WordPress versioning is intentionally sequential. WordPress 2.9 came after 2.8 which came after 2.7. In between there were various security updates and these took on the form of 2.9.2 (the current version as of this writing). Although sequential version numbers are predictable, it gives us no sense of scale between versions. For example, WordPress 2.7 introduced a massive change to the user interface as well as a plethora of slick new features.
WordPress 3.0 promises to be another one of these major releases, but geared more toward developers. WP 2.9 introduced the first add_theme_support item: thumbnail selection. This allowed theme authors to declare that they supported something and automatically reveal another administrative back-end panel. WP 3.0 adds a few more of these items, and goes a few steps further toward supporting a full-featured CMS… and social network…and blog network.
- Theme support: Post-types. While technically WP 2.9 supports custom post-types (something other than the default post, page, and attachment), there is no easy way to implement these post-types. WP 3.0 provides the necessary code to easily add new write panels into the back-end for these custom post types. For example, on this site I might have a custom post type of “design-page” as well as the standard page and post. I first read about how easy it will be to implement these based on a tutorial on wpengineer.com. Granted, things could drastically change by the time 3.0 is released, but it would likely just become easier.
- Theme support: Custom Navigation. Theme authors will be able to add a spot for a menu bar that is then controlled from the back-end. Like a sidebar widget, all of the styling of the menu bar will be controlled by the theme’s stylesheet, while the basic structure for the menu will happen automatically by WordPress. This, I feel, will prove to be very popular with end-users while saving some serious development time. WooThemes is taking care of the development of Custom Navigation.
- The biggest back-end development in WP 3.0 is the merge of WordPress and WordPress MU (multi-user). Now blog authors will be able to click a button and have the ability to create a blog network — that is, allow other people to sign up for and author blogs under the same domain name (think wordpress.com). A popular plugin for WPMU is BuddyPress which transforms WPMU into a full-blown social network with friending, status messages, groups, etc. BuddyPress was recently re-written and now works in conjunction with WP 3.0 (as a blog network) but also on any stand-alone installation of WordPress. This reduces the technical barriers to creating a social network to almost nothing.
- Apparently WP 3.0 will allow the person installing WP for the first time to choose the username instead of defaulting to “admin.” Typically when I install WP, one of the things I do is create a new user with administrator rights, then go into the database and delete the “admin” user. This is a simple security tactic to foil hackers who rely on the username being admin.
WordPress 3.0 is currently in feature-freeze (as of March 1) — which means no new features will be added. From here until its scheduled release in early April it’s all about testing and bug fixes. If you’re interested in participating, head on over to trac and get involved in WP development.