Matt Mullenweg State of the Word, 2016

Matt Mullenweg just completed the 2016 State of the Word, which highlights the accomplishments of the past year, and sets the direction for the year ahead for WordPress.

Matt Mullenweg just completed the 2016 State of the Word presentation at WordCamp US 2016.

Update: the full video is now available:


This year, Matt focused on a variety of important topics, including the state of user experience in WordPress today, goals for future interface improvements, a WordPress growth council, internationalization gains, the further proliferation of secure websites, and important changes to the WordPress development process.

WordCamp US in Philadelphia

Matt began his talk by thanking the city of Philadelphia for being a great host of the first two WordCamp US events, as well as the sponsors, organizers, and volunteers that helped make WordCamp US one of the most successful and smoothest run WordCamps ever.

He also said the per person cost for WordCamp US is over $500 per person, and that only the sponsors make that happen. And next year, WordCamp US is making its way to Nashville.

WordCamps and meetups in 2016

There were 116 WordCamps in 2016, and over 36,000 attendees, 2,056 speakers, 1,036 sponsors, and 750 organizers.

There were 3,193 meetup events in 58 countries. These were attended by more than 62,000 people, or nearly double WordCamps.

Matt says it’s the fastest growth there has been for these events in around five or six years. WordCamp Europe actually had more people than WordCamp US this year, which Matt took as a personal challenge for Nashville.

WordPress.tv published 26% more talks this year than the previous year, and now there is an official WordPress channel on YouTube, so more and more videos will begin to be available wherever people want to watch them.

WordCamp public benefit corporation and the WordPress Foundation

More than a year ago, work began to separate WordCamps from the WordPress Foundation, in order to make WordPress event organizing more flexible and to better protect the WordPress trademarks that the foundation holds.

One of the things the foundation is going to start doing is support like minded non-profits, and in 2017 will be sponsoring three: Hack the Hood, the Internet Archive, and Black Girls Code.

Also, the foundation will start to promote hackathons for non-profits and NGOs.

WordPress’s extended family

Matt gave a shoutout to WordPress’s “cousins” like BuddyPress and bbPress, highlighting a lot of features that have gone into the software in the last year.

BuddyPress and bbPress

WordPress.org itself uses BuddyPress and bbPress. For ages, it’s used outdated versions of bbPress, and in the past year launched a new support form that uses modern bbPress and WordPress profiles use bbPress. Matt says projects like these will get new support and engagement over the next year.

HackerOne

HackerOne is a security website that allows software organizations to offer bounties to hackers for responsibly disclosing security bugs.

GlotPress

GlotPress has had a big transformation in the last year, as it is no longer standalone software on top of BackPress, but rather a plugin for WordPress. If you’ve never been to translate.WordPress.org, you’ve seen GlotPress in action, and it’s pretty amazing.

WordPress.org

WordPress.org is a central hub for the WordPress community. Matt highlighted some of the work that’s been going on this past year around languages, support forums, and more. He also says that new work will be going into P2/O2, which are used for the Make WordPress blogs.

And he gave attention to the new WordPress plugin repository, which finally uses WordPress itself, and has a whole new design. You can see the new design in action on the new demo site, which should role out to the main Plugins directory soon.

WordPress in all languages

WordPress 4.6 was available in 50 languages the day it was released. And the top 10 plugins are 82% translated in the top 12 languages used in WordPress.

Language packs have been a huge help in helping translate plugins as a community project on Translate.WordPress.org, rather than having to ship translations inside the plugin itself.

1,598 plugins are now using language packs, and 1,224 themes use them. This is huge for the future of WordPress working great in every language.

Also, in WordPress 4.7, we’ll see per-user language choices.

Learning JavaScript Deeply

Last year’s homework for the community was to learn JavaScript deeply. He says that WordPress is 28% JavaScript now, which hasn’t changed, but he says we’ve still made a lot of progress.

Matt gave himself a personal challenge to learn JavaScript, and he said that 364 days into this challenge, he submitted his first patch to Calypso (Automattic’s WordPress administration interface). He said, learning JavaScript and becoming as native with JavaScript as with PHP is going to be really important — especially as the REST API gets included in WordPress 4.7.

WordPress Growth Council

Matt recently posted about a WordPress Growth Council to help WordPress grow and maintain marketshare.

He says that what got WordPress to where it is today, won’t get WordPress to where it can be tomorrow. He blogged about this new growth council, which folks can apply for, which will help guide product direction in WordPress going forward.

Matt actually said in Post Status Slack recently that if WordPress doesn’t make changes to the interface and otherwise, he’d expect WordPress marketshare would begin to decline by 2018.

HTTPS & PHP7

11.45% of WordPress websites are now served via HTTPS. Matt talked last year about how LetsEncrypt and PHP7 were going to be a big deal, but they’ve turned out to be, “huge.” And WordPress will now start applying progressive enhancement techniques for WordPress websites.

WordPress.com is now fully on PHP7, which he says was an enormous accomplishment. He’s also announced that WordPress.org will now recommend PHP7 by default.

Calypso

Matt gave some updates on Calypso’s adoption since it was released last year. He says that 68% of posts on WordPress.com are now written in Calypso. 17% of posts are written via a mobile device, and only 15% of users are using the WordPress admin. For reference, Calypso is the default method of publishing on WordPress.com now, so that includes the desktop website, desktop app, and mobile app.

Matt says that building Calypso is like, “building a plane while it’s flying.” And while it’s hard, he says it’s worth it, but it’s like rebuilding WordPress — which took 13 years to do — in only two years.

The future of Calypso includes making it “plugin aware”, so that prominent plugins (most Automattic plugins included) would be recognized and manageable via Calypso.

In fact, Calypso is plugin aware today, as the merge has just happened. So now plugins can include custom code to be manageable via Calypso. This is an interesting move to me, especially since Calypso — while open source — isn’t an official WordPress project, but rather an Automattic-owned interface.

Matt says that someday he’s like to see Calypso, “or something like it,” eventually to become the WordPress interface.

Core releases in 2016

WordPress 4.5-4.7 will have been released by the end of 2016. Matt says, “this is very much a year about doing things differently.” And in that spirit, he’s pre-announcing the jazz musician in the release. I’m sure Jeffro will be pleased 😉 WordPress 4.7 will be named “Vaughan”, after jazz musician Sarah “Sassy” Vaughan.

Helen Hou-Sandi came to the stage to discuss WordPress 4.7 in more detail.

WordPress 4.7

WordPress 4.7 will include a variety of features, and will be released on Tuesday, December 6th.

New default theme

WordPress includes a new default theme that with a multi-section home page that’s a brand new WordPress feature. And generally Twenty Seventeen has a lot more broad base appeal for businesses and non-blogging applications than many past themes.

Theme setup process

Helen really wanted to focus on user interactions in WordPress 4.7. She used the example of her “tweet storm” about what it’s like to change a theme, which took dozens of steps and included a lot of unclear processes.

Themes in 4.7 can define content that ships with the theme, such as a nav menu setup, sample page content, a password protected page, and other content that would be utilized in the theme. This will be a massive improvement in the initial theme setup experience that I love to see in 4.7.

Better menu handling

WordPress 4.7 includes better menu building that will also assist the new user experience. Now when you are building a menu in the customizer, you can add a page right from the menu screen, so that if you haven’t yet written your “about” page or whatever else, you’ll be able to create that draft straight from the menu screen, so the user doesn’t have to know exactly which flow is necessary to setup their site.

“Sleeper hits”

Helen highlights sleeper features, like thumbnail previews for PDFs and user dashboard languages so a user can use a different language than is set by the site administrator.

The WordPress REST API

To big applause, Helen noted the inclusion of the WordPress REST API Content Endpoints in 4.7. She says that she’s excited to take the momentum and excitement around the API and turn it into more real-world projects where people test and put it to practice.

Deputy leads

Jeff Paul and Aaron Jorbin were the deputy release leads for 4.7, and more than 475 contributors submitted code to 4.7. Over 200 of those contributors are first time contributors.

Sneak preview video

To end the preview of WordPress 4.7, Helen shared a sneak preview of the WordPress 4.7 video, created by friend Rami Abraham, that highlights “Carly”, who is a small business owner building her business website. The video shows a couple more great sleeper hits, like customizer preview icons to help editing, and video headers.

That’s WordPress 4.7

WordPress 4.7, I believe, is going to be one of the best releases we’ve seen in a long, long time. It’s jam packed, and while I’m sure we’ll have plenty of follow-on work, there’s been a hugely ambitious effort with tons of awesome contributors. None of it would’ve happened without Helen.

WordPress REST API and examples

After the video, Matt came back on stage.

Matt highlighted some of the REST API examples, including the new Guggenheim Museum website and Vocativ, which both use the new API, and are powered by Content Endpoints.

A look at the past and future

Matt spent a few minutes reflecting over this past, and busy, year; but also spent time discussing the past few years and what’s in store in the future.

Matt recognized the “predictable” release cycle that we moved to around WordPress 3.8, and how that’s been a huge benefit for the platform in general.

In the past five years, we’ve seen WordPress go from 13.1% to 27.2%, and this kind of marketshare for a CMS is “unprecedented.”

He says, “What can we try next?” In other words, he wants to do things differently going forward: “What got us here, won’t get us there.” In order to do this, he’s proposing a new structure for core development.

Matt said he wants to see a simpler, faster UX, while simultaneously making it more powerful. This has been my number one goal for WordPress the last few years, so I’m thrilled to see him highlight it. In the coming releases, he, “wants to see design leading the way.”

In 2017, Matt says he’s going to be a heavily involved project lead again.

No set major releases in 2017

Matt made a huge announcement by saying that there will be no set releases in 2017. WordPress Core will continue to move forward, managing maintenance and other items, but will shift to three main focuses for features that will dictate the next several major releases:

1) The WordPress REST API

He says we need shift from thinking about the input, to measuring the output. He wants the conversation of success metrics to get beyond the “thousands” when, “WordPress is in the tens of millions.”

Matt sees powering the WordPress admin with the REST API as a core focus for 2017. In addition, this effort will include shipping authentication tools in WordPress core, so that external applications can connect to WordPress websites. He says if we can’t move forward with this goal, then we need to consider making the API a plugin again.

2) The Editor

Matt wants to see a lot of work on the WordPress editing experience. Matt says he showed “block-baced editor” (some may remember this as “content blocks”) in a State of the Word slide a few years ago, and calls the WordPress editor his “white whale”.

He says we need to be candid about our shortcomings with WordPress so that we can more effectively move forward. Andrew Ozz and Ella Iseulde Van Dorpe have been massively influential on the editor improvements we’ve seen over the past few years, and their contributions will be huge for moving this goal forward.

3) The Customizer

“The customizer is not yet fast enough, and flexible enough, to meet our current needs.” He’s excited to see all the new work going into the customizer, but knows there’s a lot of work to do to take the customizer to the next step.

How to get these goals accomplished

He says that new major versions of WordPress will not be released until these features are ready. He says that as each project is completed, there will be a major release to go around it.

I’m fascinated by this new approach. It’s like taking the current feature project framework and taking it multiple levels up. It’s definitely a way to shake things up, and that may be great, considering so many people in the WordPress space enjoy complaining about the slow process that is WordPress feature development.

Matt, as project lead, says he’ll personally be taking these on as the lead. And work will begin immediately to make it happen.

So, I don’t know if the next release will be called WordPress 4.8, or when it will be, but I’d be shocked if it’s four months like past releases. But I guess we’ll see a lot of minor releases for all the other aspects of core development.

Matt says he thinks we’ll fall while we learn to walk in this new way, and that’s okay.


I have to admit, these are some pretty surprising announcements. I’m excited to dig more into the particulars over the coming weeks, but I do think this serves as a worthwhile and important jolt into WordPress core development. That’s not to say I think WordPress development has been bad, I think it’s been great.

Matt finished by reading a poem by Elizabeth Alexander, titled, “Praise Song For The Day” that marked a fitting end to the talk.

I think the key takeaway should be like he said: “what got us here, won’t get us there.” Let’s see how this goes.

Photo credit: Brian Richards for Post Status.