Google Officially Releases Its Web Stories for WordPress Plugin

Web Stories for WordPress dashboard screen.
Web Stories for WordPress dashboard.

Two and a half months after the launch of its public beta, Google released its Web Stories for WordPress plugin. So far, the plugin has over 10,000 active installations and has garnered a solid five-star rating from four reviews.

Google created the Web Stories format through its AMP Project to allow publishers to create visually-rich stories. It is primarily geared toward mobile site visitors, allowing them to quickly jump through story pages with small chunks of content.

The Web Stories plugin creates a visual interface within WordPress for creating Stories. It breaks away from the traditional WordPress interface and introduces users to an almost Photoshop-like experience for building out individual Stories. The Stories editor is completely drag-and-drop.

The plugin also offers eight predesigned templates out of the box that cover a small range of niches. However, according to Google’s announcement, the company plans to add more templates in future updates.

Web Stories Are for Storytelling

“Firstly…the power of Stories,” wrote Jamie Marsland, founder of Pootlepress, in a Twitter thread. “Stories are how we (humans) see the world and share our experiences. Up to now the platforms that we have to tell stories have been limited to books/films/tv/websites/blogs/instagram stories etc.”

“Websites are ok for telling stories but in many ways the format doesn’t really fit the linear arc of storytelling. When Marshall McLuhan said ‘the medium is the message’ in 1964 he was talking about how the medium itself has a social impact, and change the communication itself…and the possibilities for what is communicated and how it is perceived. But we should keep coming back to Stories. Stories are the key here imo. Now we have an open format to tell Stories, and we have an open platform (WordPress) where those Stories can be told easily.”

Marsland finished his thread by saying that using Stories as a replacement for a brochure or website is a missed opportunity. He said that it was a platform for storytelling and should be used as such.

It is far too early to tell if Web Stories will simply be a fad or still in wide use years from now. The technology certainly lends itself well to telling stories, particularly in mobile format, but I doubt we have seen the best of what is possible on the web. The format feels too limited to be the end-all-be-all of storytelling. It is merely one medium that will live and die by its popularity with users.

With the right design skills, some people will craft beautiful Web Stories. And, that is just what Marsland has done with the first Story he shared:

Page from Jamie Marsland's first Web Story.
Page from the Wilson and Pootle Web Story by Jamie Marsland.

I agree with his conclusion. Web Stories should be about storytelling. When you move outside of that zone, the technology feels out of place.

Where I disagree is that websites are not ideal for storytelling. Ultimately, the WordPress block editor will allow artistic end-users to craft intricate stories, mixing content and design in ways that we have not seen. We are just now scratching the surface. I expect our community of developers to build more intricate tools than what the Web Stories plugin currently allows, and we can do so in a way that revolutionizes storytelling on the web.

New Features

The story editor for Google's Web Stories for WordPress plugin.
Story editor with Unsplash photo integration.

The Web Stories plugin now adds support for Unsplash images and Coverr videos out of the box. The plugin adds a new tab with a “media” icon. For users of the first beta version of the plugin, this may be a bit confusing. The previous media icon was for a tab that displayed the user’s media. Now, the user’s media is under the tab with the “upload” icon.

It is also not immediately clear that the Unsplash images and Coverr videos are not hosted on the site itself. There is a “powered by” notice at the bottom of the tab, but it can be easy to miss because it blends in with the media in the background.

Media from Unsplash and Coverr is hosted off-site and not downloaded to the user’s WordPress media library. I could find no mention of this in the plugin’s documentation. Such hotlinking was a cause for debate over the recent official release of the Unsplash plugin.

Google also announced it planned to add more “stock media integrations” in the near future. According to a document shared via a GitHub ticket, such future integrations may include Google Photos and GIF-sharing site Tenor.

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22 responses to “Google Officially Releases Its Web Stories for WordPress Plugin”

  1. I don’t trust Google. They have a long history of losing interest, and sunsetting their products leaving users high & dry. The Story Editor UI appears complex, as I don’t even know what “layers” are. It’s wait and see for me…

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  2. Girish says:

    Hey Marcus,

    Check out Makestories.io and the tool at https://beta.makestories.io . It is the most advanced tool ever for stories and maintained by a team of people who love to create no code tools. Check it out.

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  3. Marc says:

    How can it have 10k+ active installations when the all time downloads counter shows 7,525? Is that a bug?

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    • Matthew Harris says:

      I suppose people could be cloning it from GitHub or installing it from copying a local copy?

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    • Not a bug! We’ve had a long beta period where many people were already trying out the plugin.

      They downloaded the beta version from our site, which means these numbers are not reflected on WordPress.org.

      Still, thanks to the WordPress update checks counting active installations regardless of where a plugin was downloaded from, it’s possible to have more active installations than downloads from WordPress.org.

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  4. That’s why some cool people came to idea to make StorifyMe, it works perfectly and has a great impact on revenue and customer experience!

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  5. Matthew Harris says:

    When I go to the marketing site for it, https://wp.stories.google/ and try out the button at the end (view the story) on desktop, in Chrome, on Mac, it loads up and i can use it to go through and loop around, but there doesn’t seem to be any way to escape it again? No close button, clicking the background doesn’t work. Can’t see any issues about it on github. I’m confused if I’m missing something or their main website is broken.

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    • Hey Matt, by clicking on “View the Story” you visited a regular webpage (that happens to be a story). Just like any other webpages, you can hit the browser’s back button to get to where you were before.

      We’ll consider opening the story there in a modal or something, but it’s definitely not broken.

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  6. I tried to use web stories plugin yesterday. But, I found it confusing. I am in doubt that how would it come to Google stories by only publishing on website? Google need to know there is something new with a sitemap or something similar!!

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    • Since version 5.5, WordPress has a built-in XML sitemap. Any newly published content will automatically be in that sitemap — including any web stories you create! The same goes for XML sitemaps added by plugins like Yoast SEO.

      Another way for crawlers to find your content is by linking to it, for example by embedding the story in a blog post using the dedicated Web Stories Embed block.

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  7. Danny Brown says:

    Isn’t this pretty much what Aesop Story Engine has been doing for years?

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  8. Jim B says:

    This plugin is dead, I see no reason to use it. It’s just another useless project by Google that will be closed in 1-2 years, remember my words. I see it as another Google+ like attempt to follow the social media trends. Google AMP and Web Stories should be closed as they produce more harm than good, it’s a nightmare to implement, maintain and track the results. Google should simply focus on search and leave these useless projects.

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    • If you make a claim such as Google AMP and Web Stories doing more harm than good here in the comments, I’m going to ask you to back up that specific claim with facts or other reasonable data that could lead to that conclusion. Otherwise, it’s just mud-slinging and not generally allowed under our comment policy.

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      • JimB says:

        Hi Justin, I tested it and it simply doesn’t make sense for most of the sites, unless you are a publisher or some social media related site. Google is known for pushing new technologies and then abandoning them and I think AMP is one of them. If you have a fast mobile website there is need to implement AMP, as this is double work and you have to constantly fix errors and make sure they didn’t release yet another update that changes everything and you have to redo all your work.

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  9. Patty says:

    Thanks for the heads up on this new plugin.
    I am going to test it in staging.
    Curious if anyone has used this with a podcast.

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  10. The plugin doesn’t work. All I get is blank screen. Big build up, lots of PR saying how marvellous it is – with no result at the end. I will just keep creating content the old fashioned way.

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  11. Atul Mishra says:

    I used it earlier but now I uninstall this plugin because I don’t find it much effective.

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  12. Siddhi Jain says:

    Can I edit the slug of my web story? Please note I am talking about slug which is different from adding a website URL to the story.

    Thanks in advance,

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