Millions of open-source WordPress administrators around the world were greeted with emails today, telling them that their WordPress installations were automatically updated.
"Howdy! Your site at [http://sitename.com] has been updated automatically to WordPress 3.8.1.," is the automated message sent from WordPress installations that many administrators received. "No further action is needed on your part."
The open-source WordPress content management system (CMS) project officially released its 3.8.1 update on the evening of Jan. 23 and provided users with bug fixes and stability updates. The 3.8.1 release is the first update to the WordPress 3.8 platform, which was originally released in mid-December 2013.
While WordPress administrators needed to manually update their sites from the WordPress 3.7 branch to the 3.8 release, the update for 3.8.1 for many sites is being performed entirely automatically. The automatic update feature first debuted in the WordPress 3.7 release that came out in October 2013, enabling incremental security and bug fix releases to be rapidly deployed. The 3.8.1 update is an incremental update and, as such, qualifies for the automated update treatment.
The WordPress 3.8.1 update provides 31 bug fixes, none of them explicitly tagged as security-related. That said, at least one bug fix does have to do with security. WordPress provides the ability to integrate with Twitter via the Twitter API. Until last week, Twitter did not enforce Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) security as a mandatory requirement for all connections to its API. It's a change that WordPress 3.8.1 is now embracing.
"Switch Twitter oEmbed to SSL due to a Twitter API change that broke embedding across all WordPress sites," WordPress changeset 26969 states.
A key focus for the WordPress 3.8 release was to make the administration navigation cleaner visually as well as easier to use. In the process, however, a regression was introduced making it more difficult for administrators who navigate the dashboard with a keyboard, instead of a mouse.
"Since the links are hidden unless you hovering over screenshot, you often have no idea where you are on the page when navigating via keyboard," WordPress bug #26527 states. "This is a pretty big regression from 3.7 when the page was very keyboard friendly."
WordPress 3.8.1 now provides a fix, making the system more keyboard-friendly.
In recent months as WordPress continues to add features, the number of WordPress-powered sites continues to grow. When WordPress 3.7 was released in October 2013, the publicly reported number of WordPress sites stood at 72 million. Today, with the release of WordPress 3.8.1, there are now nearly 75 million WordPress-powered sites in the world.
While WordPress originally started off as a blogging platform for hobbyists, today the open-source software powers some of the biggest names in the technology media space.
Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at eWEEK and InternetNews.com. Follow him on Twitter @TechJournalist.