Early Reviews Show Applications Like Calypso Are the Future of WordPress


Last week Automattic unveiled Project Calypso, a brand new architecture for WordPress.com and a Mac app that mirrors the experience on desktop. The overhaul was nearly two years in the making, a risky bet for Automattic but one that shows a glimpse of what the future of WordPress could be.

The new JavaScript and REST API-powered WordPress.com technologically pivots the platform into a lithe modern publishing engine while shedding 10 years of legacy code in the process. It’s easy to see why Calypso has so far received glowing reviews from news outlets around the web. The giant technological leap forward results in a publishing experience that is a night-and-day difference when it comes to page loads, content previewing, and real-time updating.

In an interview with VentureBeat, Matt Mullenweg answers a burning question that the community wants to know – What does Calypso mean for WordPress core? Will core adopt a similar technology stack? Mullenweg sees Calypso as just one example of what is possible with WordPress.

So I think what might happen is that the technology that drives the server side of WordPress and what drives the client side can diverge. Again, this is really up to the community, so we’ll see where it takes us. This thing we released has only been out there one day. Maybe someone will make something much better?

WordPress.com’s new architecture isn’t the first case of “headless WordPress,” though it is one of the most prominent and easiest examples for users to demo. Many other WordPress-powered sites have already adopted an approach that decouples the interface using the new WP REST API. Apps like StoryCorps, Nomadbase, the New York Times, and the Wired.com liveblog are a few early pioneers using the API to deliver content.

Another example offered in the comments on the WordPress.com developer blog cites ustwo.com (the makers of Monument Valley, Dice, and other popular apps) as using a similar setup. The site is a React.js single-page application that serves WordPress content via the WP REST API using custom endpoints. Like WordPress.com, the code for this site is also open source on GitHub.

Despite the risk of sharing the large innovative codebase with competitors, Automattic opted to keep Calypso open and available for anyone in the WordPress community to learn from and build upon.

“A lot of people thought we should keep this proprietary, but throughout my life I’ve learned that the more you give away, the more you get back,” Mullenweg said in his announcement.

Within the first 24 hours the repo was already trending on GitHub, with developers eagerly reviewing the code. ManageWP, a competitor to Jetpack Manage, praised Calypso as an important tool to help drive up WordPress marketshare and move the platform forward:

That’s the beauty of WordPress – the Foundation is not looking to put us under Automattic’s thumb; Matt and his team are actively encouraging the WordPress community, through open source policy, to keep building, innovating, making lives easier for everyone, and find their own place in the ecosystem.

Automattic’s commitment to open sourcing its code demonstrates that any innovations they release are not designed to eclipse competitors’ efforts but rather to add to the shared knowledge bank that drives WordPress improvements.

Mullenweg, in a roundup of press on Calypso, brings it back to the core value of democratizing publishing.

“At the end of the day, it’s not about technology for technology’s sake, it’s about technology at the service of human voices,” he said. “Embracing change to support the free, open web where everyone has a voice.”

Calypso is one of the best new examples of having WordPress your way. It demonstrates the flexibility of using a REST API to run any kind of JavaScript application on top of WordPress while maintaining the use of its world class CMS features. Greater architectural freedom for developers means more compelling publishing experiences for users. The success of the open source Calypso project will likely pave the way for many more JavaScript and REST API-powered WordPress sites and desktop applications.


21 responses to “Early Reviews Show Applications Like Calypso Are the Future of WordPress”

  1. I just installed and tried the Mac app today and wrote a post detailing my experience. Overall, I was really pleased. It was fast and clean. I ran into a couple snags with Media which I still haven’t figured out but it’s probably something I can solvesoon enough.

    As a long time community member, I’m really excited to see what the next stage for WordPress will entail.

    I do suspect there will still be confusion from novice users about the differences between WordPress.com, WordPress.org, and soon to come WordPress-Powered Applications but it’s up to developers and the community-at-large to help define these differences and onboard new users appropriately.

  2. Nicely done Sarah. While Matt has been careful in framing the move to JavaScript, including React, I think this is where it’s all been heading for some time. And that’s great for WordPress and for the dev communities out there. Having given Calypso the once over I’m impressed, and that doesn’t happen often.

    • You seem to be misunderstanding the point. The interesting thing isn’t that it’s a stand alone app. That on it’s own is boring and not particularly relevant. What is relevant, is that it is now much more straightforward to rebuild the admin interface to suit your own needs.

      In this case, the new interface could theoretically end up becoming a valid replacement for wp-admin in future; not via a native app, but via the web, hosted by you, just as wp-admin is now.

      • What is relevant, is that it is now much more straightforward to rebuild the admin interface

        citation needed

        wordpress.org sites can and do change their admin. doing it in php is not harder than in JS. The calypso relies right now on the limited set of interfaces provided by wordpress.com, but what happens when you use plugins to extend the functionality? You most likely need to release a new version of the app otherwise you have done nothing more then embedding the wordpress admin in an app.

        • What do you want me to cite? That’s my opinion, which is not something I can provide a citation for.

          I didn’t say anything was easier in JS than in PHP. I said that Calypso is a demonstration of how it is easier now to implement new interfaces with WordPress.

          Either I’m explaining something poorly, or you are misunderstanding something. I’m not sure which.

          • Probably I am just nitpicking ;)

            When you say “easier” you should say easier than what, otherwise the sentence doesn’t have much meaning. Even before calypso you could have written a JS based client that would managed wordpress via XMl-RPC. So the only “easier” aspect I can see is if you have already decided to do all your development in templating language which relay on json which is a great decision for wordpress.com as they can share the code between the app and the site, but I don’t see many apps, except for “make an app out of your web site” type of apps, that do not want to go beyond the web and have some proper major integration with the local platform. Therefor with a user base of one company I find it hard to label it as a major improvement in any significant way.

  3. Somehow I don’t understand why so many people are “excited’ about this. In current state it’s not much useful for end user who can be actually just blogger and blogger really don’t need this, as he blogging and manage one-two sites.
    Some solutions as “manager tool” for a bunch of websites already exist and Calypso does not have enough features to reach that point.
    If developers with enough resources want to build something like this, surely this can help them, anyway if they really want, they can do own solution independently from this.
    So I am really interesting why so much excitement?
    Nothing wrong about developers, but simple we can check what all developers offer now in market – what kind of plugins and themes, then we can get some view if those developers can build something more powerful based on Calypso if majority of them even “fight” with small plugin or with less/more messed up theme.

    Btw. Welcome back Sarah, good to see you here again, Jeff did almost nothing while you were not here, just today he showed up little bit :)

  4. Hi,

    Interesting article… I am not a developer so my question is:

    Q1: IF Calypso is a js app that uses api’s to communicate to WordPress.com. Has WP.com been rewritten in js also? or is it still mostly PHP?

    Q2: Will WP.org be re-written in js over time? If so what is the advantage to users and the apps we would see?


    • @Mel,

      1. It seems (based on what I read on the support forums of wp.com) like the admin side of wp.com was for some time written in JS. This is “written” and not “rewritten” as it has nothing to do with the internal workings of wordpress, they just created an interface between the JS app they have written and the wordpress core code.

      2. No. by now wordpress is too old and has too much of eco system depending on the specific ways it works to be rewritten in any significant way, any attempt to do that will be more like developing a new CMS from scratch. There is also no advantage in doing so as you still need something to run on the server, and whatever difficulties there are in developing server software, they will not go away just by changing the language being used to do it. And it will have zero advantage to the user.

      wordpress already has two JS apps, the media uploader and the costumiser. You might see more functionality written that way, but no full rewrite.

  5. I thought I was some how just stupid because I didn’t get what Calypso was about even after reading a few posts about it. But, it’s the interface, the new link between any JetPack enabled sites and the WP.com user account. I have noticed that. Especially the plugin updating. That really is nice! I wish it worked for themes too. Now and then it does hang, but still, a great job for something new out of the box.

    I run my own sites without help so I’m always glad to find something that can automate some part of the process in bulk. I did have a plugin which did the plugin updates all at once for all the sites. But, I thought it wasn’t worth keeping around as another plugin which may fail or break or whatever at random times. I’ve been trying to work with less plugins while needing more from them. That likely doesn’t make sense. Anyway, to have more from something I’ve already got is a great thing!


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