New Proposal on Trac to Remove Post Formats from WordPress Core

Post Formats is a feature introduced in WordPress 3.1 that enables themes to visually differentiate between types of content. A metabox with radio buttons was added in WordPress 3.6 to expose the feature to users and allow them to easily select a format. Since WordPress 3.6 was released, there has been little effort to improve the feature.

Morten Rand-Hendriksen teaches WordPress to thousands of people through Lynda.com. After spending time writing training materials for post formats, Hendriksen was reminded of how much post formats shouldn’t be in WordPress core.

He’s created a new ticket on trac suggesting post formats be removed from WordPress and placed into a plugin similar to how the link manager and blogroll were removed in WordPress 3.5.

After the termination of Post Formats UI, it appears the feature has largely been left to pasture and implementation across themes is at best spotty and inconsistent. One example of this is how different Post Formats are treated in the default themes, culminating in the minimalist/absent inclusion in Twenty Fifteen.

Hendriksen lists six key arguments that come up when discussing the removal of post formats from WordPress:

  • Feature support is inconsistent across themes causing users to wonder why the panel and options appear and disappear when themes are switched.
  • When implemented, behavior is inconsistent between themes causing a perception of arbitrary or broken behavior in the eyes of the user.
  • Specification for what exactly each post format does is vague and ambiguous giving theme developers too much room to come up with arbitrary and non-standard behaviors that cause user confusion when themes are switched.
  • The use case for Post Formats seems to have gone away or have been supplanted for the larger goal of making modular, Snowfall-like post editing available.
  • Post Formats behavior can be mimicked by theme developers through the use of Categories or other custom taxonomies.

Applying the 80/20 rule to software development, Hendriksen believes post formats is in the 20% range or lower. He ends the ticket by proposing post formats be moved into a feature plugin.

This would allow it to be improved concurrently with WordPress and open up opportunities to experiment with different implementations and ideas. Alternatively, it could be abandoned if no interest is shown to improve it.

Move Post Formats to a Plugin

My opinion of Post Formats hasn’t changed since the last time I wrote about them. They’re still unpredictable, I don’t see many sites using them, and they’re tough to explain to new users.

Considering post formats dramatically impact the presentation of content, it’s strange that the core team has not continually improved the feature after 3.6. By now, they should be rock solid. Instead, it’s a feature with no obvious future.

Although you can leave a comment on this post, the best place to leave feedback is in this trac ticket. It’s time WordPress core developers got involved with the conversation to let us know what they think about the future of post formats in WordPress.

25 Comments


  1. I like post formats and wish that support for them would become better.
    Unlike the blogroll, post formats are even more relevant to today’s type of content than when they were originally released.
    Who here is old enough to remember that over the last 20 years Javascript had a major down period? Imagine if the narrow-minded vision lacking folks had gotten Javascript support pulled from browsers.

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    1. I love post formats. The only thing is that I never put in the time to think about how I should implement them… until last night. Again I heard about how WP core developers were thinking about removing it from core and possibly placing them in a plugin. I say NO! I love them, and am now using them on one of my sites, and soon another. As it is, my design there is intuitive, and the post formats makes it even more so. Brings a bit of a social media “feel” to the site as well. I think it’s visually more exciting too.

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  2. Its a little funny that most of the points are stuff people write about the Customizer, which he supports. Also header, background and thumbnails alters the UI.

    The point about using categories, taxonomies that would make it even more different between themes.

    The only criteria would be does the feature add value to the end user. Yes, no. Is there anything that can be done to make the value more clear, is it worth the effort. If no then remove.

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    1. I disagree with your equating this with the complaints about the Customizer. While the customizer changes the appearance of a theme based on user input, Post Formats ostensibly change the presentation of content depending on what format is selected. The problem is there is a lack of clear direction as to what exactly should happen when a specific Post Format is selected, and as a result the behavior of a specific post format can change dramatically across different themes. Unlike in the Customizer where the user can customize each theme independently, Post Formats are related to the individual post and will change with the change of themes causing an inconsistent experience for the site owner.

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      1. Your first point was that it changes the UI in the Admin depending on theme, just like the Customizer does depending on theme. My points were not about what happens on the frontend but with theme settings that changes the UI.

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  3. I agree with the majority of his reasons. I personally do also not see a single valid reason for having post formats – altough I was wondering about this feature ever since it has been included into the Core. But to be honest – the whole content logic of WordPress needs a lift anyway (from my point of view). It should be centralized as “Content” instead of having posts, pages and various post types, and by creating new content the UI will lead through various options, adding taxonomy select boxes or custom fields (based on the type of content which can be anything like post, page or cpt) – that would make things easier to understand and to work with. And it would unclutter the overladed admin ui (admin menu items for each post type,…)

    So, yes – move post formats into a plugin and yes, rethink the whole concept of content creation (altough this doesn’t gets discussed in this ticket) :)

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    1. I’ve always thought that post formats should have been a default set of post types and not all mixed in with the main post type. And also, second on renaming post type to content type

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  4. I like post formats. When you have a theme, like Stargarer, that provides good support then they are awesome. I agree they make sense given the diversity of content types / media types used today.

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    1. Sorry, but have you ever created a post type? It’s nothing like that.
      The parameters of a post type are irrelevant to post formats.
      Post formats are an uber taxonomy with a few built in features to enable easy custom formatting based on the selection.
      It’s a great feature and if one doesn’t want to use it so be it. It doesn’t get in the way.
      With so much focus on the back-end, it wouldn’t hurt to give it some love and razzmatazz to content presentation and provide some excitement for bloggers.
      In fact post formats and oembed could be a marriage in content heaven.

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      1. You are talking about the ideal of Post Formats. In reality, Post Formats are rarely used and generally just confusing for users and developers alike. If you read the description of what an “Image” post format is supposed to do you’ll see what I mean: Three different scenarios, all mutually exclusive, and whatever option you pick there is a good change the user will switch to a theme with a different option selected and will get a confusing or non-functional experience.

        The proposal specifically states that we should move Post Formats into a Feature Plugin so it can be further developed and improved if people want to invest time in it. Like Jeff said, the feature hasn’t been touched since 3.6, and we can’t do iterative development on a core feature in core without causing problems.

        My suggestion is to break the feature out so those who want to can give it the “love and razzmatazz” they think it deserves.

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  5. I don’t see this so much as a knock against post formats as it is a step in the modular direction for WordPress. If that is the case, the post formats feature is good guinea pig for testing the process for taking a core feature and migrating it to a plugin. I hope I am right. Modular design makes WordPress more maintainable and sustainable in the long term.

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    1. @Nathan Mckay,

      Absolutely!

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  6. Post formats should have never been on core to begin with. Using core devs terminology, this feature is clearly plugin territory.

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  7. I don’t think the point is so much whether post formats are good/bad. Some like, some don’t (I don’t). The question is whether it belongs in core vs plugin. IMHO it belongs in a plugin. If you like the “functionality,” add it.

    While on the subject, I agree with @Joe Hana recommendations as well.

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  8. Post formats were a transparent attempt to Tumblrize WordPress at a time when Tumblr was up-and-coming and wildly popular. Their inclusion in the core never made much sense and I support their removal now.

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    1. I think that not having a clear long-term roadmap is a problem for WordPress. They end up adding half-backed features as a reaction to what’s popular at the time, such as Post Formats (Tumblr) or the beloved Customizer (Squarespace).

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      1. I agree.
        Roadmaps can become restrictive or out of date, but a long-term vision gives coherence to the wide range of efforts and adds to the motivation of the developers as well.
        I don’t agree that post formats should be removed from core, but I readily admit their usefulness has been crippled by the lack of vision and followthrough.
        I suppose “mobile” has been a big focus for a while, but I propose that now that WordPress is so big we consider “AUTHORING” as a new focus.
        Authoring obviously encompasses the Customizer, post formats and much much more – editor, mathml, notes, annotations, front-end editing for example.

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    2. You have to remember that Matt first introduced the idea of post formats to the WP community way back in 2005 (I believe) in a tutorial about building in the asides feature. This was a feature that was around long before WP, and especially before Tumblr. Matt’s galleries were also a pretty popular feature.

      What we had were theme authors who were building these features (e.g., asides, galleries, etc.) into their themes. However, there was absolutely no standardization from one theme to the next. For example, one theme would tell you to tag your posts as “gallery” while another would tell you to tag them as “photo-gallery” to get a certain look for gallery posts. As a user, that sucked if you had more than a handful of posts you had to re-tag when switching themes.

      A big part of post formats was all about standardizing a feature that theme authors were already doing. Tumblr was really secondary to that.

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  9. In hindsight, post formats are plugin territory.

    And they provide a bad user-experience for readers of a blog, especially when asides links readers off to another site rather than down into a more detailed post as most users expect.

    Post Formats should be removed to a plugin, just as Links were.

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  10. Post formats problem is the UIX, is not easy ot understand how to use them with just a radio button. Simple example, Post Format – Image, the image should go as a featured image or inside the editor?.

    I think post format is usefull, and a powerfull feature for any kind of content creator, can simplifies pusblishing of short ideas with Status or simple share an image or share a Quote in a cool way (design).

    Maybe is good idea this feature becaue a plugni until the UIX get more attention and really makes easy to understand how they work and how to use them form the dashboard while in the frontend is much more easy to see the difference between them.

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  11. Perhaps this is the moment to remind folks that the reason the post formats feature is incomplete is because the code to improve it was removed from core for no reason. It was actually a big mistake to do that. Somebody blinked.
    I can’t remember how many times in 30 years of IT experience that I’ve seen exciting new features that frankly were an implementation disaster for quite some time.
    And just in case one might think this is about marginal technologies, OSX versions until 10.3 were unuseable, meanwhile OS9 was obsolete. Yes the most valuable company today didn’t have a credible OS for maybe up to 2 years.

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