WordPress has released version 3.3. Dubbed “Sonny” after jazz saxophonist Sonny Stitt, WordPress 3.3 packs in a number of worthwhile upgrades, including a new responsive design that adapts the WordPress admin to smaller screens.
To get the latest version head over to the WordPress downloads page. If you’re already using WordPress you can update from the WordPress dashboard (naturally we suggest backing up your files and database before you upgrade).
Among the changes that make WordPress 3.3 well worth the upgrade is the new responsive admin design. While there are mobile apps from managing your WordPress site on the go, the actual web admin has never adapted to small screens. That changes with WordPress 3.3 and its new responsive admin page, which reflows content to fit the screen you’re using.
Responsive design — that is, using liquid layouts and scaling media to fit any screen size — is moving into the mainstream in a hurry. The past year has seen several high-profile websites relaunched with responsive designs, but WordPress 3.3 is likely the most widely used site yet to embrace responsive design.
Other changes in WordPress 3.3 include a slicker sidebar with “flyout” submenus which put everything in the admin site just a single click away. There’s also a new drag-and-drop uploader, which means you can drag and drop images from your desktop right into the media upload box in the admin (provided you’re using a browser that supports HTML5′s drag-and-drop API). Behind the scenes WordPress is using Plupload to handle the drag-and-drop features. In browsers that support it Plupload will use HTML5; for older browsers it falls back to Flash.
Anyone working on a site with numerous writers and editors will be happy to know that this release features much improved co-editing support. If you’ve ever seen messages like “Warning: [username] is currently editing this post,” you’ll be happy to know that it will now only appear when someone is actively editing a post. Previously the message would often appear even if your co-writer simply left the window or tab open in their browser.
For a complete list of changes and new features in WordPress 3.3, see the release notes.
WordPress has released an upgrade for the popular, self-hosted blogging platform. Unlike the last few WordPress upgrades, which focused on improving developer tools, WordPress 3.2 is primarily about changes ordinary users will appreciate. The revamped admin section, for instance, offers a new “distraction-free,” full screen editor, and, as we noted earlier, this version finally drops support for Internet Explorer 6.
The theme for WordPress’ latest incarnation is “faster and lighter.” That’s reflected in new tools like the simplified admin interface, which offers a fullscreen editor mode. The fullscreen mode is modeled on the interface found in writing apps like WriteRoom or OmmWriter, where the focus is primarily the text, and not the bells and whistles on the main new post page.
Another aspect of the faster and lighter motto for WordPress 3.2 means eliminating the cruft, also known as dropping support for IE 6. That won’t of course affect your site’s visitors (unless your theme has dropped IE 6), but it does mean that the WordPress 3.2 admin won’t work in IE 6, something to keep in mind if you’re upgrading a site that has numerous admin users.
The popular blog publishing tool WordPress has joined the growing cadre of sites dropping support for Microsoft’s Internet Explorer 6 web browser. The recently upgraded WordPress.com brings a handful of new features and a revamped, cleaner design in the admin pages, but perhaps the biggest news in the release is that the admin pages no longer support IE 6.
Users visiting the admin section of WordPress.com with IE 6 will now see a message to upgrade their browser (the same message will appear in the self-hosted WordPress 3.2 when it is released in June). The WordPress blog says it’s dropping IE 6 because, “it has required increasingly complex code trickery to make the WordPress dashboard work in the IE 6 browser, which was introduced 10 years ago and does not support current web standards.”
WordPress is just the latest in a long list of sites that have abandoned IE 6, including Gmail, YouTube, Basecamp and hundreds of others.
Indeed you’d be hard pressed to find a web developer who wants to keep supporting IE 6. Even Microsoft has set up a website that essentially dances on the grave of IE 6 (after WordPress announced it would drop IE 6, Microsoft actually said “thank you WordPress“).
Compounding the problem are the number of corporate intranets that require IE 6. Microsoft is hard at work trying to convince large corporations to upgrade — if you’re still using IE 6, that means you haven’t upgraded to Windows 7, which is Microsoft’s real goal with the kill IE 6 campaign — but for Microsoft’s biggest customers, upgrading means investing millions of dollars in new infrastructure.
While developers may enjoy dropping IE 6 because of its subpar support for web standards, for end users that’s generally not a concern. What is, or at least should be, the bigger concern for users is that IE 6 is less secure.
If you’re part of the tiny segment of users that can — but haven’t — upgraded from IE 6, we suggest doing so. Grab a copy of Firefox or Chrome and join the modern web.
Google’s Page Speed testing tool, which recently went from a browser add-on to a web-based tool, now sports a new API. The Page Speed Online API allows outside applications to send URLs to Page Speed and get back a list of things the site developer can do to speed up the page in question.
If you’d like to try it, head over to the new documentation page and request an API key. Sample apps include using the Page Speed Online API to display suggestions for speeding up sites or even combining the API with the Google Charts API to show a visual breakdown of the page’s resources.
For a more practical example of how the Page Speed Online API can help out your site, check out the latest version of the W3 Total Cache plugin for WordPress. If you’re not already using W3 Total Cache in your WordPress installation, we highly recommend you install it, especially now that the plugin taps into the Page Speed API. W3 Total Cache now sends your pages to the Page Speed Online API and then offers Page Speed suggestions, right in the WordPress dashboard.
The word “server” is enough to send all but the hardiest nerds scurrying for cover.
The word usually conjures images of vast, complex data farms, databases and massive infrastructures. True, servers are all those things — but at a more basic level, they’re just like your desktop PC.
Running a server is no more difficult than starting Windows on your desktop. That’s the message Dave Winer, forefather of blogging and creator of RSS, is trying to get across with his EC2 for Poets project. The name comes from Amazon’s EC2 service and classes common in liberal arts colleges, like programming for poets or computer science for poets. The theme of such classes is that anyone — even a poet — can learn technology.
Winer wants to demystify the server. “Engineers sometimes mystify what they do, as a form of job security,” writes Winer, “I prefer to make light of it… it was easy for me, why shouldn’t it be easy for everyone?”
To show you just how easy it is to set up and run a server, Winer has put together an easy-to-follow tutorial so you too can set up a Windows-based server running in the cloud. Winer uses Amazon’s EC2 service. For a few dollars a month, Winer’s tutorial can have just about anyone up and running with their own server.
In that sense Winer’s EC2 for Poets if already a success, but education and empowerment aren’t Winer’s only goals. “I think it’s important to bust the mystique of servers,” says Winer, “it’s essential if we’re going to break free of the ‘corporate blogging silos.’”
The corporate blogging silos Winer is thinking of are services like Twitter and Facebook. Both have been instrumental in the growth of the web, they make it easy for anyone publish. But they also suffer denial of service attacks, government shutdowns and growing pains, centralized services like Twitter and Facebook are vulnerable. Services wrapped up in a single company are also vulnerable to market whims, Geocities is gone, FriendFeed languishes at Facebook and Yahoo is planning to sell Delicious. A centralized web is brittle web, one that can make our data, our communications tools disappear tomorrow.
But the web will likely never be completely free of centralized services and Winer recognizes that. Most people will still choose convenience over freedom. Twitter’s user interface is simple, easy to use and works on half a dozen devices.
Winer doesn’t believe everyone will want to be part of the distributed web, just the dedicated. But he does believe there are more people who would choose a DIY path if they realized it wasn’t that difficult.
Winer isn’t the only one who believes the future of the web will be distributed systems that aren’t controlled by any single corporation or technology platform. Microformats founder Tantek Çelik is also working on a distributed publishing system that seeks to retain all the cool features of the social web, but remove the centralized bottleneck.
But to be free of corporate blogging silos and centralized services the web will need an army of distributed servers run by hobbyists, not just tech-savvy web admins, but ordinary people who love the web and want to experiment.
So while you can get your EC2 server up and running today — and even play around with Winer’s River2 news aggregator — the real goal is further down the road. Winer’s vision is a distributed web where everything is loosely coupled. “For example,” Winer writes, “the roads I drive on with my car are loosely-coupled from the car. I might drive a SmartCar, a Toyota or a BMW. No matter what car I choose I am free to drive on the Cross-Bronx Expressway, Sixth Avenue or the Bay Bridge.”
Winer wants to start by creating a loosely coupled, distributed microblogging service like Twitter. “I’m pretty sure we know how to create a micro-blogging community with open formats and protocols and no central point of failure,” he writes on his blog.
For Winer that means decoupling the act of writing from the act of publishing. The idea isn’t to create an open alternative to Twitter, it’s to remove the need to use Twitter for writing on Twitter. Instead you write with the tools of your choice and publish to your own server.
If everyone publishes first to their own server there’s no single point of failure. There’s no fail whale, and no company owns your data. Once the content is on your server you can then push it on to wherever you’d like — Twitter, Tumblr, WordPress of whatever the site du jour is ten years from now.
The glue that holds this vision together is RSS. Winer sees RSS as the ideal broadcast mechanism for the distributed web and in fact he’s already using it — Winer has an RSS feed of links that are then pushed on to Twitter. No matter what tool he uses to publish a link, it’s gathered up into a single RSS feed and pushed on to Twitter.
Dave Winer's RSS-centric vision of a distributed web image by dave winer via flickr
Winer will be first to admit that a distributed system like he imagines is still a little ways off, but as they say, the longest journey starts with a single step. For Winer EC2 for Poets is part of that first step. If you’ve never set up your own server, don’t even really totally understand what a server is, well, time to find out. Head on over to the EC2 for Poets site and you’ll have a server up and running fifteen minutes from now. The distributed web awaits you.