6 Cool New Features Coming Up in WordPress 4.4

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WordPress 4.4 will be released in two weeks – it’s due out on December 8 – and while developers will have most cause to celebrate, there are some great features aimed at general users as well.

With every new release, we comb over the features to ensure the plugins and themes here at WPMU DEV make the most of the latest features.

Let’s take a tour of what’s new in WordPress 4.4!

WordPress REST API in Core

Undoubtedly, the biggest news is that the REST API will be officially merged into core. But hold off popping the cork off the champagne just yet as this is only part one of two. The infrastructure has been merged, but the endpoints have not. This essentially means that plugin and theme authors are happy, while client developers are not.

In other words: If you want to use the API in your plugin or theme you can start doing that by replacing admin-ajax.php stuff, for example. If you’re developing a mobile app or something that uses WordPress data externally you’ll still need to rely on the plugin for help.

This is a great step forward, though. It really looks like endpoints will be introduced in the next release, which will mean the inclusion of the full API.

Read all about the inclusions for 4.4 in the WordPress Core Blog and take a look at Ryan McCue’s 34928 changeset that makes this all possible.

Twenty Sixteen Default Theme

The most obvious addition for non-developers is the new default theme Twenty Sixteen. I have to say that I did not take to this theme initially at all, but after seeing it in action I actually like it a lot now.

Twenty Sixteen - the new default WordPress theme
Twenty Sixteen – the new default WordPress theme

With its minimalism, great typography, and well-defined structure, I think this will be a great theme for the upcoming year, I look forward to showing everyone code examples with Twenty Sixteen as the backdrop.

You can download and activate it now, but you’ll need WordPress 4.4 to do so. If you don’t know how to grab developer versions of WordPress take a look at the final section in this article.

Responsive Images

This one should excite developers and users alike. WordPress will have much better support for responsive images in core. It will include all image sizes in the srcset attribute, meaning the browser will choose the most appropriate image to use. This should conserve bandwidth and speed up sites across the board.

To achieve this, six new functions and two filters have been added, all having to do with that srcset attribute that makes it all possible.

Utilizing the new functions is a cinch, here’s an example from the developer blog that shows a custom image being displayed using the srcset to define the available sizes.

.gist table { margin-bottom: 0; }

A new image size has also been added to core named “medium_large.” It will not be listed in the UI, nor will it be changeable from the settings. It will be 768px wide with no height limit. It has been added for better responsiveness support, developers may, of course, change it with hooks.

Read the developer blog article on responsive images in WordPress 4.4 to learn more about how all this works.

WordPress is Now an oEmbed Provider

WordPress has been using oEmbed for a while now to allow you to add content from many sources. With 4.4, your website will become an oEmbed provider, allowing others to embed your content in the same way.

Take a look at the screenshot below or the developer blog to see it in action.

Embedded WordPress Content
Embedded WordPress Content

To embed a post from a website that supports this you just need to place the URL of the article on its own line, or between <embed> tags.

To read all about this from a developers view, take a look at the developer blog post on the subject.

Another Step in the Taxonomy Roadmap

Terms and taxonomies are getting better and better. In fact, one of my most wanted features has finally been addressed: terms now have metadata, just like posts and users – awesome! It’s all standard, too, so we’re seeing the introduction of a new table: wp_termmeta.

In my opinion, this was sorely needed; it hindered the use of taxonomies properly. I’ve been adding data to taxonomies for a while now using my own methods or ACF, but I needed to store the data in the options table which is not the best, to say the least.

You can now use add_term_meta(), update_term_meta(), delete_term_meta(), and get_term_meta() to manage your meta needs. Woohoo!

For other changes regarding the taxonomy roadmap and more information about term metas, take a look at the relevant developer blog entry.

Comment System Standardization

While I disagree with the development blog about the statement that “Without comments, a website is as effective at creating a community as the Chicago Cubs are at winning World Series titles,” this change is extremely welcome from a development and standardization point of view.

With WordPress moving on to become a proper application framework using the REST API comments are not as important as they used to be, only for sites that are driven by that specific type of interaction.

In any case, making the comment system look and act a lot more like the posts system is great because it standardizes how everything works. In addition, the comment query has a bunch of new parameters. If you use comments extensively, take a look at the changes!

Getting WordPress 4.4 Now

If you want to take the upcoming version for a spin or you want to try Twenty Sixteen, the easiest way is to use the WordPress beta Tester plugin. Once installed you’ll be able to get the nightly version of WordPress from the updates menu.

Keep in mind that 4.4 is pretty solid, but is still in development so it may contain bugs. I recommend that you don’t run the development version on a live site – use a local installation for testing if possible.

From the REST API to Twenty Sixteen and term meta, a lot has changed in 4.4. There’s plenty to keep both developers and users happy until 4.5, which will hopefully see the REST API fully integrated.

For more information about WordPress 4.4 and the little bits and pieces that I’ve skipped, take a look at the WordPress 4.4 Field Guide.

What are you looking forward to in WordPress 4.4? Let us know in the comments below.

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