3 Big Things that Will Happen to WordPress in the Near Future

petersuhmThis opinion piece was contributed by guest author Peter Suhm. Peter is a web developer from the Land of the Danes. He is the creator of WP Pusher and a huge travel addict, bringing his work along with him as he goes.
 


Yet another WordPress prophecy

Okay, I admit that the title of this post is a bit risky. Honestly, it should probably have been “3 Big Things That I Wholeheartedly Hope Will Happen To WordPress In The Not Too Distant Future”. That being said, I am optimistic by nature, and I actually think these three ideas are realistic scenarios. So in all modesty, and without further ado, here is my take on some of the next big things to happen in the WordPress world in the near future.

WordPress Will Have Dependency Management

There is no question about it. WordPress needs some sort of dependency management mechanism. We have seen all other fragments of the PHP community, and other languages too, adopt the use of dependency managers. Most likely, WordPress will adopt Composer in some form, either out-of-the-box or by configuration.

What is a dependency manager?

A dependency manager is a software tool that can resolve and manage the dependencies (other libraries) that a given library requires. In PHP we have Composer. Each PHP library that supports Composer will have a defined set of dependencies that it depends on. The role of Composer is to fetch all these dependencies and make sure they are all compatible with each other.

… and why does WordPress need one?

WordPress needs one so we do not have to reinvent the wheel every time we want to make a new plugin or theme. Every time we write code for WordPress when we could have used one of the existing PHP packages out there, we are essentially wasting our time. Allowing the use of third-party dependencies allows for much more rapid development and better security. So many security issues in WordPress plugins are the same ones showing up again and again.

What does this mean for you?

In the short run, for plugin developers, WordPress adopting a dependency manager will mean a huge opportunity for making WordPress specific plugins for all the existing PHP libraries out there. When this happens, we will see hundreds, if not thousands, of plugins that will just be WordPress wrappers around existing libraries. Some of these plugins will end up becoming very popular. So be ready if you are an upcoming plugin author!

WordPress developers will probably also have to deal with some sort of frontend dependency manager, since, with the WP REST API, a lot of things will be revolutionized on the frontend side of things. We will touch more on that in the next section.

WordPress Will Be “Just” a Backend

This is not my idea, but I am certain this is the way we are moving. With the WP REST API in core, WordPress will essentially be a backend, complete with user management and so forth, for your API-based web application. Themes are going to be JavaScript based and will communicate with WordPress through the API. Plugins will stay mainly PHP, with a dash of JavaScript, just as the backend itself will.

I believe that a main reason for WordPress’ widespread success is the dashboard. It is extremely user friendly and intuitive. Add to that how simple and easy it is to add 3rd party plugins and themes and you have a winner. Extending core is also really trivial because of all the actions and filters that WordPress has built in. There is no way that the WP REST API is going to change this. It is simply adding an extra layer for frontend developers, and most likely, radically changing how we work with theming.

A few years ago, I worked as a full time Ruby on Rails developer. For one project, we needed some kind of CMS to manage the content of our Rails app. One of the developers (a hardcore Ruby guy) suggested using the WordPress dashboard as a backend and just build a simple API around it. We never ended up doing that, but imagine how easy that would be to implement had the API been around at the time.

What does this mean for you?

If you are a WordPress theme developer, this means that in the future you will probably not be a WordPress developer any more. You will “just” be a theme developer. You better up those JavaScript skills before this happens.

WordPress Will Become More Decoupled

As a result of all this, WordPress will become a lot more decoupled. Obviously, the biggest cut will be between the backend (dashboard and plugins) and the front end (themes). It is also easy to imagine, with an adaptation of Composer, that core itself will become a lot more decoupled. Maybe similar to how the Laravel framework is split up into the Illuminate packages (now we will have to define what “near future” means, though).

As already mentioned, the main component will be the dashboard. Plugins makes sense to keep as a part of the dashboard, but in the future, they might look more like WordPress-specific Composer packages. It makes sense to keep all this in PHP – of course with a bit of JavaScript here and there.

Another thing to consider is that if Composer is adopted in the near future, that would naturally mean an upgrade of the minimum required PHP version. That will probably happen very soon, anyways. We might see some sort of frontend plugins as well, but these will be JavaScript and be managed through a frontend dependency management tool.

What does this mean for you?

This means that if you are a WordPress plugin developer, you can keep writing good old PHP code. No need to jump straight over to NodeJS, yet, but if you are a theme developer, you might want to keep an eye on what those guys are up to.

It also means that WordPress is going to be much more decoupled and customizable. You will be able to pick the parts you need and skip the rest. If you need something different, you will most likely be able to find an existing PHP package that can do the job. Sounds good, right?

These are my 5 cents. I am curious to hear what you think. Where is WordPress headed?

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