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WordPress Reconsiders WebP By Default Proposal

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WordPress Reconsiders WebP By Default Proposal

WordPress announced that it is reconsidering its proposal to roll out automatic WebP image generation because of the passionate opposition received for the new feature. The announcement noted that they will formally research the suggestions put forth by the WordPress community in order to make a better decision for the next steps.

Enabling WebP by Default

WordPress initially announced a proposal for adding a feature that would automatically generate multiple versions of every image used on a website as well as WebP versions of those images.

The purpose of the new feature was to make it easy for publishers to upload images to WordPress and allow WordPress to output optimized WebP versions. The new WebP format would help reduce file size and increase the performance of every WordPress website.

Concerns quickly arose about the new WebP feature because many determined that some sites would quickly run out of disk space for archiving as much as a million additional images.

Some in the WordPress ecosystem suggested that the feature not be shipped as an automatically turned on feature. They said it would be preferable for the feature to be turned off by default.

Clash With WordPress Design Goals

The suggestion of shipping the new WebP feature in a default off state ran counter to the WordPress philosophy known as Decisions, not Options, which is a design goal of shipping product that works out of the box with minimal configuration.

WordPress outlines five major design goals in their formal philosophical statement

They are paraphrased below:

  1. Functional Out of the Box
  2. Designed for the Majority of Users
  3. Decisions, Not Options (Developers Make Decisions on Behalf of Users)
  4. WordPress Core Features Must be Needed by 80% of Users
  5. Simplify All Tasks

The Decisions, Not Options philosophy was specifically cited by WordPress to justify making the WebP feature default to “on” and to not ship with a user interface for turning it off.

This is what that design philosophy states:

“When making decisions these are the users we consider first. A great example of this consideration is software options.

Every time you give a user an option, you are asking them to make a decision. When a user doesn’t care or understand the option this ultimately leads to frustration.

As developers we sometimes feel that providing options for everything is a good thing, you can never have too many choices, right? Ultimately these choices end up being technical ones, choices that the average end user has no interest in.

It’s our duty as developers to make smart design decisions and avoid putting the weight of technical choices on our end users.”

The prospect of shipping a disruptive feature with no easy way to turn it off set off alarm bells throughout the WordPress ecosystem.

Adam Silverstein, the Google software developer who works on WordPress is the one who cited the Decisions, Not Options goal for the new WebP functionality that was announced on March 28, 2022 (Enabling WebP by Default).

The tenet states that it’s better for the developers to make the decisions about options on behalf of users because creating a product with multiple options is burdensome.

That design goal fits into the overall philosophy of making every WordPress installation work out of the box and be functional for the majority of users.

Opposition from the WordPress Community

In an exceptionally passionate comment section to the proposal, the majority of commenters were alarmed by the possibility of publishers running out of the disk space and experiencing non-functional websites at worst and significantly higher expenses due to having to purchase more disk space from their web host.

WordPress Announces it is Reassessing WebP Feature Deployment

In today’s announcement Adam Silverstein, the WordPress core developer, acknowledged the concerns of the WordPress community and pledged that the next step would be to reaasses the proposal and return with more agreeable options.

He wrote:

“The performance team has heard the feedback and takes the community’s concerns seriously.

With the help of the community, we will work on conducting additional data-driven research. Based on our findings, we will reassess our proposed approach to enabling WebP by default.”

The statement said that they would be researching the disk storage impact from creating additional WebP images and a separate concern regarding compatibility of WebP with other functions such as email clients, RSS readers and lazy loading.

The GitHub repository for researching the impact of the WebP feature on disk storage states:

“This issue is for research and analysis related to the concern about the new Enabling WebP by default feature creating too many files.

Many users were concerned about the proposed doubling of the number of image files resulting in increased hosting costs, running out of disk space (or “inodes”), or failed backup.”

After the above research is finished, WordPress pledged to reassess having the WebP feature on or off by default as well as to consider a user interface that will make it easy to turn the feature on or off.

WordPress Community Response

The WordPress community greeted the news of these with overwhelmingly positive comments.

A typical comment:

“Thanks for the update @adamsilverstein, as always you’ve handled the feedback from the prior post most graciously and I look forward to what the Performance team learns in this additional testing and research and appreciate all the efforts to ensure WordPress is forward-thinking and competitive in the CMS space.”

Overall it looks like the WordPress ecosystem worked fantastically to reach a good decision to reassess the impact of the WebP proposal and to not rush hastily into a decision that might have had a detrimental impact on publishers.

Citation

Read the Official WordPress Announcement

Follow-up on WebP by Default Proposal




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5 Questions Answered About The OpenAI Search Engine

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5 Questions Answered About The OpenAI Search Engine

It was reported that OpenAI is working on a search engine that would directly challenge Google. But details missing from the report raise questions about whether OpenAI is creating a standalone search engine or if there’s another reason for the announcement.

OpenAI Web Search Report

The report published on The Information relates that OpenAI is developing a Web Search product that will directly compete with Google. A key detail of the report is that it will be partly powered by Bing, Microsoft’s search engine. Apart from that there are no other details, including whether it will be a standalone search engine or be integrated within ChatGPT.

All reports note that it will be a direct challenge to Google so let’s start there.

1. Is OpenAI Mounting A Challenge To Google?

OpenAI is said to be using Bing search as part of the rumored search engine, a combination of a GPT-4 with Bing Search, plus something in the middle to coordinate between the two .

In that scenario, what OpenAI is not doing is developing its own search indexing technology, it’s using Bing.

What’s left then for OpenAI to do in order to create a search engine is to devise how the search interface interacts with GPT-4 and Bing.

And that’s a problem that Bing has already solved by using what it Microsoft calls an orchestration layer. Bing Chat uses retrieval-augmented generation (RAG) to improve answers by adding web search data to use as context for the answers that GPT-4 creates. For more information on how orchestration and RAG works watch the keynote at Microsoft Build 2023 event by Kevin Scott, Chief Technology Officer at Microsoft, at the 31:45 minute mark here).

If OpenAI is creating a challenge to Google Search, what exactly is left for OpenAI to do that Microsoft isn’t already doing with Bing Chat? Bing is an experienced and mature search technology, an expertise that OpenAI does not have.

Is OpenAI challenging Google? A more plausible answer is that Bing is challenging Google through OpenAI as a proxy.

2. Does OpenAI Have The Momentum To Challenge Google?

ChatGPT is the fastest growing app of all time, currently with about 180 million users, achieving in two months what took years for Facebook and Twitter.

Yet despite that head start Google’s lead is a steep hill for OpenAI to climb.  Consider that Google has approximately 3 to 4 billion users worldwide, absolutely dwarfing OpenAI’s 180 million.

Assuming that all 180 million OpenAI users performed an average of 4 searches per day, the daily number of searches could reach 720 million searches per day.

Statista estimates that there are 6.3 million searches on Google per minute which equals over 9 billion searches per day.

If OpenAI is to compete they’re going to have to offer a useful product with a compelling reason to use it. For example, Google and Apple have a captive audience on mobile device ecosystem that embeds them into the daily lives of their users, both at work and at home. It’s fairly apparent that it’s not enough to create a search engine to compete.

Realistically, how can OpenAI achieve that level of ubiquity and usefulness?

OpenAI is facing an uphill battle against not just Google but Microsoft and Apple, too. If we count Internet of Things apps and appliances then add Amazon to that list of competitors that already have a presence in billions of users daily lives.

OpenAI does not have the momentum to launch a search engine to compete against Google because it doesn’t have the ecosystem to support integration into users lives.

3. OpenAI Lacks Information Retrieval Expertise

Search is formally referred to as Information Retrieval (IR) in research papers and patents. No amount of searching in the Arxiv.org repository of research papers will surface papers authored by OpenAI researchers related to information retrieval. The same can be said for searching for information retrieval (IR) related patents. OpenAI’s list of research papers also lacks IR related studies.

It’s not that OpenAI is being secretive. OpenAI has a long history of publishing research papers about the technologies they’re developing. The research into IR does not exist. So if OpenAI is indeed planning on launching a challenge to Google, where is the smoke from that fire?

It’s a fair guess that search is not something OpenAI is developing right now. There are no signs that it is even flirting with building a search engine, there’s nothing there.

4. Is The OpenAI Search Engine A Microsoft Project?

There is substantial evidence that Microsoft is furiously researching how to use LLMs as a part of a search engine.

All of the following research papers are classified as belonging to the fields of Information Retrieval (aka search), Artificial Intelligence, and Natural Language Computing.

Here are few research papers just from 2024:

Enhancing human annotation: Leveraging large language models and efficient batch processing
This is about using AI for classifying search queries.

Structured Entity Extraction Using Large Language Models
This research paper discovers a way to extracting structured information from unstructured text (like webpages). It’s like turning a webpage (unstructured data) into a machine understandable format (structured data).

Improving Text Embeddings with Large Language Models (PDF version here)
This research paper discusses a way to get high-quality text embeddings that can be used for information retrieval (IR). Text embeddings is a reference to creating a representation of text in a way that can be used by algorithms to understand the semantic meanings and relationships between the words.

The above research paper explains the use:

“Text embeddings are vector representations of natural language that encode its semantic information. They are widely used in various natural language processing (NLP) tasks, such as information retrieval (IR), question answering…etc. In the field of IR, the first-stage retrieval often relies on text embeddings to efficiently recall a small set of candidate documents from a large-scale corpus using approximate nearest neighbor search techniques.”

There’s more research by Microsoft that relates to search, but these are the ones that are specifically related to search together with large language models (like GPT-4.5).

Following the trail of breadcrumbs leads directly to Microsoft as the technology powering any search engine that OpenAI is supposed to be planning… if that rumor is true.

5. Is Rumor Meant To Steal Spotlight From Gemini?

The rumor that OpenAI is launching a competing search engine was published on February 14th. The next day on February 15th Google announced the launch of Gemini 1.5, after announcing Gemini Advanced on February 8th.

Is it a coincidence that OpenAI’s announcement completely overshadowed the Gemini announcement the next day? The timing is incredible.

At this point the OpenAI search engine is just a rumor.

Featured Image by Shutterstock/rafapress

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Warning: Unpopular SEO writing opinion

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Warning: Unpopular SEO writing opinion

Unpopular opinion alert: Adding new blog posts may not help your site.

(No matter what that content marketing company told you.) 🙄

So many of my new clients — especially subject matter experts — don’t need new content (immediately).

They HAVE content — scads of it scattered across various platforms.

(Maybe that sounds familiar.)

What they DO need is someone to review their content and customer persona, pinpoint opportunities, and develop a baby-step approach to leveraging those older content assets.

Because there are always opportunities. 🔥

Before writing another word, ask…

  • Are you repurposing the content you have? Or are you writing it once and forgetting about it (which is so common)?
  • Is your customer/reader persona still accurate, or has your target audience changed post-COVID?
  • Do your sales pages showcase your benefits and speak to your customers’ pain points? Or are they flat and dull?
  • Does your content sound like YOU with a point of view? Or is there a massive disconnect between how you talk to clients and the words you use on your site?
  • When did you last take a peek at your old sales emails and email welcome sequences? Could updating those assets make you more money?
  • Isn’t it time to save time (and budget) and leverage your existing content?

If you need help untangling your content and messaging, let me know. I love creating content order out of chaos.

After all…

 

Warning Unpopular SEO writing opinion

 

What do you think? Leave your comment below.

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Google Bans Impersonation In Ads

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Google Bans Impersonation In Ads

Google bans impersonation and false affiliation in ads, enforcing policy changes in March.

  • Google bans impersonation and false affiliation in ads.
  • Policy enforcement starts in March.
  • Violators will be banned from Google Ads.

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