ClassicPress Community Votes to Re-Fork WordPress

In December 2022, the ClassicPress community voted on whether to re-fork WordPress or continue on with the project as-is. As WordPress continues to evolve, ClassicPress fell behind in pursuit of PHP 8+ compatibility. The fork is based on WordPress 4.9 and users are increasingly limited in what plugins will work with the five-year-old codebase.

In a discussion limited to ClassicPress core contributors, Viktor Nagornyy, one of the project’s directors, announced the results of the vote: “The option to re-fork has 20 votes while continue-as-is has 18.” Nagornyy summarized previous discussions and suggested an approach that would be more realistic for the project’s limited contributors:

ClassicPress can’t be WordPress without Gutenberg, but it also can’t be its own CMS with a small core team at this time. There are simply not enough developers to make progress without backporting code from WP to move away from WP.

An almost even split in the poll suggests the best option might be a hybrid one, find a compromise solution that will satisfy both sides.

With a small core team, we have to find ways to be more efficient, to get more done with less. The only way to do that is to leverage all the work that’s done by WP contributors. As the core team grows, we can always explore the possibility of splitting away from WP but at this point in time, it’s simply not feasible.

Some participants in the previous discussion saw re-forking as postponing the inevitable, kicking the can down the road until the next re-fork, but it is the only option if users want to retain compatibility with the rest of the WordPress ecosystem.

“If you read recent threads, you find out that the community expects plugin compatibility with WordPress… another reason for the re-fork option,” ClassicPress core committer Álvaro Franz said.

Franz, who is also the author of the WP-CMS fork based on WordPress 6.0, previously said he would be unwilling to help with a continuation of the current version based on WordPress 4.9.

“It [ClassicPress] doesn’t have to be a competition (and it never could compete with WordPress anyways), but it can be a leaner version, for people who are already disabling Gutenberg via plugins, for developers who want a different approach to the way they develop their projects (closer to ‘the classic’ experience, but yet… modern!),” Franz said.

“Eventually, it won’t make sense to run a fresh copy of WordPress to then go and install a plugin that ‘disables’ half of it. What’s the point? Why not have a version that covers that specific use case?”

As part of Nagornyy’s proposed hybrid approach, he suggested the project retain some changes that were introduced in ClassicPress in v1.x, such as the privacy-oriented changes (anonymizing data CP sends to APIs), the news widget, and ensure that all API endpoints use ClassicPress APIs as in v1.x.

The discussion continues around how to proceed with the fork. ClassicPress contributors are leaning towards using Franz’s WP-CMS fork based on WordPress 6.0 but have not finalized the details yet.

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10 responses to “ClassicPress Community Votes to Re-Fork WordPress”

  1. I think the ClassicPress community ( or classic community ahh that sounds classy ) should focus on enhancing the Classic Editor, and Classic Widget plugins rather than forking WordPress

  2. I suggest that there is an option for the ClassicPress group to consider:

    Continuing to fork the core WP, but in doing so, to add a layer of control for users over the things to remove or modify.

    IOW… additional control over the core WP environment, rather than just forking.

    Although technical reasons may make this quite difficult or impossible, but it would offer an independent group to alter the “flavor” of how core operates for various groups of end-users that is free from the politics and top-down decision making of Automattic.

    • Agree! Create a plugin where you can check options that will completely disable e.g. Gutenberg, enhance Classic Editor, strip bloat etc. This way you don’t have to maintain a complete CMS and keep up with versions, but “just” a plugin with a handful of developers.

  3. Sadly I feel like the writing is on the wall for ClassicPress. When I saw earlier last year how they were struggling to get even the most minimal funding for operations — somewhere less than $1000 per year, definitely an amount that seemed like it should be easily attainable — it was obvious to me that this project does not have anywhere near the momentum it needs to be viable for the exact people it’s trying to reach (i.e. WordPress-based professionals who want a tool like CP, but who can’t commit to being part of its core team).

    • Nobody asked community to fund the project, so money dried up. You have to engage community, you have to talk to your users. That’s what we did when we took over in June. In less than one month we reached our target goal, all expenses are covered and we’re financially stable. Sometimes you have to hit the bottom to know which way is up 😀

  4. This reminds me of a story from 200 years in the future:

    “Amish vote to re-fork technology and replace horse and buggy with internal combustion vehicles 100 years after the last of internal conbustion vehicles were replaced by electric vehicles.”

    • The moral of your story Gary, Amish are a happy group of people doing their own thing to fulfill their own needs/desires driven by community – not commercial entities. They’re probably happier than most of us with all this tech 😉

  5. The writing was on the wall for this project from the start. They would have been better off embracing change, now they’ve been left behind.

  6. I think the current trajectory of ClassicPress is a mediocre product for a tiny niche market. The problem is the lack of human resources to do more. In my opinion the primary reason you lack human resources to do more is because ClassicPress is not doing interesting work. If you want more developers to work for free on a product with a very small market share you need to be developing exciting, innovative new features. Frankly, removing a feature from a product although it requires great skill and expertise does not have the same level of satisfaction as that of creating something new and exciting. WordPress is a wonderful product – it is very capable and its core is very reliable but it is not perfection. There are many things that could have been done better and many features missing. Successful forks of a project usually takes the project in a new direction adding new exciting, innovative features. However, ClassicPress seems very reluctant to adding new features because of insufficient human resources. My point is to increase your human resources you need to be developing new exciting, innovative features.

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