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By Morten Rand-Hendriksen | Thursday, December 12, 2013

WordPress 3.8: A quiet revolution

Today’s release of WordPress 3.8 is revolutionary in the history of WordPress—and a clear sign of things to come from the popular content management system. Sporting a clean new interface, tons of new features, and a new development philosophy, the 3.8 release is a milestone for the WordPress community in many ways. We’re already hard at work updating our WordPress Essential Training course to reflect WordPress 3.8, but there’s a lot to notice in today’s release beyond just what ships in the code.

Deadlines are not arbitrary Establishing the current WordPress philosophy “Deadlines are not arbitrary,” WordPress cofounder and project leader Matt Mullenweg made a series of bold announcements at WordCamp San Francisco back in July. First, he stated that WordPress 3.7 and 3.8 would be developed in parallel, with firm, preannounced release dates for each. Furthermore, he announced that all new features slated for version 3.8 would be developed as stand-alone plugins first, and only built into the WordPress core code once they were stable. Finally, Matt announced that he’d be personally leading the development team for the 3.8 release.

For those outside of the WordPress community, these statements might not seem revolutionary—but the shifts are certainly new: WordPress updates have never previously had firm dates, and have often missed their target dates by months. Parallel development of several WordPress releases is also a new twist, with new features historically being built into the core codebase by default, a strategy that has also caused delays. Reading between the lines of these recent changes, it’s clear that Matt intended to set a new standard for WordPress releases, and by placing himself as head of the 3.8 development team he was owning his words in the most public way possible. There was early speculation as to whether this bold new plan would succeed, but with WordPress 3.7 releasing on schedule, and today’s timely launch of 3.8, the strategy is becoming refreshingly consistent for the WordPress community.

Plugins first, then core In addition to crisp scheduling, the process of developing new features for WordPress as plugins has been a huge success. In WordPress 3.8 there are several major updates including a new user interface (originally developed as the plugin MP6), a new theme experience (developed as THX38), and a new dashboard (developed as DASH). By developing these new features as plugins rather than building them directly into core, they have been allowed to mature and evolve separately and prove their stability and usability before becoming part of the platform. This seems a more balanced approach to application development, and it also allows for features that aren’t quite ready for primetime (like the new Universal Search function) to be held back from a release without the core itself having to be rewritten. My hope is that this process will be the new standard moving forward, and in the future many new features will be developed as optional plugins to keep the WordPress core small and quick.

WordPress 3.8 - A new look and feel

3.8 is here, with new courses on the way WordPress 3.8 is now available for download to the public, and we’re already hard at work ensuring you’ll have the best and most up-to-date training materials quickly. You can expect to see a fully updated WordPress Essential Training course, and a new Start with a Theme: Twenty Fourteen course shortly, going into depth on all the new features in WordPress 3.8. For an immediate look at the highlights in the 3.8 release, check out my new course WordPress 3.8 New Features, available today at lynda.com. And if you have any questions about WordPress, I’ll be hosting an online WordPress 3.8 Author Q&A session on December 19 to answer them; follow our Facebook page to get more details. Until then, please post any questions you want me to cover in the comments below so I can address them. I hope you enjoy WordPress 3.8!

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