CSTLdesign News

What to Expect in WordPress 3.7 and 3.8

All hands are on deck as work on WordPress 3.7 and 3.8 gets underway, just a couple of weeks after WordPress 3.6 was shipped.

Lead core developer Andrew Nacin, who is leading 3.7, and WordPress co-founder Matt Mullenweg, who is heading up 3.8, recently held planning meetings for their respective versions to gather feature ideas and get developers into teams.

As Mullenweg announced in his State of the Word address at WordCamp San Francisco, 3.7 and 3.8 are being developed simultaneously, a first for WordPress. While 3.7 will focus on stability and security, 3.8 will be experimental and its features will be initially developed as plugins.

So what can we expect in these upcoming releases?

Fast turnaround for upcoming WordPress releases

WordPress 3.7

More than 200 people logged into Freenode for the initial developer planning meeting held last Thursday.

Nacin emphasised that 3.7 will have a “super short” timeline of just two months. It will be the fastest turnaround of any version of WordPress and is planned for release about 90 days after WordPress 3.6 was made available.

He said a release date wasn’t yet set in stone.

“I would expect it to be after WordCamp Europe and before the middle of the month, so the week of October 7th,” Nacin said.

“The timeline is going to obviously be very short — a few weeks of ‘alpha’ development, followed by a few weeks of ‘beta’ development, followed by let’s say two weeks of release candidates.”

WordPress strengthening passwords
Security will be improved in the next version of WordPress.

The goals for this release are:

  • Language packs
  • Auto-updates for minor releases
  • Enhancements to help strengthen user passwords

During the meeting, Mullenweg said language packs would be the most “impactful thing” in this release and would be “amazing for internationalization adoption.”

But Nacin said the biggest focus for this development cycle would cleaning up thousands of old Trac tickets. There are currently more than 3500 open tickets.

“There are a lot of rotting tickets and patches that should be updated, closed, and/or fixed,” he said.

“I, along with a number of other core committers, will be active daily to commit anything that is looking good.

“It’s not all about the code, though — a lot of tickets just need feedback, or testing, or outright closure.

“And we realistically only have about six weeks of development.”

WordPress 3.7 will introduce auto-updates – a feature Mullenweg has long advocated for – allowing WordPress sites to update to a minor bug fix or security release. For example, upgrading from 3.7 to 3.7.1.

For those out there worried about forced updates, Nacin said it would be possible to turn auto-updates off.

WordPress auto-updates
Automatic updates for minor releases will be introduced in WordPress 3.7.

Another initiative of this release is one that is already in progress – a new build process that also integrates tests and tools, now part of develop.svn.wordpress.org. Core developer Daryl Koopersmith is leading the charge on this project.

Nacin also announced a couple of quick personnel changes. Aaron Campbell, who led work on WordPress 3.6 with Mark Jaquith, has been given guest commit access.

Samuel Sidler is also a name we’ll be seeing a lot more of in future. Sidler joined Audrey Capital last month as a Ninja Wrangler, having previously worked for Mozilla and the Camino project. According to his LinkedIn profile, Sidler is a “Software project manager with extensive experience releasing open source products in fast-paced environments” and “coordinated teams across the Mozilla organization and around the world – including volunteer community members – to ship the Firefox web browser. During the planning meeting, Nacin described him as a “kind of badass” who “brings quite an interesting perspective to all of this (WordPress project management).”

WordPress 3.8

Mullenweg used the 3.8 planning meeting to outline his expectations and announce key players in the release’s development.

Unlike previous development cycles, there will be no backup/deputy lead for 3.8, rather Automattic Developer Ryan Boren will be the “Commit Lead”. He will be responsible for making sure any temporary hooks are added in a timely manner, providing tech advice as requested and making sure the MP6 and 2014 theme projects are headed in the right direction.

WordPress MP6 plugin
The MP6 plugin first surfaced in February this year after work on icons was pulled from version 3.6.

The other two major roles for this version are “Plugin Leads” – Automattic’s Matt Thomas has been working on the MP6 plugin all year, while Lance Willet, a Theme Division Lead at Automattic, has been tasked with leading work on the Twenty Fourteen default theme.

Mullenweg described his own role as 3.8 Lead as trying to get the right people involved in the plugin projects, giving them the tools and autonomy they need to iterate quickly, curating/editing the projects as they evolve and making sure 3.8 hits its release date.

He clarified that the Post Formats UI was never turned into a plugin after it was pulled from WordPress 3.6. Developer Yuri Victor, who works at The Washington Post, has taken over the project and has begun working on something in Github.

It’s not clear what the plan is for Post Formats and whether a new UI will be included in WordPress 3.8.

As for 3.8 features, the chat continued onto Make WordPress Core and plenty of ideas were suggested:

  • An overhaul of widgets
  • Featured content – managing the information of which posts are featured in what order at which location. Presentation of this information depends on the theme.
  • Improving the content editing experience
  • Dashboard help
  • Global turn off comments
  • Explore front-end posting/art direction – possibly utilizing the existing customizer
  • Re-imagine the WP.org theme directory for a better user experience

There seems to be a lot of interest in revamping widgets. Widgets were initially introduced as a plugin before they became part of core in WordPress 2.2. They were redesigned for version 2.8 and given a cleaner appearance in 3.6, but how they work has essentially stayed the same since 2009.

Automattic designer Shaun Andrews has posted his ideas on how widgets could look better and there has also been some discussion at WebDevStudios.

Mullenweg supported work on what he described as a “mediocre” theme directory, saying a great browsing experience on WordPress installs should be the same as a great browsing experience at WordPress.org

What features are you most looking forward to in versions 3.7 and 3.8? Have your say in the comments below.