In 2008, Automattic created a WordPress theme entitled Prologue. A year after its launch, Automattic released P2 to take the place of Prologue. P2 was a revolutionary theme as it enabled communication to happen in near real-time and arranged comments so that they were equally as important as blog posts. From 2009 to 2013, P2 handled 80% of the communication that took place within the company. Earlier this year at WordCamp San Francisco, Beau Lebens who works at Automattic announced the successor to P2. It won’t be a theme. Instead, it will be a plugin entitled o2.
o2 is named after the section of the Automattic creed that states “I will communicate as much as possible, because it’s the oxygen of a distributed company“. o2 was built from the ground up around the idea that communication is oxygen. In this light, the features of o2 make total sense:
- Intended to be used within a network
- Focused on the client side or frontend
- Native infinite scroll
- Improved real time commenting
- Cross-site Search (Search multiple o2 instances within a network)
- Cross-posting (Post on more than one o2 site at the same time)
- Keyword + Name Notifications
- Shared Tags
- Email Integration (Post and comment by email)
- Drag and drop media uploading
- Jetpack Integration
While o2 is a plugin it will ship with a default theme called Breathe based on the Underscores starter theme. o2 is being built as a platform so developers will be able to create plugins and themes to extend its capabilities.
The Progress Of o2
One of the downsides to o2 is that it will initially not contain any of the network functionality that was mentioned in Beau Lebens WordCamp session. When I asked Beau to clarify, he responded:
The initial version is not using websockets, but the AJAX polling is much more efficient and reliable (and accurate) than it ever was in P2.
We’ll still be playing with websockets at some point, but it hasn’t proven to be critical to making a great experience thus far, so we’ve pushed it back a bit as a priority. Instead, the commenting system will be an up to date version of P2 which gives us a better foundation to work on top of.
The initial announcement was on August 8th, 2013 but o2 has yet to be released. I reached out to Beau Lebens to get a status update on the project and asked when we might see it become available for public use. He told me that the team is very close to starting a controlled beta or alpha on WordPress.com. Testing will continue into the new year. Once the initial testing program concludes, we’ll likely see something made available for self installed WordPress users. We can expect this to happen sometime around February or March of 2014. Beau Lebens points out that these release dates are very rough estimates, and it depends largely on how things go with the initial trial group.