Hey there, I’m back with yet another installment of The WordPress Update. This time, I’m rounding up the best WordPress news from March 2018.

If you’re not familiar, The WordPress Update is our monthly installment where we grab the best news, add some context and our own thoughts, and share it here on the site and in the newsletter (you can sign up to the newsletter by clicking that big box to the right →).

In March, WordPress hit a major milestone for its adoption on the web, the popular Yoast SEO plugin got a major update, Daniel Bachhuber created a database to track plugin compatibility with Gutenberg, and plenty of other noteworthy articles were published.

Keep reading to catch up with everything that went on in March!

WordPress now powers over 30% Of the Web

In March, WordPress hit another major milestone as a content management system.

According to W3Techs, WordPress now officially powers over 30% of all the websites on the Internet. To be exact, WordPress is the engine behind 30.3% of all websites.

Through January and February, WordPress had been hanging out around 29.X% market share, so it’s awesome to see it finally tip over into the 30.X% range.

If trends continue, we might see WordPress powering a third of the web by the end of the year! That’s pretty dang impressive.

While it’s a celebration for WordPress fans, the web’s two other most popular content management systems – Joomla and Drupal – actually dropped in popularity (again, according to W3Techs).

Drupal is down from 2.3% in January to 2.2% in March, while Joomla is also down from 3.2% to 3.1%.

The hosted content management systems – Squarespace and Wix – are experiencing steady growth, though.

  • Squarespace is up to 0.9% from 0.7% in January
  • Wix is up to 0.6% from 0.4% in January

You can view the market share for all the top players in this chart:

Market Share

Yoast SEO 7.0 launches with a big interface redesign

Normally, a single plugin update wouldn’t be big enough to make the news.

But given how popular Yoast SEO is, and given how big the changes the made are, I think this one is worthy of inclusion.

March brought us a huge update from the Yoast SEO team in the form of Yoast SEO 7.0.

In addition to cleaning up a lot of old code and deprecated functions, Yoast SEO 7.0 brings changes to:

  • The interface
  • The feature list

Let’s talk about what got removed first. Yoast SEO 7.0 takes out:

  • The feature that automatically removes stop words from URLs (I personally disliked this feature, so I’m happy to see it go).
  • The “clean permalinks” feature
  • The option to turn off the “replytocom” variable (it’s just turned off by default)

There’s also been a ton of interface shuffling. The Yoast SEO team changed how things are organized, as well as moving around and renaming some features.

For example, the XML sitemap settings now depend on the search indexing preferences you set, rather than getting their own separate area. Additionally, many of the toggles in the Advanced features tab have been moved, deprecated, or merged.

Yoast SEO

The setting above now controls both indexing and whether to include the content in your XML sitemap.

Stack overflow still dreads WordPress, though less than before

While WordPress’ overall popularity is still shooting up, there is one group of people who haven’t jumped on the WordPress train:

Stack Overflow users (or at least Stack Overflow survey respondents).

Every year, Stack Overflow surveys developers on a variety of issues.

This year’s survey got over 100,000 responses. Of those 101,592 software developers, 63.2% “dreaded” working with the WordPress content management system. While that’s not the “most dreaded” platform, it was good for sixth overall (though well behind Drupal).

And while it’s never good to be dreaded, this is at least an improvement over previous years, where an even higher percentage of developers dreaded working with the platform.

Personally, I’m just going to chalk it up to developers being jealous that WordPress makes it easy for regular users to run their own website!

Introducing the Gutenberg plugin compatibility database

The upcoming Gutenberg Editor isn’t just going to bring major changes to the WordPress editor. It’s also going to change how you work with a lot of plugins.

For example, plugins will now have the option of creating their own blocks, rather than forcing you to use shortcodes for everything.

But given that there are well over 50,000 free WordPress plugins alone, it’s pretty much impossible to know if a plugin will be compatible with Gutenberg without testing it yourself.

The Gutenberg Plugin Compatibility Database tries to make that a lot easier. It’s a crowdsourced tool that tries to determine compatibility for the ~5,000 included plugins.

It’s a big undertaking, but the WordPress community is plenty huge so hopefully we can get it done!

If you want to learn more about the impetus behind the project, you can also read this introduction post from Daniel Bachhuber at Make WordPress.

The neat thing about the database is that, in addition to individual plugins, you can also view aggregate results for:

  • Overall plugin compatibility with Gutenberg
  • Which specific areas are the most likely to run into compatibility issues.

Right now, the most popular issue is, as you’d expect, “doesn’t include editor functionality.”

Plugin Compatibility

Freemium vs premium themes: From a business owners perspective

This article from Freemius digs into the question of whether WordPress theme developers should sell an entirely premium theme or a free theme with premium add-ons.

At first glance…that seems like it’s just something that WordPress product owners will be interested in.

But I actually think this article is interesting for casual users as well because it gives some insight into how the sausage gets made, so to speak.

That is – it’s cool to get a look at the business decisions that go into the products that casual WordPress users consume on a daily basis.

To give you that insight, Nicolas Lecocq, of the OceanWP theme, lays out some of the pros and cons of each approach.

If you’re interested in some additional background information, OceanWP goes the free route with premium extensions.

Developers should stop supporting old PHP versions (and you should upgrade)

Most casual WordPress users probably don’t pay attention to what’s happening in the world of PHP versions.

But there are some real reasons that you should care about which PHP version is installed on your server.

The newest versions of PHP – PHP 7.X – offers major improvements over older versions (PHP 5.X). These improvements manifest in both performance and security benefits.

That’s why WordPress officially recommends WordPress 7.2 or greater, and also warns that while WordPress does work with PHP 5.2, PHP 5.2 has “reached official End Of Life and as such may expose your site to security vulnerabilities”.

In “Hey WordPress Plugin Developers, Stop Supporting Legacy PHP Versions In Your Plugins“, Iain Poulson of Delicious Brains implores WordPress plugin developers to stop supporting older versions of PHP.

It’s a good read. And for further discussion, you should check out the comments section at WPTavern.

And in related news, Caldera Forms just announced that it will stop supporting PHP 5.5 and undergoing forward. This is kind of what Iain was calling for in his post!

The easiest way to figure out which version of PHP you’re running, as well as whether or not you can upgrade, is to speak to your host’s support team.

Worried about WordPress and GDPR? Start here…

GDPR, short for General Data Protection Regulation, is an upcoming EU privacy law that will have a big effect on all webmasters, the WordPress core software, and theme/plugin developers.

While the law is impossible to explain in a short blurb like this, it goes into effect on May 25th, 2018 and generally affects privacy and how you handle data from your visitors (which is broadly defined.)

For an introduction to how GDPR will affect WordPress users, Pagely put together a solid resource.

And that’s it for The WordPress Update from March 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 April.

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.