It's your fave WordPress weekly email, now at issue 213!

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Rae, hello!

Welcome back to MasterWP Weekly, your weekly newsletter for WordPress professionals 👋

Hello from Alex!
We went to visit my cousin and his kids at the weekend, and it was the most reassuringly normal thing we’ve done all year. Looking forward to doing more of things like that, and playing squash again when indoor sports are allowed next week(!!!).
Hello from Ben!
I’m having my first shot of the Covid vaccine this week. I know it’s not the end of the virus but the idea of having some level of protection, and so being able to get back a bit of ‘normality’ is exciting.
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GiveWP Joins the Liquid Web Family of Brands

Give me the dollar

There have been some noteworthy acquisitions in the WordPress economy in recent months, but I’ve stopped covering them. There are only so many times I can say “this plugin company has been acquired by this hosting company”. This one, though, is different and noteworthy. Let’s explore this.

GiveWP has been acquired by Liquid Web. This is very interesting to me: GiveWP is one of the best examples of a successful WordPress plugin business. They’re six years old and relatively mature, with the key parts of the business – support, product, marketing etc – in place. GiveWP is the market leader on donations for WordPress websites.

Here’s why this is interesting: that GiveWP is a relatively mature business means the acquisition price will have been high. I don’t know any specifics, but I would assume there was no business pressure to sell. As far as I know Give had no other external investors, and I have no reason to doubt their organic growth was strong. I’m thus assuming that Give shopped around for offers, had some sort of competitive bidding process, and the Liquid Web offer was significant. Give stress that their leadership team are staying, but I’d assume they’re only obliged to stay for the next 12 months.

Secondly, donations are obviously a valuable part of any charity website. They are also, however, solving a very specific need. Previous Liquid Web acquisitions have more obviously looked to cover a need of strategic interest for the hosting business; this looks more like Liquid Web betting on the general growth of WordPress and their ability to run Give for the next 5 – 10 – 20? – years to get return on investment. Suddenly, Liquid Web’s strategic approach looks a lot more like Automattic’s: own many parts of the ecosystem and benefit from WordPress’ growth.

I stress that I am speculating and have no inside information here. If I’m right about this, we may be starting to see more acquisitions of this type in future. More and more WordPress businesses are reaching the relative maturity stage, and it’ll be decision time for company owners. - Alex.

The future of WordPress

With Matt Mullenweg and Josepha Haden Chomposy

WPCafe is a regular video chat (podcast?) between Mark and Keith from Highrise Digital and their invited guests, and this episode they interviewed Matt Mullenweg and Josepha Haden Chomphosy; two of the most prominent names in the organisation & leadership of the WordPress project.

WPCafe is filmed and broadcast live, but since it’s on Youtube you can watch it whenever you like.

I liked that some of the questions were not the typical ones you get on these interviews.

One question that stood out to me was a question about encouraging sustainability with WordPress and whether this is considered when developing new features, or if there will ever be a core team devoted to the environmental impact of WordPress.

From the answer I get the impression this isn’t something that has been thought about. Matt suggested that developers should always take sustainability into account developing but I don’t think it’s top of their minds.

From a WordPress perspective, being green is largely about reducing server requests and file sizes to make WordPress as performant as possible. This benefits more than just the environment, it’s great for Accessibility (people on low speed connections), and SEO (page speed is a ranking factor) as well; both things that can increase the number of visitors to a website.

There’s certainly been work towards improving performance, responsive images, lazy loading, recently webp image support, just in time css in Gutenberg, they all help - but these features often appear to come from outside the core team.

Traditionally themes and plugins have been the largest factor in WordPress performance (page load) but with Gutenberg and Full Site Editing I think this responsibility will move away from themes towards WordPress itself so any gains we can make would be beneficial to everyone.

Only today I was reading about how a small change made by Cloudflare could potentially save 96 tonnes of CO2 per day. All they did was remove one 52 byte cookie from every request sent to a Cloudflare hosted page. Individually this is tiny, but because of the scale of Cloudflares usage this could have a massive impact.

And because WordPress powers ~41% of the web, reducing the page load by a couple of kb could also make a huge difference.

They also talk briefly about Universal Themes, which will be a really useful thing for theme developers since they will be a big stepping stone for themes from the current workflow to the new ones used by Gutenberg and Full Site Editing. I’m looking forward to seeing more examples and documentation around these so that I can start to experiment.

It’s an interesting watch and will give you some additional insight into the WordPress project.

If you enjoy this video then this is episode 13 so there’s a few others to catch up on. Episode 11, about building the Twenty Twenty-One theme was particularly interesting to me. - Ben.

Blind People don’t visit my Website

I wonder why that is?

Last year Rian Rietveld asked on Twitter about the top complaints people have about websites. The most common issues were to do with things like Cookie Consent banners, newsletter modals, forms with unspecified data formats, things that we all dislike.

And then showed that actually, all of these have guidelines in the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). So by improving these common, frustrating, things we would actually improve Accessibility on our (or our clients/ employers) websites.

Accessibility is about more than text colour contrast, it’s about making sure our content is usable by the widest possible audience. About making everyone feel welcome, and if I (as a able bodied person) get frustrated, I can only guess at how much worse it would be for someone with some form of disability. - Ben.

Why I Work On Ads

“Funding the open web”

I found this an interesting rationalisation from an author who works on ads at Google. They take an Effective Altruist angle, arguing that earning to give through working on ads is good, and that ads are the least-worst option for funding the open web.

I appreciate the author’s nuance and self-awareness on this (although I think they’re too easy on ads), and the argument that “paywalls are regressive and therefore ads are better” isn’t a bad one. In the context of the recent Chrome cookie changes this is worth thinking about. - Alex.
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MasterWP weekly continues below!


Programming: doing it more vs doing it better

TLDR; Do more

I include this article because I’ve always loved the little story that comes with it, and I also agree with the lesson, it’s something I have learnt myself over the years and this article puts it into words better than I can.

I’ll let you read the article to get the story (the story is at the top and isn’t very long), but in essence it boils down to practice being more important than attempting perfection.

The more you do something the better you will get, so don’t spend years on a single thing trying to make it perfect. Build lots of smaller things and you will get closer to perfection, and end up with lots of things. - Ben.
MasterWP is a free weekly newsletter for WordPress professionals, written by Ben Gillbanks and Alex Denning. Thank you to our newsletter provider, MailPoet, for sending the email. Thank you also to the people who make it happen: Peta Armstrong formats the newsletter, and Laura Nelson and Allie Dye kindly copy-checks for us.

You can get in touch with us – send us your thoughts, comments, or a story – by replying directly to this newsletter.

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