Recap of Matt Mullenweg’s 2019 State of the Word. Here's everything you need to know about what's going on at WordPress today.
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Here’s the video if you want to watch. He begins at 34:41.
State of the Word 2019
Open: The Community Code
Matt Mullenweg’s 2019 State of the Word address opened with the premier of a new documentary, Open: The Community Code, produced by Mark Maunder and Kathy Zant of the WordFence.
WordPress is made by hundreds of thousands of volunteers around the world. And most people think WordPress is made of code. And it’s true. Obviously, it’s software. So, it’s made of code. But it’s made of so much more. WordPress is a set of code. It’s a website. It’s a service. It is all these other things. But it’s also an idea. An idea that brings people together. And that is something we can believe in.
Something that gives hope, and something that we can influence. And I think especially in today’s day and age when there’s so much going on in the world, it’s something that we can believe in and make the world — leave the world a little bit better than how we found it. Try to create the web that we want. – Matt Mullenweg
2019 collaborations and accomplishments:
This year there have already been two core releases:
WordPress 5.1 – Betty Carter – February 2019
- Includes the first iteration of the site health screen.
- “The idea behind this is that, again, WordPress is all about empowering users. And we want to put the information and the tools in the hands of users as well to keep the site running in tiptop shape as we power an ever-increasing percentage of the web. It is our responsibility and behooves us to make sure that portion of the web is safe, secure, up to date and running the latest and greatest stuff. This allows and gives people information they can use themselves or get in touch with their support hosting or things like that.”
- We had a lot of Developer Experience Improvements in 5.1:
- “In the Cron API, this is kind of the thing that kind of runs in the background of WordPress that makes actions happen at certain times. Let’s say you schedule a post. Ever wondered how that gets posted at the time that you scheduled it? We have a weird Cron thing built into WordPress. We’ve enhanced it now so hosts that have a lot of Cron-scheduled tasks can hook into that and make it more efficient.
- For the multi-site fans, they added a site meta feature, which gives developers a more performant way to store arbitrary data (as opposed to dropping everything options like we used to).”
WordPress 5.2 – Jaco Pastorious – May 2019
- New widgets
- Editable inline so you can see exactly what they look like
- Introduction of the block manager
- “For yourself or your clients, you could hide or show certain blocks.
- And finally, you shouldn’t see this anymore: WSOD.
- Stands for the white screen of death. I guess originally it was called this because, you know, it was a play on the blue screen of death that Windows famously had. But if you visit your site, you see this, there was probably some sort of PHP error or something that is preventing your site from loading. And unfortunately, that makes it hard to fix your site if it’s erroring out.Now when something like this happens, particularly from an auto-update or plugin upgrade, you’ll get a special email with a link to navigate to your URL which deactivates the plugin before it loads. And allows you to then turn it off and get back into your site.
So, again, this is just an example of something coming up from users, coming up from the support forms that we’ve identified as common barriers in our user experience.”
WordPress 5.3 is coming out on November 12th, 2019
It will include:
- Over 150 block editor improvements.
- Git updates: the version of Git that’s been shipping with WordPress 5.2 is a few months out of date now and there’s been lots of updates since then
- Gutenberg improvements
- New default theme: Twenty Twenty. “It is a Gutenberg first. Beautiful CMS-powered theme with an original design distributed by Anders, and expanded by the Twenty Twenty team. It is really slick. I’ve switched my own site, https://MA.TT/, over to it. And it really highlights some of the power of Gutenberg. I highly encourage you to look into that.”
Also 5.3 is going to have more developer stuff:
- Time/day component fixes
- Compatibility with the latest PHP 7.4
“But if you want to see the code behind it and what went into it, you can check it out on GitHub as well.“
Admin email verification
“In the vein of improving things for admins and making WordPress easier to run for everyone, we’ve put in a screen which verifies your admin email, separate from the user email.
Before, we would send out emails when things were auto-updating or broke, we found a lot of people had set that up email when they first started and never looked at it again. Now every six months, you’ll get a, “Hey, is this your best email?”
Again, these things seem simple, but it’s a foundation on which we can build a lot else on because we can make more things dependent on that admin email.
It was also a year where we raised the minimum PHP version of WordPress. We ended support for PHP 5.2 to 5.3. And I have an interesting stat that for people running WordPress 5.2, which is our latest stable release: 83% on PHP 7 or later.
However, digging into the stats, we found out something else. 10% of all WordPress we’re tracking are on older versions of PHP.
So, we think this might be contributing to some people stuck on older versions of WordPress. Seems they are running a higher percentage than the general population of older versions of PHP which we tracked all the way to 5.0.
We have a lot of work. 10% of the WordPresses on the world are too old to upgrade PHP ends up being a lot of them. You can call that about 3% of the web.
So, it sort of woke me up to the fact that we’re going to need to dive into these and work with the web host and people hosting them to try to get these on the latest and greatest.
While this has been going on, there’s a ton of fun stuff happening on the mobile side of WordPress which is a crucial important for user adoption.
- Of the 38 core blocks that are in Gutenberg, we have now imported 10 of them to mobile and we got Gutenberg on mobile in the first place.
- So, the block editor is now available on both iOS and Android devices. Including one additional block in the release coming out on Monday.
- Almost done with offline support.
- And we have Dark Mode done on iOS and that will be coming to Android in a matter of weeks.”
The people side of WordPress:
In 2019, there will be 141 WordCamps:
- 34 of those in brand new cities
- 17 Kidscamps
- Over 5,000 meetups.
- 16 charity hackathons
- You can read new WP stories on HeroPress.com
“In 2020, we’re also going to redo our regional events WordCamp US and WordCamp Europe and add a new one, which is WordCamp Asia for the first time.”
- WordCamp Asia 2020 – Bangkok, Thailand
- WordCamp Europe 2020 – Porto, Portugal
The Release of Gutenberg in 2018
“I do want to rewind a little bit. And talk about where we were just about a year ago.
So, close your eyes and imagine that WordPress 5.0, probably the biggest change we had ever made to WordPress in its 16-year history came out the day before WordCamp US 2018 started in Nashville. We had people coordinating work from airplanes, there were impromptu groups of Core and developers in the hallways and polyglots working together.
And the snazzy release video. That was a controversial year. We came together and decided to make this big change because we wanted to, first, disrupt ourselves. We want to empower more WordPress users to realize our mission of democratizing publishing and make the web a more open and welcoming place. But, you know,
Gutenberg got some feedback… I don’t want to pile on to the Gutenberg hate, but come on, this is nowhere near ready. I think it’s safe to say, capitalize hate, people HATE the Gutenberg WordPress editor now.
A design should make my life easier, not harder. And finally, don’t update to WordPress 5.0. There was lots and lots of feedback on that. And I think we learned a lot.
Both in the process, but also in how we can communicate change better in the future. Although there are no changes on the horizon as big as Gutenberg was.
Think of that as like, you know, a batting swing for batters before they go up to the mound. We have ideas for future changes. I think we have a great opportunity making big changes in the future. Built that trust in the conversations around testing, using GitHub for development, things like accessibility. So, I understand why we had a lot of this feedback. But we did get through it together. So, thank you.
We have had, since that 5.0 release, 20 releases of the Gutenberg plugin. So, the pace of iteration of Gutenberg has kept up. And I’m also very, very proud to say, because there was some discussion around kind of contributions, that the number of Gutenberg contributors since 5.0 has grown from 200 to over 480.
In 2018 we had about 594 contributors. This year so far we’re at 1122 unique contributors.”
WordPress 5.3, coming Nov. 12th, 2019
“I want to throw some more in there. The current release, 5.3, coming out November 12th is said to have the most contributors of any release in our history by over a hundred people.
I’m happy to say that the adoption of Gutenberg is going fantastic. We have over 2.7x more sites using Gutenberg than not.
And this is actually probably undercounting because we’re subtracting everyone using the Classic Editor from this. But those using the Classic Editor know, the Classic Editor is a plugin we promoted heavily with the upgraded 5.0 to allow those using the new editor to use the old editor.
It doesn’t turn off Gutenberg, you can toggle between them so you can decide which one you want to use. So, we believe some interesting number, I don’t know how exactly, but an interesting number of the Classic Editor users are also using Gutenberg as well.
We just passed, two days ago, 50 million posts made with Gutenberg And that number is going up fast. We’re seeing over 270,000 per day.
And, again, this is a subset of the posts that we’re tracking. This is only folks running the Dev pack plugin that we get the stat from. That is the floor of where that number actually is.”
- We’ve halved the time it takes to load Gutenberg in the post and edit screen.
- Typing lag has gone down from 170 milliseconds in 5.0 down to 53 milliseconds.
New user enhancements:
Typewriter mode: “This is pretty fun. Because like a classic typewriter, it keeps your vertical place as you type. So, this avoids jarring jumps and jumping to the bottom of the screen. A more pleasant experience from the editor and something I want from every editor that I use.
Block previews: show you a preview of what the block is going to look like and allow for explanation
Quick navigation mode: to boost usability and accessibility by allowing you to navigate through blocks with the keyboard” (press ESC to go into it)
What’s coming for Gutenberg?
Social icons: “add icons any place you can put a Gutenberg block. And we created a really nice interface for doing so.
Navigation menu: making it an inline Gutenberg block that still supports all the functionality and color picker.
Block directory: call out to the centralized WordPress.org block directory, click add, and a plugin gets installed and activated in the background and the block was able to insert completely instantly, completely inline with no page loads.
This is also really fun because as the block directory grows to incorporate hundreds and thousands of blocks, you can use those building blocks just inline as what you’re doing.
Block patterns (or collections of blocks): take the most common patterns that you see on websites all over the world and make them accessible to install with just a single click.
Finally, Pragmatic created a plugin which takes a client-created Word document — not WordPress, Word — and associated images and ports the content directly in the Gutenberg editor and a using a combination of core and custom blocks basically makes it ready to go into their publishing system.
And also, for deciphering the Word document format. That’s impressive in and of itself.”
4 phases of Gutenberg
Easier editing (or performance)
Customization (blocks for full-site editing)
Collaboration (multi-person synchronous editing)
“Last year, remember, it actually came up in the Q&A. When someone asked, what percentage Gutenberg was done? We were in about 10% town. I’m very excited to say we’re now about 20% done. So, the important changes, and part of why we made the investment in Gutenberg was this is the fundamental foundation that we’re gonna build the next decade of WordPress under.
We’ll do about 10% per year.
But already as we get to 20%, it is incredible, humbling and awe awe-inspiring everything that people are able to create with what’s in there already.
To give a quick reminder: There are going to be four phases of Gutenberg. We are, I would say, on the tail end of the easier editing phase. This is where we’re tackling all the usability problems we had in TinyMCE and our former editors. Where people were having trouble manipulating embeds, shortcodes, images. Basically getting the formats and layouts that they wanted with the old editor.
We have increased that usability tremendously. And the Core team does at least one usability test a week and posts once a month to the make blogs…
We are currently in the thick of the second phase, phase two, which is all around customization:
To give you a little update there, we have completed converting all the widgets to block, block customization, navigation menu, not a plugin, but coming in Core, the widget screen and custom widgets with block support.
We are finishing up a block pattern directory and implementing full-site editing.
As a quick reminder, the final two phases, the third one is going to be collaboration. Which is where we take everything that you see in Gutenberg and make it so that you can real-time co-edit with anyone else who is editing the same things you are and also invest some development into the workflow around changes, sharing changes, previews, et cetera.
And then finally, last, we’re gonna tackle the problem, and have multilingual support. Core to WordPress and core to Gutenberg. And we getting super excited about that.”
How to get involved
We’re still at the very, very beginning of this journey. We have been doing Gutenberg for about two years now. There are 47 releases prior to 5.0 coming out. We’ve got 20 since then. But it’s the community. All of you. That really is what makes WordPress great.
“It was so interesting how quickly the individual interviews in that film went back to the same word, community, community.
There’s so many parts of how you can get involved in WordPress. I want to talk about some of my suggestions if you’re watching this, the thousand-something people here in this room or the many on the livestream or the folks that are gonna watch this later, ways that you can get involved in being a co-creator of WordPress.”
1. Help be the change
- Get involved at Contributor Day
- Try the Gutenberg plugin
“When people upgrade to 5.0, we turned off the Gutenberg plugin for them automatically.
Because we had, I think, over a million testers before. But about 270,000 — 275,000 people have turned it back on.
This means that they are getting those weekly or fortnightly updates to the Gutenberg plugin before those things get shipped into core. So, if you would like to see the latest and greatest of what Gutenberg could be (and there’s a very active feedback channel for reporting bugs) if you would like to know what’s coming next in Core Gutenberg. It’s the latest and greatest before the Core release comes out. We have been doing a lot of experiments with beta plugins to test features before we go into core.
And one that’s pretty small still, a little over a hundred sites running it. But I would like people to check out and participate in is the design experiments.
This is where we are able to make user interface changes in a plugin before we put it into Core and we can get feedback and do user test on this. Basically one of the best things that we learned from Gutenberg is we don’t need to be beholden to the release schedule, which is at the best three times per year to rapidly iterate and get changes in the hands of users. Users are the oxygen for any software.
And without it, you don’t know whatever despite whatever planning you might do, you don’t know how people are going to interact with the users.”
2. We need more blocks
“One of the most exciting ways to expand the kind of window of what people are able to do with WordPress today is creating more of those blocks.
As the blocks increase, it’s almost like the people using the canvas of WordPress are getting new colors and textures and paint brushes they can use. And the things that get created are so inspiring.
Also, if you have that technical wherewithal or know a lot about WordPress, think about helping teach the change. Or make.WordPress.org because we all make WordPress together.
And these are really, really fun ways to bring community together. And also, allow you to experience the best part of WordPress, which is the people. The software is pretty good, but the people are amazing.
State of the Word 2019: Final calls to action
“There is a very natural pendulum that swings both in societies and in technology and in the web between open and closed. And as it swings back towards open, it doesn’t happen for free or automatically, it happens through a lot of hard work from people like here in this room creating the type of web that we want to live in and we want the people going to KidsCamps and their children to live in.
We are putting together for WordPress a few — two final things that I’m gonna plug:”
1. Take the annual survey — “a very exciting way to show for our corner of the web what is going on in the technologies and things that are happening. We are also translating this into I believe six or nor languages so we’ll be able to for the first time — better than we have in the past get feedback from non-English parts of WordPress as well.”
2. New WordPress.org/5 contributor directory — “We now have a directory for individuals or organizations to pledge and show everything they are sort of pledging and committing to WordPress. And you can browse them.
Of course, if you are ever trying to hire an agency or a web host or something like that, definitely take a look at the five for the future page to see which organizations are giving back to WordPress. And try to vote with your wallet to support the folks who are really making sure that WordPress can continue for many years and decades to come.”
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