing custom post types (and custom taxonomies).

This new functionality was part of ACF 6.1, which was released on April 3.

To help you transition to an all-ACF stack, the release also includes a feature to migrate any existing custom post types and taxonomies that you might’ve created with Custom Post Type UI.

Johnathon Williams launches new AI-powered chat plugin

In mid-2023, Jonathan Williams released a new AI-powered chat plugin, named Dialogue.

Given the attention that AI is getting in the wider ecosystem, it’s no surprise that AI is also getting attention in WordPress.

What I found interesting about this plugin, though, is that Johnathan actually used ChatGPT to help him code the plugin.

So – it’s a WordPress AI plugin created, in part, with AI. Pretty cool!

In order to use the plugin, you’ll need your own OpenAI API key. You can learn more on the GitHub page.

While Dialogue looks interesting, it’s not the first plugin to help you create an AI-powered chat experience in WordPress. If you’re interested in some other options, you also might want to check out this selection of interesting ChatGPT plugins.

Yoast SEO founders leave Newfold Digital (and Yoast SEO)

Back in 2021, Newfold Digital acquired the popular Yoast SEO.

If you’re not familiar with Newfold Digital, it’s the evolution of Endurance International Group (EIG), the massive parent company that owns big hosts such as Bluehost and HostGator.

For a long-time, Joost de Valk and Marieke van de Rakt continued working on Yoast SEO at Newfold Digital.

However, in April, both stepped away from their positions at Newfold Digital.

While Yoast SEO will still be receiving plenty of attention, I still thought it was an interesting bit of news because it marks the end of a chapter in one of the longest-running and most-established WordPress plugins.

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

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

 

Layout and presentation by Karol K.

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