WordPress 3.7 Beta Released: Here’s What’s New

As ever, the busy beavers in the WordPress development community have been hard at work fixing bugs and adding features to the world’s most popular content management system. It looks like 3.7 is going to be something of a subdued release, with nothing to match the more showy features that saw the light of day in the 3.6 release, like a new default theme and changes to the post locking and autosave features that were welcomed by those who run multi-author blogs.

That’s not to say that there’s nothing to look forward to this time around, so were going to highlight some of the more significant new features. It’s always worth repeating that beta releases are not to be used on production sites unless you want to spend several hours tearing your hair out when something breaks. But, if you want to test the beta to see what’s coming down the pike check out this article we wrote a few months ago for details.

Automatic Updates

This one’s being greeted with both groans and cheers, depending on the perspective of the commenter. On the one hand, a major cause for the constant stream of stories revolving around hacked WordPress sites is site owners neglecting to update to recent versions. If WordPress can slip in security and minor feature updates without webmasters having to do anything, those damaging stories will become less frequent (once everyone has updated to 3.7, anyway).

On the other hand, developers and experienced site owners are loathe to give up control of their updates. Most of them will have experienced at least one sleepless night caused by WordPress updates that broke part of their site or plugin compatibility. Some just object in principle to the idea of a third party silently installing software on their servers.

It appears that there will be an option to disable the updates, which is probably wise: expert users will turn it off if they choose; novice users will probably never even know it’s there.

Password Meter

This is a small change, but it’s of a piece with automatic updates. Both are intended to make WordPress more secure and stem the tide of “OMFG my WordPress has been hacked” stories. Familiar to almost everyone from the many sites that implement similar functionality, the password strength meter will prominently display a weak password warning when users try to use their dog’s name or “pa55word” to secure their site.

Better Search Results

At the moment, search on WordPress is not very good — results are sorted by date, which is not useful for most people. In the coming release the search system will be updated so that results are ordered by relevance, which is much more sensible.

As I said, these are changes that aren’t likely to blow anyone’s socks off, but the automatic updating in particular is significant. Many of the major feature releases appear to have been reserved for the 3.8 release, which is being led by Matt Mullenweg, the creator of WordPress, and promises to include more radical changes.

The 3.7 beta is available now, with the final release expected some time this month. We should see 3.8 arrive some time before the New Year.

About Graeme Caldwell

Graeme works as an inbound marketer for Nexcess, a leading provider of Magento and WordPress hosting. Follow Nexcess on Twitter at @nexcess, Like them on Facebook and check out their tech/hosting blog http://blog.nexcess.net

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