Hey, WordPress fans! We’re back with yet another edition of The WordPress Update for October 2018.

If you’re not already familiar with The WordPress Update, it’s our monthly WordPress news roundup where we share everything that’s happening in the WordPress community, as well as our thoughts on the latest stories. Then, we post it here on the blog and send it out to our newsletter subscribers.

If you want to stay on top of the latest WordPress news and make sure you get all the future versions of The WordPress Update, the best thing to do is to sign up for the newsletter.

This month, we finally got word on when WordPress 5.0 and the new Gutenberg Editor will be released. Beyond that, we also got a sneak peak of the new Twenty Nineteen default theme, which will be shipping alongside Gutenberg.

Besides our usual Gutenberg news, there were also a few big business acquisitions in the WordPress space. And if you’re running an eCommerce store with WooCommerce, you’re soon going to get an awesome new dashboard experience powered by React.

Keep on reading to catch up with everything noteworthy that happened with WordPress in October 2018.

WordPress 5.0 has an estimated release date (and a beta version)

If you haven’t heard already, WordPress 5.0 will bring the brand new Gutenberg Editor, a complete redesign of the way that you create content with WordPress. Beyond that, it will also:

  • Include the new Twenty Nineteen default theme
  • Offer a custom upgrade experience to give users the option of sticking with the Classic editor plugin

It’s a pretty big deal…but for a long time, we had no idea when WordPress 5.0 would actually be released.

Now we do…well, kind of.

The WordPress core team has announced an estimated release date for WordPress 5.0, but there’s a lot of flexibility built into it.

The target release date for WordPress 5.0 is November 19, 2018. However, there are a few ways that this might change.

First, that date can move back by up to 8 days if the team feels they need more time for testing.

If those 8 days are not enough, then there’s also a backup plan to push it back all the way to January 22. The reason for that big gap is to avoid releasing it over the Christmas holidays (no one wants their holidays ruined by having to test their site or teach clients a new interface).

As with much of Gutenberg, the estimated release date is not without controversy.

At WP Tavern, some people are wondering why, if the release date is already flexible, it can’t just be pushed back to January. If WordPress 5.0 does indeed ship in November, it will happen right before Thanksgiving in the USA, which a lot of people aren’t happy about.

My guess is that they want to get WordPress 5.0 and Gutenberg out before WordCamp US in early December.

Gutenberg accessibility is a hot topic

This month, there was some drama surrounding the topic of accessibility in Gutenberg because the accessibility team felt that their concerns weren’t being adequately addressed.

The events culminated in Rian Rietveld, the Accessibility Team lead, resigning.

If you’d like to learn more, check out Rian’s resignation post, as well as WP Tavern’s coverage of the issue.

Check out what the new Twenty Nineteen theme looks like

As part of WordPress 5.0, WordPress will also get a new default theme – Twenty Nineteen (yes, we are indeed skipping Twenty Eighteen).

Allan Cole, one of the people working on the new theme, recently shared a few preview shots of how it will look:

WordPress Update October News 1

To be honest, I’m not typically a fan of the default themes, but this one actually looks pretty good.

Because it’s the default theme that ships with Gutenberg, you can be sure that it has built-in Gutenberg compatibility for all the new blocks and alignment options.

What makes a theme compatible with Gutenberg, anyway?

If you’ve been paying attention, you might’ve seen how a lot of theme developers have started to market their themes as “Gutenberg compatible”. WP Tavern even published a post documenting this phenomenon.

So…what does that actually mean? What makes a theme compatible with Gutenberg?

Let’s cover the important thing first:

Gutenberg will work with any theme. I mean, it will be the default editor – it has to.

With that being said, there are things that theme developers can do to take advantage of new functionality in Gutenberg and offer a few extra goodies.

First, Gutenberg offers a new full-width alignment option for some blocks that lets you stretch the block’s alignment across the entire visible viewport (it’s mainly used for image blocks). However, the alignment option is only available if theme developers specifically support it.

Second, Gutenberg makes it easy for theme developers to offer a more visual editing experience by applying theme styles even in the back-end editor. For example, you’d be able to see your theme’s actual typography and colors while working in Gutenberg (see some examples here). Again, this only works if developers build it in.

Finally, there are the styles for the Gutenberg blocks themselves. While the blocks will work no matter which theme you’re using, theme developers will be able to add their own block styling to create a more custom experience.

Of course, this term will probably disappear after the excitement of WordPress 5.0 as it will really just become a basic matter of compatibility. You don’t see themes advertising “TinyMCE Editor Compatible”, do you?

The new WooCommerce interface uses React (and it’s gorgeous)

If you’re running a WooCommerce store, I have great news for you:

The WooCommerce dashboard is soon going to get a big update.

The new WooCommerce backend will be powered by React, which opens the doors to a much more modern user experience. Beyond the new technology, it also gets a complete redesign with improved reports and a better notification system.

Based on the screenshots from the Alpha version, it looks like a massive upgrade:

WordPress Update October News 2

If you don’t want to wait around for the new dashboard, you can get access to it via a separate plugin while it’s still in testing.

Of course, be aware that it’s still only in alpha, so you probably don’t want to use it on a live store yet.

The WooCommerce team expects to have a public beta version out in early 2019 and then merge it into the core before the end of the first quarter in 2019.

WP Engine acquires another WordPress theme shop

A few updates ago, we shared the news that WP Engine acquired the popular Genesis theme framework.

Well, it appears that Genesis wasn’t enough to sate their desire for quality WordPress themes, as WP Engine just snapped up another theme shop.

On October 25th, WP Engine officially acquired Array Themes. You can read WP Engine’s announcement here, as well as Mike McAlister’s thoughts (he’s the founder of Array Themes).

Beyond Array Themes just generally making some great-looking, well-coded themes, they’re also notable because they make the theme that powers this very site! Specifically, we use their Paperback theme.

As with Genesis, Array Themes (and Atomic Blocks) will become part of WP Engine’s platform. Mike will also stay on with WP Engine.

WordPress moves to support PHP 7.3

Every new version of PHP typically brings performance and security improvements. The latest version – PHP 7.3 – has moved into the final stages of its development cycle, and the WordPress core team is working to address that.

The goal is that WordPress will offer full PHP 7.3 support in its next release, which will likely be WordPress 5.0. Or, if WordPress 5.0 gets pushed back to January, the core team will release a small 4.9.9 release with PHP 7.3 support because they want to ensure PHP 7.3 compatibility before the end of 2018.

Two other notable WordPress business acquisitions

Beyond WP Engine’s acquisition of Array Themes, there were also a couple other acquisitions that might pique your interest if you’re into the WordPress business ecosystem.

First, Syed Balkhi’s WPBeginner empire snapped up another company – SeedProd. SeedProd is best known for its coming soon page and maintenance mode plugins.

Second, Pippin Williamson’s Sandhills Development acquired the WP Simple Pay plugin. Sandhills Development is most notably the company behind Easy Digital Downloads, as well as Restrict Content Pro and AffiliateWP.

WP Simple Pay, on the other hand, is a popular tool that helps users accept all kinds of payments via Stripe.

And that wraps up all of the most important WordPress news and articles from October 2018.

Make sure to subscribe to the newsletter by using the box below. And also check back next month for all the exciting news that’s bound to drop in November.

Posted by Colin Newcomer

Colin Newcomer is a freelance writer for hire with a background in SEO and affiliate marketing. He helps clients grow their web visibility by writing primarily about digital marketing, WordPress, and B2B topics.