The Year in Review at WPMU DEV: A Look Back and a Peek Ahead

The Year in Review at WPMU DEV: A Look Back and a Peek Ahead

Is everyone still basking in that holiday glow? Many of us here at WPMU DEV took a wee break over Christmas, but are back in the full swing of things now.

Topping my to-do list was putting this roundup/roadmap post together, to share what we rolled out in 2022, and what you can look forward to from us in 2023. It’s always a thrill to see it all in one place, and I know a lot of you feel the same.

I want to thank my teammates who work hard every day to make our products and services the best they can be, and for being gracious with their time and knowledge.

I also want to thank you – our devoted customers and discerning audience – for sharing your ideas, testing ours, and playing a large role in our current level of success.

So here we go… a summary of our 2022 accomplishments and a reveal of what’s in the pipeline for 2023, with key points and insights from our brilliant Product Managers and Lead Developers.

Keep reading, or jump ahead with these links:

First up, a view from the top from our CEO, James, who continues to keep our ship righted as we steer into both new and familiar territory.

Executive Summary, from CEO James Farmer

“2022 was truly an epic year that I hope was reflected in the new and improved tools, services, and software that we provided for our members.

We hope you found our plugins – the core of who we are – better in every aspect, from their feature sets to their reliability and UX.

Our hosting has also come along in leaps and bounds, including our first genre-busting product release with Quantum… managed, dedicated, VPS-style hosting from $3.60/m in half a dozen global locations (with your own dedicated IP). I’m still a bit surprised it exists.

And bringing it all together has been The Hub, which continues to take giant strides forward and for which 2023 is going to be its biggest year yet (automated reseller, white label support, from the greatest support team on the planet… yes please!)

And that’s where we’re all at now, making sure you have the best possible 2023 using WPMU DEV for your web development, agency, freelancer or personal projects.

Below, we’ve outlined more specifically what we brought to the table in 2022 and what else is in the works for this coming year, so read on to get up to speed.”

Want to hear more from James? Check out this Post Status interview from the Product Founder Series: WordPress in the Long View with James Farmer.

All right, off to explore the individual products and services. Starting with…

Our Powerhouse Plugins

Plugins are what put us on the map, and continue to play a central role at WPMU DEV.

We currently manage 13 pro plugins, along with nine free versions on the WordPress plugin repository.

Let’s take a look at the journey plugins took last year, and what lies ahead for each in 2023.

Smush

The most popular image optimization plugin for WordPress, Smush continues to rule with blazing-fast CDN, super 2x compression, caching, and lazy loading.

Our Head of Products, Mohammad Sharab, will be providing summaries for Smush, Hummingbird, SmartCrawl, Defender, Forminator, and Snapshot.

First up, here’s Mo with the lowdown on Smush:

“In 2022, we focused on improving the user experience of bulk image optimization and giving back to our free users who made Smush the number one image optimization plugin.

Bulk image optimization processes are much faster with the new Parallel optimization improvement, putting Smush on the top of the list of image optimization speeds. We also removed wait times on image optimization, making workflow more efficient with the introduction of Background Optimization features.

Additionally, we unlocked two features to our free users: Lossy Compression, and the 50 images limit. Now free users can benefit from any amount of lossy, compressed images.

In 2023, we have some key items coming up:

  • Improve our Local WebP Compression
  • Revamp Smush UI/UX
  • Introduce CDN Management per site for users who are managing multiple sites (instead of per account)

As always, we’ll keep you informed when new features hit.”

Hummingbird

The ultimate performance suite, Hummingbird monitors, analyzes, and optimizes the performance of all your websites, assuring they run at peak speeds.

From Mo:

“The Hummingbird team is working with two goals in mind: to make it safer, and easier to optimize.

We know that Manual Asset Optimization isn’t easy for all users, and moving the wrong file to the footer or delaying it from loading could affect/break the front page style. That’s why we introduced a new Safe Mode feature for Manual Optimization, so users could optimize their files and test page speed without breaking anything. Then publish those changes to live, once happy with their configuration.

For 2023, the team is working on two new features that will help users improve site speed score with a click of a button. These are: Delay JS, and Critical CSS features.”

SmartCrawl

SEO superstar SmartCrawl provides higher ranking and improved SERPs, with full schema support, crawling and indexing audits, and content analysis.

Once again we have Mo here to recap last year’s advancements and what’s coming next.

“SmartCrawl has been steadily growing and improving every year, and this year is no exception. We continue to strive to make SmartCrawl a plugin that will be synonymous with SEO and WordPress. To do that, we’re making it more powerful, flexible, and accessible to all our users and members.

Our most recent update is an improvement to our in-post Content Analysis. We now support analysis for multiple keywords or key phrases. In the past, we allowed our users to enter multiple key phrases separated by commas but we only did an analysis on the main/first focus keyword.

Now you can add multiple key phrases and do analysis on subsequent secondary key phrases enabling you to optimize your content even further.

Some other updates we tackled last year were:

  • Multilingual Support for Readability Analysis – We now support 7 Languages with our readability analysis
  • Automatic Linking Refactoring – We have made Automatic linking more efficient and have added a few new features
  • Regex and Bulk Imports for Redirection – You can now use Regex for Redirection and bulk Import and Export redirects between sites

On the horizon for 2023 is… Breadcrumbs! You’ll be able to add Breadcrumbs visually, and they will also include schema data. And, there is still so much more we want to do with Content Analysis, so look for those upgrades this year, as well as other great new features and improvements.”

Defender

Seamlessly integrated with WPMU DEV’s powerful WAF, our tough-as-nails security plugin Defender has helped more than 300,000 sites stay secure while assisting with the early detection of malware.

Mo continues with Defender news:

“In 2022, we made several improvements to Defender, including:

  • Allowlist/Blocklist IPs on multiple sites from The Hub
  • Biometric and YubiKey Authentication for 2 Factor authentication
  • Google reCAPTCHA & 2FA integration with BuddyPress and WooCommerce Checkout
  • Enhancing the Malware scanner’s ability to detect security threats and provide CVSS severity score for vulnerabilities

In 2023, we’re planning several improvements in Defender to make it even better. Here’s the shortlist:

  • Safe Quarantine – Quarantine malware-affected files
  • Defender Firewall – Protect your site from Bad IPs flagged by other sites
  • Improving the plugin’s user interface to make it even more user-friendly and intuitive
  • Enhanced ability to detect and block security threats, such as malware and malicious code

With the ever-increasing need for website security, we are committed to improving Defender and making it the best protection possible from security threats on WordPress websites. To that end, upcoming updates will be comprehensive and effective.”

Forminator

There’s no limit to what you can do with interactive forms, polls, and quizzes in Forminator. Create campaigns in minutes with the most flexible, easy-to-use, drag-and-drop form builder for WordPress, and see user engagement soar.

Mo has this to say about Forminator:

“Our first big feature of 2022 was Global Appearance Presets, released in February. This enabled users to easily create presets of form appearance and reuse them for as many forms as desired.

Our next most-voted feature was Partial Submissions, which we introduced last June. This enables you to save your progress when filling up a large form by saving your submission as a draft, and continuing where you left off at any point later.

We implemented Reports in September 2022, in order to better track the performance of your forms, polls, or quizzes. These reports come both in a dashboard form, where you can see stats about a specific form straight in WordPress admin, or you can schedule regular sends of these reports via email.

Also in September, based on many requests received to support more automation services like Zapier, we adjusted our Webhook integration to support multiple automation tools. In addition to Zapier, Integrately, Tray.io, Make, Workato, and more will now support webhooks through Forminator.

Two other highly requested features that improve form usability are Field Grouping, and Group Repeater functionality. We rolled these out in October, making users able to group fields into sets – which can be repeated on the frontend as many times as needed or desired. This can be particularly useful, for example, if you want your site visitors to fill out the form with multiple guests attending an event, where the same set of details from each extra guest is needed.”

Mo continues with a look-see of what’s up and coming in 2023:

“We’re pumped about what it will bring. For starters, we’re pleased to announce that Forminator version 2.0 will be released in Q1 of 2023, with a highly requested feature: PDF Generation.

While we already have an integration with E2PDF, building this into the plugin will bring a lot more usability, and will allow the use of invoices, quotes receipts, and more.”

Snapshot

A final roundup from Mo, this time for Snapshot, our automatic, efficient, off-site storage backup buddy. Select from reliable third-party storage options, get instant email alerts, and implement one-click restores.

“Last year we formed an awesome new team for Snapshot with the goal of improving the backup success rate. We took care of lots of underlying issues in the Snapshot Incremental API and in the Snapshot plugin, which boosted the backup success rate in 2022 from 80% to 90%.

We’ve also fixed issues where backups were running for a long time without any success or timeout error.

And finally, with November’s 4.13 release, Snapshot now consumes even less memory. That means higher backup success rates on third-party servers with lower specs.

Here are some other 2022 improvements we made on Snapshot (in chronological order):

  • Redesigned Snapshot Installer with a new engine that takes lower memory
  • Added HTTP Authentication option for password-protected sites
  • Fixed compatibility issue with Siteground’s Ultrafast PHP (We’ve seen a 50% drop in backups failing at random database tables.)
  • Added ‘OneDrive’ destination
  • Database table exclusion UI
  • Snapshot uses MySQLDUMP (if available) to dump the database

Early in 2023, we have a couple of items lined up:

  • Continue improving backup and restoration success rate
  • Redesign File exclusion UI

Then later in 2023, we’ll be working on AZURE Destination.”

Dashboard

The WPMU DEV Dashboard plugin securely connects your site to your Hub via our API, giving you one-click installation, upgrades, and security updates for all our plugins, directly from your WordPress dash.

Lead Developer Joel James is bringing us the intel on Dashboard.

“Dashboard had some nice growth this year. For starters, we added the ability to sign-in with Google.

Next, we added the ability to select the Hub Team after login, as well as Optimizing SQL queries for a noticeable performance improvement.

And finally, we added WP Consent API integration for WPMU DEV Analytics, and Improved UX on the login screen.

Looking ahead, we plan on refactoring the UI this year. Also, we’ll be improving support for third-party plugins and themes updates.”

In Maintenance Mode

Hustle, Branda, Beehive, Shipper, and Integrated Video Tutorials have been in maintenance mode.

While they had no major feature upgrades in 2022, we continued to fine tune and squash bugs on these workhorse plugins.

The Hub & The Hub Client

The Hub and The Hub Client come together as your client portal extraordinaire, entirely customizable with your own branding, navigation, and domain. White label everything WPMU DEV, resell our services, and handle Client Billing and management needs.

The Hub Client allows you to control settings and configure navigation and user access from the WordPress dashboard. It syncs seamlessly with The Hub, our WordPress site management tool that is cPanel on steroids – but more beautiful and bountiful.

Both have exploded this year, with a ton of new features and enhancements.

Leading us through all things Hub-alicious is our Product Manager, Mukul Chawla.

“I won’t be burying the lede here. While we accomplished quite a bit with The Hub this year, our two biggest feature adds were Domains and the Free Hub.

Fulfilling our promise to ‘be your own GoDaddy’, Domain Services were added in Q4 of 2022. Agency members can now buy domains within The Hub from WPMU DEV for themselves, or to resell to their clients (manually for now, automated reselling coming soon). Clients can buy just the domains from their client portal and link them to their existing sites.

The Free Hub was also released in Q4, allowing users on free plans to sign up and experience The Hub. There are some limits on the free version, such as the quantities permitted and some advanced settings, but most of the features allow you to experience the basic functions that paid members enjoy in full.

Global IP Banning was added, providing members with a global IP allow/block list that they can easily sync with all their websites from The Hub Sites page.

Members also got their first look at our Automated Reseller in the form of a video prototype. The response was great, and allowed us to gather valuable feedback.

Remove Issued Invoices was one of the top requests for Client Billing, and that option is now available. The payment due or failed invoices can be canceled, which will change the invoice status to Void. This applies to both one-time and recurring invoices.

Live Chat got a couple of highly requested features added as well. Members can now Download Transcripts of their live chats with our support team on The Hub > Support page. Additionally, members can now buy Live Chat Add-on for Team Members, so they too can get access to WPMU DEV support.

We also rolled out Sidebar Navigation last year. This provides the flexibility to add more site services without worrying about available space. It also improves navigation; with hosting subtasks as a drop down, users can go to any page (under Hosting) from the side navigation directly, eliminating an entire navigation step for users.

Here are some additional features and improvements that we implemented in 2022:

  • Pre-paid Hosting Credits – members can buy hosting credits in bulk to save on Hosting costs
  • Delete SnapShot backups for disconnected sites
  • Custom Thumbnails for websites – members can upload custom thumbnails instead of keeping defaults, providing a more customized UX for their clients
  • ‘Hub Accounts’ release to Hub 2.0 – we’ll keep running Hub 1 & 2 for now, but plan to completely remove Hub 1 by the end of March

All in all, 1000+ tasks were completed last year, including the development and improvement of the above mentioned projects, as well as other bug fixes, updates, and new features that were implemented across The Hub.”

Eager to share what’s up and coming for The Hub & Hub Client, Mukul continued:

“At the top of our punch list is Domains Transfer. Coming soon, members will be able to move their existing domains to WPMU DEV.

Also, we’re already hard at work on one of the most highly requested features by members – IMAP emails.

Here are some other items in the pipeline for 2023:

  • Automated Reselling for Hosting & Domains – members will be able to resell our hosting and domains to their clients in a self-provisioned way
  • Broken Link Checker (BLC) plugin – will integrate with The Hub (with a new API-based broken link checker service)
  • Centralized White Label Settings in The Hub – improved white labeling experience across our products, with configurations moving into a centralized location in The Hub
  • Reports 2.0 – coming this year, based on a lot of feedback, reports will be new and improved

We’re stoked about what’s coming, and believe you will be too.”

Premium Hosting

We’re toasting to hosting! 2022 has been a banner year for our Hosting service. New plans were added, and we’ve continued to boost the core features for every tier while the platform grows exponentially.

Product Manager Neel Gajjar is on deck to share all the highlights.

“It’s been almost three years since we launched our Hosting platform, and last year we were thrilled to introduce the addition of Quantum.

Quantum is a brand new droplet for Agency members, ideal for reseller hosting. It’s an even smaller, lower-priced offering than our prior starter plan, Bronze, but provides the same dedicated and compartmentalized resources. And, we’ve already updated its features. When first released, we had blocked certain items (such as plugins), then lifted those restrictions based on user feedback.

Also new – the ability to Suspend Hosting Sites. This valuable tool allows members to quickly incentivize slow or non-paying clients by temporarily (or permanently) suspending their site(s) from within The Hub.

Hourly Backups Add-on was implemented last year as well. Members can optionally enable hourly backups, instead of the default nightly backup on hosted sites.

Here are some other great new features and enhancements for Hosting in 2022:

  • Disable Staging Pass protection – option added
  • PHP 8.1 Support – added for both production and staging sites
  • ionCube Loader – enable or disable this on sites hosted with us (if any plugins require it)
  • Performance and Security improvements – hundreds of improvements in our hosting performance and security
  • Additional SSH commands allowed

To wrap up 2022’s accomplishments, I’ll share a cool stat. WPMU DEV Hosting handled 3000+ Manual Migrations last year for members, with the fastest time clocking in under 12 minutes!”

Ready to dish the dirt on what’s to come for hosting, Neel added:

“We’ve got some awesome stuff already mapped out for 2023, including:

  • Block XMLRPC by default – only used by outdated Windows/Mac software, XMLRPC is vulnerable and should be blocked by default
  • Custom SSH and SFTP path – members will be able to create SSH | SFTP accounts with custom paths
  • Ubuntu 22.04 – We will be upgrading our server operating system to the latest Ubuntu 22.04
  • PHP 8.2 – adding support for this released version, so members can use the latest PHP version for best site performance
  • Advance Monitoring of server resources such as Server load history, PHP Limits History, Ram Usage history, etc. Currently you can only see live server stats but with this feature you can see history of the data, such as what was the server usage like 24 hours ago

And of course, we’re constantly at work refining our Hosting platform overall, to offer better security and performance, so expect to continue seeing those upgrades.”

Hosting is going places, and we’re glad you’re with us for the ride.

A Good Year For WPMU DEV & Our Customers

That’s everything, folks. If you’re still reading, thanks for sticking with us.

It’s your input, usage, and feedback that helps us focus on what our members and the web development community value most. Then we get to work on implementing those features and enhancements in the way that most benefits our products, services, and you.

To see what’s on deck at any time during the year, check out our company Roadmap.

If you’re not a part of WPMU DEV, we invite you to try our Free Membership, which includes all of our free Plugins and Features, including the Free Hub (all maintained and updated) – completely free, no credit card required.

Take it to the next level with one of our Premier Memberships (all Pro plugins, The Hub, CDN, Client Billing, and much more) – along with a 30-day, money-back guarantee.

Go the distance with our Managed Hosting (Fully Dedicated, Lightning Fast, Rock-solid Security), which comes with a free 7-day trial for a no-risk, hassle-free experience.

Bonus: all of our Hosting and pro Membership plans come with WPMU DEV’s always on-call Expert Support – who assist with anything WordPress, not just our products.

Cheers to 2023! We wish you and yours happiness, health, and success throughout the year and beyond.

 

What are your favorite feature adds or enhancements from last year? Does your current wishlist match our 2023 roadmap? Let us know in the comments below.

Janette Burhans

Janette Burhans Janette Burhans is a content creator at WPMU DEV, who writes blog articles and the weekly WhiP & Roundup emails. Her professional career as an author and artist spans over two decades, half of those in the world of WordPress. Her writing has been featured in Glamour magazine, and her personal blog, Platinum Pink. Connect with Janette on Twitter.