As has become usual, there have been a number of minor releases in the wake of version 5.5 which was released back in August. They typically comprise bug and security fixes. There were three releases on this occasion: 5.5.1 (September 1st), 5.5.2 (October 29th) and 5.5.3 (October 31st).
The main features in this release include:
Block editor. Seven versions (8.6 through to 9.2) of the Gutenberg development project for the block editor have been included, along with relevant bug fixes and performance improvements that subsequently arrived in versions 9.3 and 9.4. The general focus can be described as ongoing improvements to the editor and to the user’s experience. However, two major developments, the navigation block and block-based widgets, which were scheduled for this release were pulled from it. This is not the first time that the navigation block has been pulled. Obviously, it is proving somewhat problematic.
WordPress.org. There are a number of updates which specifically apply to these users: support for PHP 8 which was released on November 26th, 2020; an updated user interface for auto-updates, allowing users to opt-in to major updates; and 11 updates to the Site Health Check function.
The Twenty Twenty-One theme is introduced. It is based on the lightweight Seedlet theme which was released in August, 2020. I have not previously made it clear, and I should have done, that new default themes which are shipped by Automattic, the developers of WordPress.com, are based on the block editor, i.e. they are not relevant to users of the classic editor. This started with the Twenty Nineteen theme.
What is Next?
One hopes that the navigation and widget blocks will appear in 5.7!? Meanwhile, development of full-site editing continues in the Gutenberg project. I am not expecting to see it before mid-2021 at the very earliest. I read somewhere that only block-based themes will support full-site editing. I will wait to see if this is true. If it is then there are not going to be many users of it for quite some time.