The main news highlight of the new release in my opinion is the new block directory. They are basically replicating the plugin directory but with individual block components. They already have some preliminary items setup in the block directory to try out, but with time I’m sure the open source WordPress community will inundate this library with tons of great block options for all to use. You’ll also be able to pull from this library within the editor itself when searching for a block if you don’t have any that match your needs in your current site’s block list. Block Patterns are being introduced as well for an additional feature right in the editor to make quick work of some common design patterns. Centered 2 or 3 button layouts for example will be available and make that pattern a snap to generate.
Automatic plugin updates are another new addition. It will be a toggle option to turn it on, so fortunately you can pick and choose what you want to update automatically. While this can be a more risky thing to activate since there is no guarantee that an update won’t break something on the front-end, there are plenty of plugins that this will still be a great option for. I see security plugins and SEO plugins being good options for example. Speaking of SEO plugins, we’ll also see a lot of new default features added to the core and one of those features is an XML sitemap generator. Everyone currently relies on an SEO plugin to create those, but they’ve finally made it a core feature. It will be located at the /wp-sitemap.xml url for your site. This doesn’t mean that SEO plugins are now useless by any means and certain plugins may offer more advanced XML sitemap options. Along with that I’m happy to hear that WordPress is also including image lazy-loading to core. In some cases, this can cut down on a plugin addition and for those that don’t use lazy-loading yet it will be a welcome speed boost whether they were aware of it or not. It’s good to see WordPress add more speed features by default. Unfortunately Safari is still behind the curve with supporting the loading=”lazy” feature and you may still need to rely on other methods in that browser, but I’d expect them to join the crowd in the near future. It reminds me of the webp image support that safari lagged behind in too and only recently announced that they will now support it like every other major browser.
There are a bunch of other features coming as well, but those are what I consider to be the highlights. I’m looking forward to it’s official release very soon!