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WordPress 5.5 update coming in August

On 7 July, WordPress made WordPress 5.5 Beta 1 available for testing. After fixing 48 bugs, Beta 2 was made available to the public last week, with the official release date scheduled for 11 August 2020.

The upcoming update will expand the content management system’s auto-updating capabilities to themes and plugins.

While most of the updates centre around the Gutenberg plugin, additionally XML sitemaps will now be included along with lazy-load images. The round up of updates is available below, taken from the official site.

Block editor: features and improvements

WordPress 5.5 will include ten releases of the Gutenberg plugin, bringing with it a long list of exciting new features. Here are just a few:

Inline image editing – Crop, rotate, and zoom photos inline right from image blocks.

Block patterns – Building elaborate pages can be a breeze with new block patterns. Several are included by default.

Device previews – See how your content will look to users on many different screen sizes.

End block overwhelm. The new block inserter panel displays streamlined categories and collections. As a bonus, it supports patterns and integrates with the new block directory right out of the box.

Discover, install, and insert third-party blocks from your editor using the new block directory.

A better, smoother editing experience with:

Refined drag-and-drop

Block movers that you can see and grab

Parent block selection

Contextual focus highlights

Multi-select formatting lets you change a bunch of blocks at once

Ability to copy and relocate blocks easily

And, better performance

An expanded design toolset for themes.

Now add backgrounds and gradients to more kinds of blocks, like groups, columns, media & text.

XML sitemaps

XML Sitemaps are now included in WordPress and enabled by default. Sitemaps are essential to search engines discovering the content on your website. Your site’s home page, posts, pages, custom post types, and more will be included to improve your site’s visibility.

Auto-updates for plugins and themes

WordPress 5.5 also brings auto-updates for plugins and themes. Easily control which plugins and themes keep themselves up to date on their own. It’s always recommended that you run the latest versions of all plugins and themes. The addition of this feature makes that easier than ever!

Lazy-loading images

WordPress 5.5 will include native support for lazy-loaded images utilizing new browser standards. With lazy-loading, images will not be sent to users until they approach the viewport. This saves bandwidth for everyone (users, hosts, ISPs), makes it easier for those with slower internet speeds to browse the web, saves electricity, and more.

WordPress to include Lazy-Loading for all Images

WordPress have announced that WordPress 5.4 may include image lazy-loading by default on the platform. The lazy-loading feature will enable the “loading” HTML attribute on all IMG elements. This will mean that WordPress publishers will no longer need to use JavaScript or third party plugins to lazy-load their images.

What Is Lazy-loading?

The lazy-loading HTML attribute tells a browser to either wait before downloading an image or to download it right away.
There are three kinds of lazy-loading attributes but only two that make a difference to how your images are loaded when a page is first opened in a browser:

1. Lazy
2. Eager

Lazy, which will be enabled in WordPress 5.4 by default, means to wait until the users browser viewport is within a certain distance before downloading the image. This behavior will speed up a users experience on WordPress sites.

The “eager” attribute tells the browser to immediately download the image.

WordPress 5.4 Release Date

WordPress 5.4 is planned to release on March 31, 2020. This date is dependent on how ready the release is.

According to the WordPress announcement:

The implementation seeks to enable lazy-loading images by default, providing the loading attribute with value lazy on the following img tags:

  • Images in post content
  • Images in post excerpts
  • Images in comments
  • Images in text widget content
  • Individual images rendered via wp_get_attachment_image()
  • Avatar images rendered via get_avatar()

Note that loading=”lazy” will only be added if the respective tag does not  include a loading attribute. In other words, to prevent an image from being lazy-loaded, it is recommended to specify loading=”eager”.”

According to the WordPress, the lazy-loading attributes will be implemented in a manner that makes it easy to remove them. This is important in case future browsers begin lazy-loading all images by default, without the need for a loading attribute.

Google has also indicated via Web.dev that there are plans to automatically enable lazy-loading to all images when a browser in the Lite mode (formerly known as Data Saver mode).

Test Drive WordPress Lazy-Loading
The WordPress team have also released a WordPress lazy-loading plugin designed for testing purposes. WordPress Developers who wish to test it and provide feedback can download the plugin and give it a try from here.

Read WordPress’s official announcement here: Lazy-Loading Images in WordPress Core