I have watched the 90 minute video of the “State of the Word” at WordCamp US 2018 presented by Matt Mullenweg and it has left me both intrigued and worried about the future of WordPress. Not so much whether it will survive, but what it will become. Matt has some bold ideas, but it leaves me wondering how the average user is going to understand how it works from now on.
Matt referred to the release of WP 5.0 or Gutenberg, as Phase 1. The editor will not be called Gutenberg long-term, but simply the “Block Editor”. He then went on to outline the broad plans for Phase 2, which will enable not just content to be added or edited, but menus and layout as well.
Phases 3 and 4 are too far in the future to define yet, but will be about collaboration and multiple language sites.
By treating menus and navigation as blocks, you will effectively be able to create your own theme. Combine that with blocks for forms and even e-commerce content, and it seems to mean you will not need to install themes or plugins at all. You will be able to designed your whole site by making or importing blocks.
There will eventually be a “Block Directory” which works the same way as the current “Plugin Directory”. The first thing that comes to mind is, “Will there still be a need for theme and plugin developers?”. Are they going to be out of a job?
As the picture from his video implies, website owners will be able to create their sites “Without Limits”. While this may be well and good for people who are very talented, the average Mum and Dad is going to find the process overwhelming. Total freedom also implies total responsibility. You will need to know how to do much more than you do now.
Matt talks about themes being just a collection of blocks. If you wanted to make a site about Mexican food, you could download a boilerplate “theme” and merely modify the blocks. Themes would no longer be a whole package as they are now.
Blocks will become “tradeable items” that can be shared or bought and will work on any CMS, not just WordPress. Eventually, editing will be done live on the front end and the back end admin area will no longer have the options such as customizer, menus, widgets, etc. In fact you probably won’t have a back end as such, merely a login and permission area.
Page builders such as Elementor can already do most of that, especially if you buy the theme builder addon. But we are talking about all this being how the core of WordPress will work. Matt even hinted at WP not having version numbers in the future. This would mean it would simply be called WordPress and regular updates would be installed automatically as needed.
I immediately thought of Microsoft Windows. When Windows 10 was released, that would be the last version number and would simply be called Windows from then on. Updates get installed to keep it current. And we all know how well that is working!
Windows 7 is the last version I ever use. I only use Linux as my operating system now and set my computers up to dual-boot, so I can boot into Windows if I need something Microsoft specific. That doesn’t happen very often and I don’t allow Windows to connect to the internet.
Microsoft calls this “Software as a Service” or SAAS as it’s commonly known. It seems to me that this is what WordPress would become. Install it once and never have to upgrade again. Having followed the disasters Windows 10 users have had to endure, I can only cringe at what would happen to your website if a forced update broke it!
As I said, Matt has some bold plans. They sound exciting when you watch the video, but I am not convinced users are going to embrace these ideas. I think the future of WordPress is going to be more and more suitable for tech-savvy, or at least design-savvy users. Us mere mortals are going to be floundering.
This post is about WordPress, but I do want to briefly compare it to ClassicPress. Scott chose the word Classic for a reason. The CMS works the way we are used to. In his own words, it is “Powerful, Versatile and Predictable“. The vast majority of people do not like things that continually change. It makes them uncomfortable and anxious. In the future, it may be a brave soul who tackles learning WordPress.