The Alpha Particle team just got back from WordCamp US, the annual conference centered around the WordPress project. The topic on everyone’s mind was, not surprisingly, Gutenberg and how the new editor experience that was released in WordPress 5.0 will shape the WordPress ecosystem going forward.
The WordPress Community
The release process for WordPress 5.0 was one of the most controversial in recent memory, with many in the community upset with the lack of transparency from the release leads. Prominent community members took issue with the timing of release, the lack of clearly stated priorities, as the dichotomy between being told their contributions were important but ultimately seeing them ignored or pushed to a future release. This was definitely a shift from past releases and the general mood seemed to be a much more contained enthusiasm than I had seen at previous events.
At the heart of WordPress is its community and alienating that community will limit WordPress in many ways. To that end, the community is stepping up and offering alternative suggestions for how the WordPress project is goverened, which will ensure that the community is more involved in the process of moving WordPress forward.
For more information on this, check out The WordPress Governance Project(link here).
Now that 5.0 has been released, the Gutenberg editor is now the default editor in WordPress. If you want your editing experience to stay the same, you can install the Classic Editor plugin, but many people across the ecosystem are now experiencing and using a new editing experience in WordPress.
Any new initiative like this will have bugs, no matter how rigorusoly (sp?) it is tested, and Gutenberg is no exception. However, as Matt Mullenweg highlighted in his “State of the Word”, many people are enjoying using Gutenberg.
This is certainly a shift for the community and is being felt in a few different areas:
Similar to theme developers, authors of the 40,000+ plugins in the WordPress repository will need to evaluate how their plugins work and determine what functionality, if any, needs to be upgraded to use blocks. For this reason, plugin developers were some of the most outspoken about the vague release date of WordPress 5.0.
Some plugins are already Gutenberg-ready and fully support the block concept, but most are catching up to this new release. Plugins that modified the old editor have an even more complicated choice to make, because while they may want to update to be Gutenberg-ready, many of their users will likely be using the Classic Editor plugin, which will need to be supported as well.
Both the WordPress Support Forum staff and theme and plugin authors were busy before the release making plans for how to handle the support load of this new release. When any interface changes as significantly as the editor did in 5.0, there is inevitably an increase in questions and support needs from everyday users.
So far, anecdotal evidence points to this being a non-issue, but as the use of Gutenberg moves from mostly early-adopters and people comfortable with new interfaces to the general WordPress population, this could become an issue.
The Future of WordPress
Now that 5.0 has shipped, Matt Mullenweg used much of his “State of the Word” address to discuss the future of the WordPress project.
Notably, he highlighted that the minimum version of PHP needed to run WordPress will be adjusted in the near future. This is something developers and platform advocates have been requesting for a long time, and ensure the ecosystem will run on the most secure and performant infrastructure possible.
In addition, he discussed how he sees the concept of blocks taking over the entire WordPress admin experience, including things like menus and widgets.
It’s an exciting and uncertain time in the WordPress ecosystem, as the project is going through systemic change, both on the governance side as well as the technology underlying the project.
But at it’s core, WordPress is all about the community. This is a community that Alpha Particle has been a part of since the company’s inception and one we will continue to support. This sense of community was extremely evident at WordCamp’s contributor day, when 100+ people came together to contribute to the WordPress project. This group provided translations, worked on new code audit tools, imprpoved the mobile experience, and much more.
This community is what will truly keep WordPress moving forward and we’re excited to see what new things we can build.