Morten Rand-Hendriksen on What Gutenberg Means For the Future of WordPress

As work continues on Gutenberg, members of the community are discussing its impacts on WordPress’ future. Morten Rand-Hendriksen considers Gutenberg to be a watershed moment, “This is a revolution,” he said. “This is a watershed moment for WordPress. This is entirely new and fundamentally different from how WordPress works and how we work with it today. I cannot overstate it enough when I say this changes everything.” Rand-Hendriksen suggests that Gutenberg will allow WordPress to graduate from being a blogging platform to a platform for managing views. If Gutenberg adds complexity to the user interface, he predicts many users will migrate to simpler, hosted publishing systems. He also predicts that due to the REST API and Gutenberg, permanent fractures may develop between different segments of the community and user base. It’s exciting to think about what could happen to WordPress and the web in general if Rand-Hendriksen’s optimism comes to fruition. “Whatever happens to WordPress’ user base, once Gutenberg is implemented fully, WordPress’ role in the wider web and internet community will change,” he said. “If all these things actually work, and people find them useful, WordPress will herald in a new age of UI and UX exploration. Applications have followed WordPress’ lead before and will do it again if the new solution works.” As for the future of WordPress, Rand-Hendriksen says:
With the REST API in core and Gutenberg on the horizon, I am starting to see a new future for WordPress, one that looks nothing like where we are today. But this is true for the web as a whole as well. Non-pointer interactions, AR/VR/MR, AI, content beyond the screen, all these things are already within sight and the web as we know it is on the cusp of its own wave of revolutionary changes. The question I’m left to ponder is whether Gutenberg is what brings WordPress into that future.
I encourage you to read the entire post as it provides a lot of food for thought. What do you think about his predictions and the impacts Gutenberg might have on the web as a whole?

71 responses to “Morten Rand-Hendriksen on What Gutenberg Means For the Future of WordPress”

  1. From his post:

    This strategy is a direct frontal charge at DIY site building services like SquareSpace and Wix which aims to change WordPress from a publishing platform to a Site Building platform.

    This is what worries me. That’s a need *Automattic* has. It’s not clear in the least that the wider WordPress community cares about making it a direct competitor to Wix, Squarespace and the like.

    If WordPress is going to fundamentally change it will almost certainly hurt chunks of the community (theme developers and the like especially). It’s far from clear how existing plugins and themes will adapt to this. And if WordPress fundamentally changes things and enough breaks… is WordPress still what we want to base businesses on? What we want to recommend to clients?

    Finally, he spends a lot of words talking about the possible impact of Gutenberg and while I’m sure some of the details will be proven incorrect, I broadly agree with him. But I don’t think the team will be able to achieve his vision for a reason he states himself:

    To the crucial question whether I like Gutenberg, I have yet to find a proper answer. I’m still not clear on who the solution is for or even what problem the solution is trying to solve…

    You cannot build a great product without clarity on those fundamental questions – who the product is for and what it’s trying to do.

    • Great comment, Rick. I completely agree and I share your views. It’s concerning that Automattic introduced Gutenberg and still is the main force behind it while it mainly benefits their own business goals and objectives with

      I’m not sure if the WordPress project itself needs to compete with DIY site builders. It’s so much more and it also targets many different kind of user types, the regular user is just one aspect.

      Thousands of small businesses, agencies and developers around the world have built their own business around WordPress (that’s also one of the reasons why WordPress has become so popular over the years) and most of them are doing really well and their customers are happy. They don’t need or want this transformation of WordPress and it basically hurts their business for several reasons.

      Some fear that they’ll lose customers because WordPress won’t be anymore what they really need, others fear they’ll lose customers because customers will be able to build their site completely on their own, others feel that their products will break or become redundant and so on.

      Gutenberg is causing so much uncertainty and there is no clear vision (it feels as if they don’t know themselves yet where this is heading to in the end). The only company that heavily needs this change is Automattic since a DIY page builder basically is one of the few things that’s still missing on to compete with other closed SaaS ecosystems.

      I think Gutenberg would have seen much more acceptance if they would have communicated from the beginning what this is going to be, what we need to expect and they definitely would need to have it called alpha (instead of beta). They have caused false expectations from the start. It feels like a little PR disaster, just recently they started working on better communication, which is at least a step into the right direction.

      In addition it just smells that highly important elements like meta boxes and more seem to be an afterthought instead of an important element during the planning phase. It’s as if they only started working on them because of the critique from the community. This also shows somehow that Gutenberg seems to have other objectives (, otherwise they wouldn’t have ignored a major part of WordPress core functionality, which many businesses and users are relying on.

      Anyway, unfortunately people who express these kind of concerns publicly seem to be lonely cowboys in the community and Gutenberg gets much acceptance otherwise (yes, it’s a new and modern approach, I get that). I just feel that it would do no harm to think about where this is heading to and who’s going to benefit from this. And then think where your own business will have its place in this new world.

      Yes, many companies will need to adjust and adapt. But some simply may not want that because their business is doing very well and that’s much better than uncertainty at a roulette table where Automattic is the croupier. Other small businesses may not be able to adapt because they just can’t afford it and they’ll be pushed out of business.

      WordPress needs to evolve, that’s without a doubt. But wouldn’t it be a good alternative to simply work on a better editor instead of completely reinventing the wheel with Gutenberg and basically changing WordPress into something else and breaking many things that made WordPress what it is on that path?

      I think the big question everyone needs to ask is highly important: Is this all worth it? Will WordPress suddenly be so much more successful with Gutenberg? Or will it just focus on the regular user and lose others at the same time? Again, I feel this whole thing benefits one particular company while others stand in the rain, eagerly trying to find a boat to avoid drowning in this disaster.

      In the end everyone will need to live with the consequences since there is no way back once we passed the point of no return. I’m afraid we’re already past that, so let’s keep our fingers crossed that the concers of a few don’t become reality for everyone.

      • I think the question that will be asked is, Was this all worth it? Because the question you ask can’t be answered until after Gutenberg is in core for a little while.

        Gutenberg isn’t a guarantee to be merged into core and if it turns out that it’s not worth it, I don’t think it will be too difficult to go back to the editor we use today. If that were to happen, I know Matt would be pretty disappointed considering he’s tried to revamp the editor at least three times in the past without success.

      • Jeff,

        I don’t get why Gutenberg NEEDS to be part of core. I’ve said this before, but I’d love selectable editors. Make the current one the default. Ship, if they want, Gutenberg as an installed but not activated plugin that’s there if people want it.

        The problem is that Gutenberg isn’t a revamp of the editor but a lot more. This points up the issue I brought up in my first comment – who’s this for and what problems is it intended to solve?

      • Hey Jeff, with the “Is this all worth it?” I was rather referring to that Gutenberg puts WordPress and the ecosystem of related businesses at risk. Businesses that are running very well for years and now go down a path of uncertainty about what will happen next.

        I think it would be certainly possible to move WordPress forward without reinventing the wheel and changing the way WordPress works. WordPress isn’t powering a 3rd of the internet because it sucks. No, it’s successful because of the thousands of businesses that have created an ecosystem of great services and products that they are selling to their happy customers.

        As we all know, Gutenberg is highly controversial and I’m not sure if doing experiments with a 3rd of the internet is a good idea, especially since millions of end-users aren’t even aware yet of what’s coming. “Never change a running system” and most people we talk to are extremely happy with how WordPress works and how flexible / extensible it is, especially as a CMS.

        Gutenberg has been mainly introduced by one particular company which seems to be in urgent need to compete with other SaaS businesses. That’s fine, but then keep it as a plugin for at least 1-2 years, put it on (to gather real live feedback and usage data) and nobody will have any issues with that approach.

        At the same time WordPress core could focus on its strenghts and improve the things that could be done better, while keeping the ecosystem that thrives WordPress since many years unaffected.

        I totally agree that the editor (amongst other things) could be improved. But in my opinion that doesn’t mean that we need a whole new way of adding and managing content. Many heavy users need an effective way of adding their content (which often has been created in Word or other text tools) and they don’t have time to deal with all kinds of blocks and do fancy stuff. They just want to get their content out and run their business, like they’re doing for years.

        Anyway, it certainly will be interesting to see how Gutenberg will be rolled out and what the feedback will be once it arrives at end-users. The current feedback mainly comes from developers and experienced users that are involved in the WP community. Just look at the plugin stats, it’s still only running on 1000+ sites (with a goal of at least 100k…).

        The interesting part will come once this hits end-users who just want to run their sites as they’re used to without a new learning curve or other obstacles. I wish Gutenberg all the best, but again, I don’t think that it is the right approch to move things forward. However, I really hope that I’m completely wrong and that Gutenberg will be the new era of WordPress. Time will tell.

    • Rick, it’s super cool that the users of WP you talk to and that are clients are perfectly happy with it. I also meet a ton of happy WordPress users, sometimes even on the airplane, but often when you dig a bit deeper you find that while they like WordPress overall, there’s something that frustrates them about it. Based on everything I’ve learned over the past few years, those frustrations mainly stem from writing and editing posts and pages, and customization of the site.

      Growing the market share of WordPress benefits every single person and business in the ecosystem. It’s why there’s a market for agencies to sell to, and why people look for WordPress developers. (As opposed to asking for Shopify experts or Squarespace devs, both of which are growing quickly in demand because of the success of their respective platforms.)

      Gutenberg, if it works, will benefit every part of the WordPress ecosystem:

      Developers and agencies will be able to create interactive templates that clients can easily add to and update without breaking things or having to figure out custom post types, for example imagine an “employee” custom block that you can put on the about page that includes a picture, name, and bio. They’ll be able to replace most meta boxes. They’ll probably also get a chance to update old code or clients to work in this new paradigm.

      Plugin developers will have a way to completely integrate into every part of WP including posts, pages, CPTs, and sidebars without having to hack TinyMCE or squeeze their entire feature behind a toolbar button. Blocks provide a single, easy-to-learn entry point for an incredible variety of ways to extend WordPress, where today almost every plugin that really extends WP does it in a different way. Instead of copying and pasting shortcodes users will be able to easily insert and move around anything from a contact form to a store item. They’ll have different steps they can hook into instead of trying to stuff everything in meta boxes.

      Theme developers won’t need to bundle tons of plugins or try to make their own page builders any more, there will be a standard and portable way to include rich layouts for posts and guide people through filling out page templates right in the interface, not with 20-step tutorials or long videos. Every theme will be able to compete with the giant Themeforest themes that do a million things without locking users in or compromising the experience.

      Core developers will be able to work in modern technologies and not worry about 15 years of backwards compatibility on the write screen. We’ll be able to simplify how menus, widgets, and the editor work to use a common set of code and concepts. The interface will be instantly responsive and feel fast.

      Web hosts will have better signup rates as Gutenberg opens up WordPress to an entirely new set of people for whom WP was too complex and hard to set up before. (Remember our goal: to democratize publishing.) Their churn rates will go down as they stop bleeding customers to Wix / Weebly / Squarespace, or people stop abandoning their site because they never got it to look the way they wanted. They won’t have to try to hack WP to make it accessible to a wider audience anymore.

      Users will finally be able to build the sites they imagine and express their creativity. They will be able to do things on mobile and touch devices they have never been able to before. They’ll never have to see a shortcode again. Pasting from Word or Google Docs or Office365 will get cleaned up and converted to blocks instantly. They’ll start enhancing their posts and pages in ways they thought they would need to learn HTML or hire a developer to do. They’ll be able to move from blogging to using WP as a CMS without missing a beat. Editing posts will just work and stuff won’t move randomly or get stuck in part of the WYSIWYG. They’ll write more. They’ll learn blocks once and then be able to instantly use and understand 90%+ of plugins.

      I could go on how photographers will be able to create rich galleries, parallax images, and better portfolios, or how poets will finally be able to preserve whitespace as they write, but you get the idea. :)

      WYSIWYG was introduced to WordPress 12 years ago! (Man was it super controversial to bring in then.) It hasn’t significantly changed since. I think a major change to how we write and edit in WP every decade or so is okay, in fact I’d argue it’s necessary.

      • That’s a great list of people that Gutenberg will be good for, and there are a bunch of reasons why I’m excited. But there’s a concern that’s never really been fully addressed: Are people with disabilities on your list?

        WP has been a really solid choice for those of us who work at public institutions and have to think about the legal risks of accessibility. But Gutenberg feels rushed, accessibility feels like an afterthought, and frankly, quotes like this one make me worry that you don’t get how important it is. This is a dealbreaker for a lot of us.

        It can be shiny and fancy and new, but if it’s not on a solid code base that takes accessibility seriously, it’s a huge step backwards for the project as a whole.

      • I totally agree. Gutenberg will benefit most current and future user types.

        For some change is scary, but in the end most will come to love it.

        From what I have read, most worries/complaints people have about the current pre-state of Gutenberg are or will be taken care off.

      • Brian, as I said in another comment, “We’re trying to democratize publishing for everyone, regardless of language, ability, or economic wherewithal.”

        Just like in WordPress’ history, the accessibility will be something that gets better over time, even if it’s not always in a straight line. Making something people want is really hard to do, and easy to mess up and we have in the past. Taking something people already want and making it accessible we almost have a 100% success rate with over time.

      • That’s a good response – thanks.

        However, that response also feel like it needs to be prefaced with “When Gutenberg is all done and if it fulfills our desires… ”

        I’m concerned about the transition period. That period when Gutenberg isn’t all that but is in core and how it will work for current themes and plugins. What will happen when a client just hits the Upgrade button (so to speak) on 5.0 and gets an all new editing experience? What happens for sites that use ACF extensively? Pods? etc…

        I’m concerned that I see it being slated for 5.0 NOT for “when we feel it’s ready”.

        I’m concerned that it’s NOT just an editor revamp but introduces things like Columns which are layout.

        I’m concerned that I can’t seem to find a brief that describes who it’s for and what problems it solves except, frankly, for this comment. When I search for it, what comes up isn’t a product roadmap but a schedule one ( For example…. which blocks are in for the first release? Are there more to come? Which might be dropped?

        I’m NOT concerned that it’s change. That broadside by some in this thread is passive aggressive nonsense. With 25 years in software, I’ve seen enough change to laugh at the idea that I’m afraid of it. I’m not. I’m simply aware of what it takes to ship quality software and slating it for 5.0 feels ambitious.

        I’m also off to play with it more. Thanks for taking the time to reply.

      • Rick, 5.0 will come out when Gutenberg is ready, not vice versa. That’s the idea behind these new feature-driven releases. We will still have target dates, because that helps us think about scope, work involved, and plan for all the supporting documentation, translation, and marketing material to be in place, but we’re not going to push out 5.0 until Gutenberg is something the team working on it and myself agree is ready.

      • Hi Matt, thanks – it’s good to hear that. Actually the various comments from you in this post clarify so many things that weren’t clear from the official information and roadmap so far. It’s appreciated that you took the time to respond here and it certainly helps to get rid of some of the resistance against Gutenberg. :-)

      • Thanks for this response. This seems to clarify a few things for me. If Gutenberg will be all that when it is shipped, it will be an improvement.

        And if there’s a large enough transition period.

        What seems to be missing right now is a clear roadmap and explanation for how the transition period will look like, what developers need to do, change and learn, what will change exactly, how developers will need to convert existing code to new code, etc. I think a reason there’s so much resistance and negativity around Gutenberg is that for many Gutenberg came very sudden and it’s development pace seems to imply an “almost ready” state (0.9!), without any of the conditions I mentioned above.

        The revised roadmap of Jan 2018 is only a few months away. I have like 50-70 clients websites which could break with Gutenberg, relying on custom post types, custom fields, meta boxes, plugins using those, etc. Imagine the work that needs to be done to convert all that code. Many months of work. Let alone imagine the problems I will have convincing clients to pay for all that. They will not be happy.

        A transition period of at least a year or two will be needed in my opinion.

      • poets will finally be able to preserve whitespace as they write

        Awesome! And it sounds as if the new editing interface may also make other poetry-formatting challenges easier, such as allowing writers or editors to identify individual lines, not just paragraphs, for special formatting (e.g. wrapping on indent on smaller screens). Regardless, thanks for continuing to take the WordPress motto seriously and considering the needs of poetry bloggers, an economically insignificant user-group if there ever was one.

      • My only gripe with it currently is that the +insert menu has a lot of blocks. It’s a fairly straightforward principle that direct access (asking you to interpret a symbol or text) performs better than sequential access (asking you to remember) in cognitive science.

        I think a heavier weight text at the top of the nav bar might help people distinguish visual / text editor versions and moving the insert menu to the right or heavier text would help see how many blocks there really are (like you do in the widgets menu now).

        Or use bullet points for the blocks inside the insert menu: (common, formatting, layout, widgets) that reveal their choices.

      • Matt,

        All of that is great but none of is is a reason to make Gutenberg part of core, and it doesn’t address the very real concern that tens of thousands of perfectly good sites are going to need to be rebuilt unless Gutenberg is optional rather than mandatory. How am I supposed to explain to my clients that the site which was working perfectly has to be rebuilt? At what point do I start building new sites using Gutenberg rather than metaboxes ready for the transition? Should I be doing that now? I mean, I build sites which I hope are going to have a 3-5 year lifespan before a client needs a total rebuild (because they’re investing a not insignificant amount of money in to their site builds) so some sort of very clear long term roadmap or reassurance we can use legacy systems for a considerable time is going to be really handy.

        But one of the biggest issues I have with your reply here is this section:

        Developers and agencies will be able to create interactive templates that clients can easily add to and update without breaking things or having to figure out custom post types, for example imagine an “employee” custom block that you can put on the about page that includes a picture, name, and bio. They’ll be able to replace most meta boxes. They’ll probably also get a chance to update old code or clients to work in this new paradigm.

        Imagine a client paying £5000 for a custom site design and the staff who edit the site getting carried away with blocks and going off-brand on page after page. It’s hard enough stopping some editors using font colours and sizes no matter how many times style guides are waved under their noses, so what on earth is this going to do to sites?

        They’ll be able to replace most meta boxes.

        Meta boxes are good in a lot of cases. Really good. They’re not just about layout and design, they’re about adding data in one place which can be used in multiple places around a site… a user can add a start and end date to an event in one meta box and that can be used to display, to order events, to change things elsewhere on the site to reflect a current event, any number of different things. Meta boxes mean my clients know that they need to prepare their content with an intro, some body copy, x number of bits of other data, and they can pop that in to the relevant boxes in the back end and they’ll get a consistent, on-brand, well set out set of pages. They also mean we can re-skin sites in ways which re-use custom post types and meta without needing to touch a single bit of content in the database. Imagine an employee custom post type which you can drop in to a page with a shortcode but which can also power a staff directory orderable, searchable and filterable by job title, department, location, you name it. Now imagine every staff member needs a profile page with consistent layout which only requires editors to select departments from a drop-down or to type a job title in a box marked “job title” knowing that every single one of their 200 staff will have a consistent profile page. Because I have to imagine that right now, because I’m building it, and Gutenberg would not make this possible. It certainly wouldn’t make it possible to import those 200 staff members seamlessly from a CSV with all the right data in all the right places.

        And how does eCommerce work with Gutenberg? How does WooCommerce fit in with this?

        The point of a content management system should be a separation of layout from content: it should be that we can create a granularity of data which means that the front-end can be changed without needing to re-key all of that data and for a long time that’s been the beauty of WordPress. I’ve loved WP for so long as a developer because it’s given me and my clients the flexibility to do anything, and if Gutenberg is core and in no way optional it takes that away from us.

        WordPress – the web, indeed – has moved on from blogging a lot. WordPress is not a blogging platform any more. It’s a CMS. It’s a great, affordable, flexible CMS which allows my clients – who wouldn’t otherwise be able to afford full content management – to have sites built on an open platform supported by thousands of developers. This feels like such a huge step backwards. Gutenberg is great for blog posts. Gutenberg is a great replacement for the Visual Composer plugin. The thing is, I’ve never built a site using the Visual Composer plugin, and the ones I’ve supported which use it are hated by their editors for their complexity and the option paralysis page builders bring.

        I know, of course, that there’s going to be some way of making Gutenberg work with this data and to work around all of this, but to answer this point:

        They’ll probably also get a chance to update old code or clients to work in this new paradigm

        Who pays for this? How long will this take? How do I sell this to my clients? “You have to pay me to rebuild your site because the software has fundamentally changed in order to compete with those services I convinced you not to use because WP is so flexible” is not a sales tactic I want to use. For many of us, we don’t rely on other people’s themes at all: many of us develop from scratch, making a change this fundamental a shift which will impact tens of our clients at a time. The transition period for me to update all my clients to use such a fundamentally different version of WP would be a couple of years: the last to be transitioned would be sitting on out of date versions for a long time (although thank you for the move over the last few years to support old versions with security updates!)

        Competing with Wix and Squarespace is all very well for .com, and for one-man-band companies who’ve built their own small .org-based site themselves alongside their day to day business. Don’t get me wrong, Gutenberg is brilliant for a lot of people. Page builder based themes are generally terrible and Gutenberg can address these issues in a wonderful way. But this is not a reason to make it core. Making it core alienates a huge number of people: those individuals and agencies who build custom sites in WordPress, using it as a framework, doing really interesting stuff where WP becomes the perfect client-facing content management system in the truest sense: a way to get content in to and out of a database. The REST API has the potential to be a game changer for us: I’ve been banging on about WP as a headless CMS for some time now. The REST API is something which made me feel optimistic about WP, and moving things forward, and learning new techniques.

        Please, please reassure us that you’ll take on board the needs of the developer community. Lots of people have suggested that Gutenberg becomes optional. It surely can’t take much to have a wp-config setting to pick “new” or “classic” WP on setup; or to consider the Gutenberg experiment as a door to something bigger, an “editor agnostic” WordPress with much more easily swapable editors (much like Drupal, I’m sorry to say).

        I’m struggling to see the need for Gutenberg beyond what feels like a cynical attempt to grab market share from Wix and the like, and if this is the case, then surely it only needs to be made mandatory on .com? There’s a lot else to address on WP first: media management, sorting and filtering, and menu management, for example. Certainly not the editor. I’ve never once had a client ask for that to be changed, but I do get a lot of comments about finding uploaded images or how difficult it is to build big menus.

        I have to say, I’m pretty sad about the direction WP is taking with Gutenberg. I’ve been developing with WordPress for 10 years now and I’ve built a business around it. It’s a pretty huge part of my life. But it feels like a schism is coming. It feels like we’re going to see the last non-Gutenberg version of WordPress branched off into something new, like you did with b2 all those years ago, taking much of the existing ecosystem with it. I feel, right now, as if I need to decide whether to abandon the WordPress project and find a new framework, and if I do, I feel like I need to do it soon.

        Edited to add: I want to be open minded about this. I am curious to see how it develops, and – if it’s done right – I see that it could be great. It looks wonderful. But I’m concerned.

  2. It’s a very good piece. I do think the 50% goal mentioned briefly is relevant to the topic. Perhaps it makes implicit the justification to make radical decisions in the (mistaken?) hope to take WordPress to even greater larger market share? I think we might take that journey and find ourselves losing touch with some of the things that are foundational to WordPress’ success in the first place.
    “Noe som skurrer” might be about this tension between the existential threat of WordPress one day losing growth and falling behind the competition with a growing impatience for incremental progress that fails to wow people.

    • Market share is, again, *Automattic’s* driving goal. Even if WP never breaks 30%… it’s 30% of the sites out there. That’s a huge market.

      What I’d like to see is this – “How can we make WP the best publishing platform for the future?” Not “what will help us get the most market share” but “what will delight people who use WP or who might want to?”

  3. Uhhuh, that’s what worries me. To call fracturing the userbase and driving many away to search for other platforms (which would supposedly take WordPress’ lead anyway and therefore drive them away again later) optimism… wow…

    But my main request remains a WordPress Lite, just for plain, simple blogging, pretty much feature-frozen because what’s needed for that has already existed for many years now (and if anything some elements may be getting removed or at least deprecated lately), just with guaranteed security updates, bugfixes and compatibility (with current PHP versions, browsers and what not) fixes guaranteed for as long as WordPress will keep existing in any form. In which case what those who demand more and strive to keep up with web trends do with the main branch will be their business.

    • “Whatever happens to WordPress’ user base, once Gutenberg is implemented fully, WordPress’ role in the wider web and internet community will change,” he said.

      “If all these things actually work, and people find them useful, WordPress will herald in a new age of UI and UX exploration. Applications have followed WordPress’ lead before and will do it again if the new solution works.”

      This is the optimism I was referencing, fracturing the user base and community is not a good thing. The only way you’re going to get a WordPress Lite is if you, or someone else forks WordPress or you install a plugin that removes all the features you don’t want.

  4. I see this revolution as a need to Automattic, I’m not so sure it’s a need to the WordPress project.

    What worries me the most is this growing confusion between the interests of Automattic, which is clearly struggling in the site builders market, and the interests of the open source project WordPress. Automattic is also getting into the market of independent suppliers with Jetpack. Therefore, I see a mix of Automattic developers influence in the project, marketing specific Automattic plugins, like Jetpack (the absurdly curated “Featured plugins” section), and a blatant lack of independence.

    It seems clear that there is a large influence based on self-interests, not necessarily the best for the project and its contributors.

    • Site builders?? Don’t you mean page builders?? Leave page building to plugins like DIVI builder, elementor, layers, site origin, and Visual composer to third party people.

      All Tiny MCE needs is a new button for embeds. Hover over it and a full list will drop down.

      • While it’s cool that all those builders you mention are out there, because they cost money they’re not accessible to the 99% of WordPress users that never buy an add-on. We’re trying to democratize publishing for everyone, regardless of language, ability, or economic wherewithal. In fact that’s kind of the whole idea of WordPress — ten years ago a CMS that does what WP does today would cost hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars.

      • I want to reply to Matt but can’t as it’s too deep in the thread, but just wanted to say:

        Both Beaver Builder and Elementor have free versions that have more than enough features for the average blogger to use. I don’t really see why core WordPress needs to compete with paid options when (in my opinion) the direction Gutenberg is going doesn’t really feel like it’s aiming to be anything like even what those 2 free builders are accomplishing.

        If anything, Gutenberg feels like something that would be right at home, not in core, but as a module in Jetpack. Wouldn’t it make sense to integrate things like Jetpack galleries/carousels and embed shortcodes into Gutenberg blocks?

      • What I love about a future that Gutenberg probably will bring is the standardization. No lock-in, no migration problems between third party builders.

        The parties that currently build page builders will in the future build Gutenberg extensions packs, some free some premium.
        They will save tons of development and support time (because the core is handled by the WP community).

        New users will be happy too, because they don’t have the learning curve of a proprietary system on top of WP, etc.

      • Nikki and Richard, some of those tools are excellent and have explored cool concepts and their adoption thus far, though modest, shows there’s demand for this in the WordPress community. So does people choosing things other than WordPress to build their site, though people seem to want to ignore external competition for some reason. (I imagine they had similar conversations at Blackberry.) What we’re doing with Gutenberg is more editor-focused today, but in the future will allow us to do full site and theme customization and building.

        The entire history of WordPress is “competing with paid versions,” that is taking software and ideas that used to cost millions of dollars and making it better and making it free and making it GPL.

        Benny has an excellent point that standardization is important, it’s the same reason we wanted to bring the REST API into core rather than leave it for every plugin to implement differently.

        Nikki, you are correct it would be an ultra-popular feature if we put it in Jetpack. 😀 But contrary to people’s belief my primary motivation is not growing Jetpack, or Automattic’s businesses (which are doing fine). My life’s work is improving WordPress, and this falls 100% in the wheelhouse of work we can do in core that will give the most benefit, to the maximum number of people, and totally in line with core WP’s philosophies and commitment to user freedom.

      • @George


        because they cost money they’re not accessible to the 99% of WordPress users that never buy an add-on.

        Please do share the source of this percentage.

        Well if the plugins cost money and ppl do not buy them then they don’t have access to them :). Or are you referring to 1% that have them but haven’t paid to get them? :D

  5. WordPress is on the move with Gutenberg, thank goodness. It’s not going to disrupt everything. Generalities and vague sweeping statements of “the future of WordPress,” make no sense. The article has the familiar “clickbait” tone. It’s the end of… you fill in the blank.

    It’s surprising a WordPress instructor doesn’t understand the concept behind the “block” style of building content in WordPress.

    The introduction of Page Builders to WordPress have enhanced it. WordPress is finally introducing a similar module, or “block” style of building content.

    The inventor of the World Wide Web, Sir Tim Berners-Lee, wrote in his book Weaving the Web; he never intended for everyone to use HTML. The “block” system gives a streamlined use for everyone using the software. CSS is not complex, it’s efficient.

    Gutenberg will soon be in WordPress core. Good idea!

  6. Rand-Hendriksen suggests that Gutenberg will allow WordPress to graduate from being a blogging platform to a platform for managing views.

    This is the thing: is WordPress currently just a “blogging platform”? I would think not. WordPress is used on 30% of the websites online, in most cases as full-blown CMS system. If Gutenberg is a solution to graduate Wp from blogging platform to something else, it is the wrong solution for most websites using WordPress now.

      • Call me crazy but WordPress moved past beyond being just a blogging platform into becoming a CMS that powers far more than just blogs a long time ago. Not supposedly… it most definitely already has.

      • Yes exactly. WordPress is and has been a very strong and flexible CMS for many years now. It’s used for small brochure type websites, news portals to big e-commerce sites.

        I’m all for an improved editing experience. My clients struggle with getting an image lined up next to some text as well. So by all means improve that.

        But throwing everything else out which all the non-blog websites rely on is not the way to go.

      • Custom Post Types DID achieve that end…but they didn’t achieve every possible end. I tend to agree with Morten that if Gutenberg is implemented well, it will in fact be revolutionary, even if the starting point of the revolution is not “just blogging.” Let’s face it, many people who want “just blogging” have moved on from WP.

        And from what I’ve seen of the way the Gutenberg team is addressing issues as the testers raise them, it will be implemented well. But there’s no question it’s disruptive and that it is going to leave plugin developers and theme developers scrambling to catch up, even if it provides a net benefit for them in the end.

        I have set up a Gutenberg test site and am going to encourage my clients to try it, both to prepare them and to get feedback from some of those “average users” out there.

    • I should clarify: What I meant by “graduating from being a blogging platform” was something like “graduate from being a blog-centric platform”. I think my often faulty English got in the way. I have called WordPress a CMS since 2013. As explained in the article, what Gutenberg changes in my opinion is the modality of WordPress: from a blog/content writing platform to a view building platform.

  7. I don’t know. It’s pretty clear that the WordPress community is already fractured. On one side you have Automatic, the foundation, and the WordPress fan boys, and on the other side is everyone else that uses WordPress as a CMS. It’s so obvious that Automatic’s influence on the decisions made by the foundation is so strong that the rest of the community just doesn’t trust the decisions coming out of the foundation anymore.

    Automatic wants to compete with site builders like SquareSpace and Wix. That’s fine, Automatic is a business and businesses need to grow. What I don’t like is they are using their influence to use the open source WordPress community as a free work force. The downside to all this is that WordPress is becoming less of an open source platform for building custom websites and more of Automatic’s personal site builder platform.

    I honestly would love it someone stood up to lead a fork of WordPress and get away from Automatic’s influence so we could really grow WordPress as a CMS. There are so many businesses and developers whose sole source of income is based around WordPress that I’m surprised no one has lead the charge yet.

    It’s kind of sad when you think about it. WordPress used to be a really solid and welcoming community, but it’s turned rather toxic these last few years. You have a group making all the decisions that leaves the rest of us without any options. Then you have the fan boys backing them up that will tell you “If you don’t like it go to Drupal” or just completely cutting off any conversation when you disagree with them. To me, that’s just not a healthy community.

    The truth is that decisions are going to be made for the future of WordPress by a small portion of the community no matter how many of us disagree with those decisions, and there’s really nothing we really can do about it. We just have to suck it up and do what we can to make WordPress work for us until WordPress is no longer a viable option.

    • Regardless of what you think, feedback on core and feature plugins really does get read, heard, and considered. That’s why every single review of Gutenberg, even the super-rude 1-star ones, has a polite response. Creating great software will never make every person happy, it’s more about choosing a path between many good options, weighing all of the inevitable trade-offs that come from a change, listening, shipping, and then doing it all over again (iterating). There have now been 7 months of vigorous and public debate, chats, tickets, and code changesets that have brought us to where we are today, and I think there’s a fair amount to go before we can really show the vision of Gutenberg to the world in a mostly-complete state.

      It is possible that WordPress will go in a direction you disagree with, and I apologize if someone in the community told you go to Drupal or fork, but do know that I appreciate you sharing your thoughts, concerns, and maybe even the occasional kudos on WP as we iterate along. Apathy would worry me a lot more than than disagreement or controversy.

  8. I think the biggest benefit of Gutenberg will be to people using WordPress as a CMS. In fact I’m a little concerned that the visual and cognitive overhead of how it works today might be intimidating for people who just want to blog, but I think we will be able to address that in the next few beta iterations.

    • Hi Matt. Do Automattic (and yourself for that matter) continue to be committed to WordPress as a self-hosted framework for developers to build sites and features for paying clients? As well as the hosted services you have available (and will likely expand)? I love what you guys have created (so many of us do) and I guess there’s an understandable fear about what is happening now, and the knock-on effect that will have on so many of us.

      • WordPress will 100% be a fantastic platform for developers to make sites for clients on, and Gutenberg will save them a ton of time. It’s scary when change happens, but remember that agencies and developers 10-15 years ago would worry that software like WordPress would ruin their business because clients didn’t need them to update their site any more, and maybe could even create a site entirely on their own.

        Did you know there are 40M small businesses just in the United States that don’t have a website yet? And another 210M around the world. There’s huge, huge opportunity ahead.

    • It’s very hard to imagine that. Gutenberg either completely removes custom meta boxes or, after much protest, puts them somewhere way down below the Gutenberg editor, from what I have understood. Custom meta boxes and custom meta fields are what makes WordPress so easy to work with as a CMS. Just look at what WooCommerce does. Or many of the other hugely popular plugins, themes and everything that’s build by wordpress developers and agencies. In all those sites using WordPress as a CMS, the content editor is the least important piece of the whole editing page!

      It’s the (many) dozens of completely customisable fields below the editor what makes it so useful. There’s hardly any limit. I have made websites where I load Google maps below the editor to let people select locations. All that kind of stuff.

      Input the content pieces (not only the main content) in a very specific way, and output it in very different ways on the front end, in different specific templates. That’s what it is about. Even if Gutenberg becomes usable, it will not be a solution for this. And if it removes the possibility to work with meta content/fields or makes it much more difficult, it will diminish the usefulness of WordPress as a CMS.

  9. 99% of users never buy a plugin nor theme? hmmmmmm citation needed, and no, users do not count as in this context no one cares about them as the market there is not open and even people that would like to spend money are not able to do it without subscribing into an extremely expensive plan.

    • There are over a hundred million people that have tried WordPress in the past decade. I’m not aware of any plugin or theme that has had over a million sales or subscribers. If you combine them all you might get a couple million, but I would suspect there’s a lot of overlap (people who buy one thing probably buy other things).

  10. I agree with the 2 version concept. Leave existing sites alone, convert to Gutenberg as a plugin. No need to put good hardworking developers out of business in order to “democratize and socialize” wordpress. Why ruin millions of business partners in order to help a few people? Surely automattic has enough capital to develop a separate website design division instead of telling the community to go fork themselves?
    1/3 world market share may go away when the entrepreneurs that drove the growth find another cms to use. Many of those 1/3 are also using paid automattic services. Some of that cash will evaporate.

    • I disagree. Plugin developers, theme developers and and users benefit from standardization. Only a core implementation can bring that.

      E.g. we had several clients that wanted to switch themes (with different page builder) and after realizing that their content couldn’t be migrated ‘as is’ and all their authors had to learn how to use the new page builder either withdrew or tried to find a theme that was powered by the old page builder. The lock-in of the current page builders is awful and that’s only one aspect we dislike about them.

      Gutenberg is a needed evolution which we very much welcome.
      Businesses will adapt and find new business opportunities (mine is one of them, we aren’t afraid of change ;-)

    • Benny, you nailed it.

      MR, Gutenberg is a plugin today, and will stay one until I’m convinced it will be beneficial for WordPress to have it in core.

      Many of the concerns or worries with today’s version of Gutenberg I actually share! The main difference seems to be some people think because it’s not ready yet we should stop working on it, and I see today’s imperfect state as just a point on the journey that Gutenberg will have over the next decade of being a fundamental building block for how people publish on the web.

      • I am following Gutenberg development since first Beta version, and last 0.9 is starting to take shape of the plugin that at one point might be ready for merge to the core. If the metabox issues are resolved and all existing metaboxes continue to function as they are now, I will be a happy developer. TinyMCE had a rough development path when it was added for the first time, and any big change has to go through the similar trial by fire.

        But, there is one major issue that has to be addressed as soon as possible: React license. WordPress embrace of open source and GPL is something that has to be preserved, and the React licence with the patents clause that is all but honest and open goes against everything WordPress stands for. Gutenberg needs to go away from React as soon as possible to maybe some React clone that is truly open source or to some other framework like Vue. This is not only the question of WordPress using some ‘fishy’ licensed library, it is important because WordPress is used by a lot of companies that might get into legal troubles with Facebook in the future that will end up stranded because of the license. I am not a legal expert, but everything I have read so far related to React license, opinions from Apache Foundation and more, tells be that WordPress core must stay away from Facebook’s React.

      • Many of the problems with Gutenberg aren’t about “stage of development” , they are fundamental decisions about functionality. Trying to build a structured language from HTML comments, rather than using an existing standard like MobileDoc is a critical flaw that will hound Gutenberg with literally endless bugs, but seems to be a core tenet of the dev team. Trying to reconcile React with stateless TinyMCE instances is a critical flaw that muddles state horribly, but once again seems baked in at this point. Even just introducing a new massive JS component seems deeply flawed, given the horrible lack of usable developer documentation for the existing JS components, such as the media library and TinyMCE itself. These are not “work in progress” bugs. They are fundamental flaws with the entire approach.

        If 5.0 truly depends on Gutenberg to be released, as you say, than WordPress is missing a critical stage in the dev cycle: The ability to fail gracefully. Massive projects like this MUST have room to be failures, but the core team just keeps pushing this deeply flawed system, as if it is the ultimate solution to everything, rather than just another layered abstraction that pretends unstructured data is structured.

      • @Greg Schoppe,

        Your point is surely the most fundamental and most important on here. And yet I see no-one addressing it.

        I am also aware that you have raised similar points before, and you didn’t get much of a response then either.

        That lack of any meaningful response is one of two things that really concern me about Gutenberg.* If would-be core developers cannot address basic engineering issues like this, then what sort of house of cards are they building? And why would anyone want to base their business on it?

        We all know that WordPress has been criticized for years for its “spaghetti code.” Some of that criticism is, of course, either outdated or else has just become a rather tired riff. But that’s hardly an excuse for creating such code now.

        [*The other is, of course, the license issue: React has no place in an open source project.]

  11. I really do not understand the heavy resistance to Gutenberg, I have not tried it yet but looked at videos of people demonstrating it, then recently was very surprised about the many many negative reviews on the plugin. Many are because its just not ready yet but there are also many who actually seem to like the tinyMCE experience, that really shocked me because its sooo outdated, basically everyone else has something better.

    I expect people, as so often in tech do not like change. Reminds me of Windows 8 where so many people stubbornly kept using outdated windows versions because of the stupid start menu. Its actually a horrible example because that tablet focused fullscreen start menu was actually not really good or innovative for desktops but what I did was just pin the apps I wan’t to use to the taskbar and went on with my computing and laught at all the others complaining, rarely even used the startmenu. I switched to linux now anyway …

    I was not around when WYSIWYG was introduced but Matt mentioned that it was very controversial back then, that does not surprise me at all. I expect the it will be similar with Gutenberg, eventually people will come to like it. I expect it to be very extensible, there will be plugins for custom fields, and all the good things, people just worry to much while they look at a unfinished thing.

    Anyway from what I have seen I really like Gutenberg and I think if WP can compete with all this modern fancy new FAST and snappy editors services and other software like Ghost use thats fantastic. I really hate this slow loading outdated bloated mess that tinyMCE brings. I love the idea of blocks, it will make WP feel more like a layout tool rather that being constrained or the need for 3rd party “builders”. Whats not to like where non programmers can design beautiful articles like many of the modern sites do. Gutenberg will make the web look better that is for sure.

    But what really bothers me is the situation with the React license. I think that is really what should not land in core. Gutenberg should be build with Vue.js or some React alternative/drop in replacement with a true open source license, and also a true open source community behind it. I really think React should be avoided because if its license and also because FB controls it.

  12. I get the idea behind Gutenberg. I also fully understand that it’s not aimed at me. I’m the kind of guy who knows HTML, and writes out my things in plain text before adding markup to them. That’s me. I like plain text. I’m good at it.

    So, as long as I have a way for me to do things for me (and I always will), then I’m fine with the change in focus. Users vary. And lots of users like pagebuilders. But, IMO, most existing pagebuilders suck, because they’re overly complex. So, a halfway solution, something that gives people what they’re looking for, but brings them closer to the fold, that teaches them the way of the code. Hell, I’m fine with that.

    I have not used Gutenberg. I also probably never will, not in a real situation. So, I don’t judge it on my own personal terms. I judge it entirely based on how many people who use it and possibly need it will like it better. And on how much it helps bring people closer to making good and better content than they could before. It’s not about me. It’s about how it helps others. I know what I’m doing already, my needs are covered just fine.

    We are trying to democratize publishing, right? That means bringing help even those people who want to publish things in “blocks” of content. Who want to understand the “web” in chunks of things rather than understand code. Yes, sorry, we have to hide the CSS, and the HTML, and the markup, and the markdown. These are easy to learn, but if you’re a lawyer, or a writer, then you don’t care about them. You care about adding things and laying them out for others properly. We need to work towards that. This is slow enough to work without being a crazy pagebuilder monstrosity. I’m okay with that. One step at a time.

  13. @matt, avada sold 350k in 5 years, I would not be surprised if only the themes sold on evanto by themselves vastly pass the 1% mark.

    my own plugin has a 0.5% conversion between the free (80k users) version and the pro after one year with almost zero marketing effort, and 10% conversion over time seems to be a realistic goal.

    It is all about price point and ROI. Maybe people that use wordpress as a blog do not buy plugins/themes (also doubtful, people that think they need it are willing to pay, even if it is only a hobby, take a look at all the i-toys)

    I am sure you didn’t buy woo, and invest all the money in jetpack development assuming only 1M wordpress sites as a market.

  14. I didn’t vote for Gutenberg at first, because it’s buggy, not easy-to-use (as it is supposed to be) and raised a lot of concerns for meta boxes. But I see it’s getting better and better after each version. So, I’m watching on it now and really hope it can resolve all of the existing issues on Github. And only until then, I can see a nice editor.

  15. Applause for cleverly and diplomatic avoiding mention of Metaboxes and custom fields.
    Nobody seems can and will answer this.

    Many Metaboxes cannot be Gutenberg blocks. Never ever.

    One step in right direction would be to stop discussing (on Github page) dual mode, theme support fot Gutenberg, and post type without Gutenberg (old TinyMce).

    First, this is not possible. I do not have any accurate statistics, but I have never build an website where native “Post” post type did not have at least one non-native Metabox. If it was case I made native “Post” post type hidden anyway.
    Second, seems you are on way to remove TinyMce from core.

  16. In response to Matt Mullenweg's comment:

    …but we’re not going to push out 5.0 until Gutenberg is something the team working on it and myself agree is ready.

    With all due respect (seriously, not sarcastically) neither you nor the team have the ability to truly judge when it is "ready" or not, assuming you do not give it sufficient calendar time and do not confirm it has been used for a significantly large number of use-cases.

    This is not a criticism of you (Matt) nor of the team. This is recognition of the limits of human perception and the inability for any one human or small team to envision all the scenarios others will want to use Gutenberg for.

    I am concerned about this for two (2) reasons, one of which no one has stated here yet. And the 2nd can be much less of a concern by addressing the 1st.

    The 1st issue: It seems that all evidence indicates the team wants to move Gutenberg into core before enough calendar time has passed for it to mature. But this would not be a problem if it were not for backward compatibility, a hallmark of WordPress and one of WordPress' major strengths.

    Once Gutenberg lands in core its architecture becomes fixed, warts and all.

    How much calendar time do we need? At least one (1) year after vision and feature complete, if not two (2), IMO.

    I have lived through many "generations" of computing in my career and seen many sea-change solutions brought to market by over-eager teams that were not ready for prime time. And they all resulted in a significant loss in marketshare.

    One such perfect example would be Microsoft's original ASP.NET. They first launched ASP which was a lot like PHP but not nearly as powerful as today's PHP.

    But Microsoft envisioned so much more. So they rushed lots of technology and thus they created a huge mess that took them more than a decade to unwind from. AJAX was released after ASP.NET, and it was clearly superior to Microsoft's post-back model. Had Microsoft waiting a while they might have been been able to include AJAX in the original ASP.NET and it would have never needed to be reinvented as it had to be later.

    WordPress' original menu system, media modals and customizer all have legacy baggage because IMO they were pushing into core before they had time to mature and thus became fixed for backward compatibility reasons.

    What do I proposed as the solution? Include a "beta" Gutenberg plugin shipped with core in WordPress 5.0 to ensure many people try and use it, but also to stop from "setting it in stone" until a large number of people have validated the architecture. AND I would target WordPress 6.0 for Gutenberg's inclusion in core.

    If WordPress does this I expect to see all anxiety dissipate, I expect people will start adopting it and the vast majority of users will become excited about it and it becomes clear that it will meet the needs of so many different people. Do not do the above and I predict Gutenberg will be saddled with numerous decisions that cannot be undone and that most everyone will lament for years to come.

    The 2nd issue is the React licensing. I believe this will ultimately mean that Gutenburg must be reimplemented in another framework. If WordPress does what I propose for #1 then we will have more than enough time to resolve this issue before it is too late. OTOH, if Gutenberg is included in core in 5.0, chances are we will not resolve it in time and will sorely wish we had.

    • Agreed. WordPress needs to continue with releases on the scheduled we are accustomed too: 1, 2 or 3 major releases each year. I have no idea why anyone from WP core dev team has mentioned 5.0 as the target, but it was a bad decision on their part.

      What if Gutenberg needs one more year to be near completion – we will not see another major WP after 4.9 until 2019? That is completely insane. There are plenty of things that need to be implemented, and Gutenberg is not the priority core devs make it be considering everything, especially the React issue.

      React can’t be included in the core, for as long as it is licensed the way it is. There are alternatives like Preact that would be easier to rewrite for, all complete rewrite to Vue. But, that should be started before it is too late. And, as with any JavaScript in WordPress, Gutenberg is very badly documented, and the more it grows, the time needed for rewrite will grow exponentially.

      These and many more important issues raised in these comments need to be answered and resolved as soon as possible, and Matt (or any one else from core dev team) has not really responded to big questions included React license, Gutenberg schedule, severe lack of documentation, future WP releases until Gutenberg is ready, meta boxes and all the current actions and filters related to post saving.

      Gutenberg development should be paused until all these issues are addressed and clear development path is created to keep the backwards compatibility, remove React and unburden WordPress releases from waiting on Gutenberg.

    • What do I proposed as the solution? Include a “beta” Gutenberg plugin shipped with core in WordPress 5.0 to ensure many people try and use it, but also to stop from “setting it in stone” until a large number of people have validated the architecture. AND I would target WordPress 6.0 for Gutenberg’s inclusion in core.

      I really like the idea of beta plugins, the whole install yourself via .org is first step when thats been tried including the plugin as a core plugin could work to get more feedback. All this requires that core team collects usage data as per Mortens suggestions.


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