Chapter 16

The Future of WordPress

With Phases 1 and 2 of the Gutenberg project complete, WordPress is using its learnings to prepare for what lies ahead – Phases 3 and 4.

As Josepha put it, “Phases 1 and 2 of the Gutenberg project had a very ‘blocks everywhere’ sort of vision. And phase three and, arguably, phase four will have more of a ‘works with the way you work’ vision.”

Some members of the WordPress community have questioned why phase 3 – collaboration – precedes phase 4, the multilingual aspect of WordPress. Precisely this question came up in the Q & A session for State of the Word 2022.

Matt responded, “From a technical point of view, making WordPress natively multilingual is quite challenging. Adding collaboration tools in advance will help support Phase 4 technical’s implementation and provide tools to manage multilingual content out of the box, like translation and review workflows. So Phase 3 will not just “inform” Phase 4 but will actually create the infrastructure and features central to making Phase 4 possible.”

Beyond that, the future depends on the community. Speaking about contributor growth Tammie Lister says, “We need more people,” echoing the views of many contributors. Even though there are many active contributors to the WordPress project, there is always room for more.

Contributor recruitment and retention can be challenging. Hari Shanker listed some reasons new contributors sometimes leave the project. A lack of guidance was the foundation of many items on the list. Uncertainty about the definition of Five for the Future contributions was another of the concerns, but stronger onboarding and mentoring were the most popular suggested solutions.

The perception that developers are the only needed contributors may also be a misconception that needs to be cleared up. Translators, instructional designers, people with expertise in legal issues, and community leaders are also needed, among many more roles. Increasing awareness of all the possibilities may encourage greater participation in the future. Increasing awareness always requires communication, and the reopening of the world, as it rebounds from the pandemic, may make that communication easier.

With in-person gatherings rising and virtual gatherings as a continuing option, the number of new contributors is already soaring. Not only does this create optimism for the future, but it also provides successes to build on.

The future of open source

Josepha expressed the WordPress community’s devotion to WordPress itself and to open source as a principle. “Not only is open source an idea that can change our generation by being an antidote to proprietary systems and the data economy,” she said in a recent podcast, “but open source methodologies represent a process that can change the way we approach our work and our businesses.”

Discussions about open source often acknowledge that the financial viability of open source software requires millions of users to benefit from the deep engagement and expertise of a small number of people, a sentiment reflected recently in Forbes.

Building the WordPress community continues to be an essential part of supporting open source, but keeping the WordPress economy healthy is also a requirement. Without that practical piece, open source would be weakened.

The future of the web

With nearly half the websites in the universe built on WordPress, the future of WordPress is integral to the future of the web.

“I want the web to be weird,” says Tammie. “I want that freedom… Themes should be like clothes, not like bones.” Her vision of the future includes unforeseeable surprises.

WordPress may very well deliver just that.

Matt also speaks in favor of weirdness on the web, admiring the idea of individuals being able to create their own highly personal corners of the web where they can connect with others who share their interests and visions.

The WordPress philosophy: The four freedoms

  • The freedom to run the program, for any purpose.
  • The freedom to study how the program works, and change it to make it do what you wish.
  • The freedom to redistribute.
  • The freedom to distribute copies of your modified versions to others.

Josepha reflected that we should “look out toward the horizon a bit more and up toward our guiding stars a bit more as well. Because we are now, as we ever were, securing opportunity for those who come after us because of the opportunity that was secured for us by those who came before us.”