Gutenberg Phase 2 Looming

Unstable Blocks

WordPress is beginning work on the second phase of Gutenberg, which extends the block editing principle to navigation and widgets. This will completely revolutionize how WP functions, giving website owners the ability to reduce their sites to the confused and amateurish styles of the 1990’s GeoCities and FrontPage.

When I created WP Forks, I thought it would be about following new forks as they ventured into new territory. Now I realize that forks are actually about maintaining the stability and sanity of WP as we knew it.

9 Projects for 2019
At WCUS 2018, Matt Mullenweg spoke about the 9 things “he” wants to introduce into WP in 2019. You can read his post here. Work has begun, as you can read here. These are some of the things they are looking at right now:

  • Creating a block for navigation menus.
  • Porting all existing widgets to blocks.
  • Upgrading the widget-editing areas in wp-admin/widgets.php and the Customizer to support blocks.
  • Providing a way for themes to visually register content areas, and exposing that in Gutenberg.

The releases that have been pushed to WP 5.0.x have been “fast and furious”, with 5.1.x already on the drawing board. Not only site owners, but hosting companies have had to deal with frustrated users, who have had their sites broken. As predicted, hosting companies have had to restore users sites to 4.9.9 to get them working again.

Website owners have updated to 5.0.x despite being advised not to by web hosts. This involves time and effort to fix, that has to be either passed on as a fee to the user or absorbed by the web host. If nobody has a backup to restore from, then sites are left in a jumbled mess.

When I was a child, I used to pull my toys apart to see how they worked. Usually, they never did again after that. As I got older, I was told that if you play around with something long enough, you will break it. WordPress is being played with and as a result, is broken. It doesn’t work anymore for a lot of people.

Page Builders
Over the years, I have experimented with page builders offered by my web host for sites made using static pages. I found them virtually impossible to work with and giving me a result that looked like it was designed by a five year old.

Since the release of WP 5, I have been playing around with Elementor to see what it can do. Besides driving me nuts with an almost unlimited amount of tiny decisions to make about every little thing, it makes my pages as slow as a worn out car.

In the hands of someone who knows what they’re doing, page builders are capable of creating some amazing content. But for the average person, they just overload your brain with choices you never had to make before.

Classic WordPress
The way WP used to work was, you chose a theme that you thought looked right for your site, and it took care of how everything actually worked. All you had to do was add your content, using an editor that worked just like any other word processor.

If you wanted extra capabilities, you could use shortcodes or plugins that would do it for you. If you needed to, you could even switch to Text mode and tweak the HTML yourself.

That is how things have worked for years, and it worked just fine. But WP have played with the CMS until they broke it, and like a guilty child, are refusing to admit it was their fault. Instead, they simply accuse you of being stuck in your old ways and refusing to move with the times.

Anyone who has been following what has been going on, will know WP have backed themselves into a corner. They are committed to this new way of doing things, and are not going to go back to the old way. It is not about resistance to change, but refusing to work with a system that can’t do what you want it to do.

Forks Maintain Stability
So, as I said initially, forks are not about creating a new form of WordPress, but preserving the old one. It is WP that is venturing into new and uncharted territory, using their customers as guinea pigs.

For a business that relies on their website to bring in customers and money, stability is vital. They can’t run the risk of their site breaking because someone decided they needed this shiny new feature, whether they wanted it or not.

For the average person who simply wants to run a blog, with the option to add pages, they don’t want to have to figure out how to do it block-by-block. They just want to add content.

Maintaining a fork is not an easy task and requires a lot of work by a team of volunteers who have to manage everything from writing code to marketing. The ability to make money out of a fork is difficult, the team do it more as a public service. They may see some financial reward down the line, but certainly won’t in the short-term.

If it weren’t for the dedication of fork owners, then we would now be looking at having to find a replacement CMS for our websites. No one wants to have to do that, especially as it means we would lose access to the very plugins that make our sites what they are. It takes years to learn how to effectively operate a CMS and is not something you want to have to do all over again, for no valid reason.

So, support your fork of choice and spread the word. There are millions of website owners that are not aware there is an option for WP other than staying on 4.9.9 which is not a sensible option, and not a sustainable one.



6 Replies to “Gutenberg Phase 2 Looming”

  1. I am supporting ClassicPress (with a monthly donation) but, as we’ve said before, I’d really like some confidence that CP is here for the long-term (other than via statements from the CP team).

    You point out that it’s difficult for teams supporting forks to make money, which I understand, but they can’t live on fresh air for ever..!

    Scott Bowler has made a comment (somewhere in the forums) about looking for funding. Once there is some progress there, and the future looks more secure, I will definitely move all sites under my management over.

    What concerns me most is moving all those sites over and then having to move them back again in 3 or 4 years time – by which time WordPress will be unrecognisable..!



    1. Hi Martin,
      Using a fork does require faith on the part of webmasters. There cannot be any guarantees they won’t suddenly fold.

      But it’s still very early days and you can always revert your sites to WP 4.9.9 by downloading:

      Uploading the content of the zip file will revert the core to WP, without losing any of the webmaster’s content.

      This will work for many years, at least until the end of 2021, giving us breathing space while things settle down and the longevity of a fork becomes clearer.

      If you then decide to upgrade WP, at least you will have a valid installation to work from.

      A more pressing problem is plugin compatibility. People won’t use a fork if their plugins don’t work with it. This is where the quality of the fork and the skills of the developer(s) will become apparent.

  2. Yes, it’s not now that I’m worried about..!

    I’m running 4.9.9 on all sites except for one that’s on ClassicPress and one that’s on 5.0.3.

    What I’m worried about is 3 years time!



    1. Not sure if we’re on the same page here. I’m saying you can use that zip file in 3 years time to switch back from CP to WP 4.9.9 and not lose any of your current content.

      It’s virtually like having a 3 year old backup, but one that preserves your current content.

      Think of it as a failsafe option.

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