State of the Word 2022: Matt Mullenweg Highlights Gutenberg’s Progress, Announces New Community Tools

State of the Word (SOTW) watch parties kicked off around the world this afternoon as Matt Mullenweg delivered his annual address to the WordPress community. A small group of people gathered live in New York City to participate while the majority of enthusiasts watched via the livestream. Mullenweg spent an hour reviewing and celebrating the work done across the project in 2022 before taking questions from the audience.

At last year’s SOTW, Mullenweg spoke about how Gutenberg adoption is growing beyond WordPress and how he believed it could become “bigger than WordPress itself.” In addition to Gutenberg getting rolled out on the bbPress support forums this week to modernize the WordPress support experience, the block editor has found its way into more apps in 2022.

Mullenweg cited a few examples including Engine Awesome (a Laravel-based SaaS application), the Pew Research Center’s Political Typology Quiz, the web version of Automattic’s Day One app, and the Tumblr post form. He noted that in Tumblr, 99% of the editor is hidden – there’s no sidebar, everything happens inline. Mullenweg said he is hoping Gutenberg can create an “open block standard that can be used anywhere,” where users learn it on one system and it can be applied in other apps.

For those who had been missing WordCamps, one of the major highlights of 2022 was the return to in-person events. From 2021 to 2022, the number of meetup groups doubled. Only one WordCamp was held in 2021 but that jumped to 22 WordCamps in 2022. Mullenweg highlighted how WordCamps have historically been “the magical ingredient” for onboarding people to contribute and teaching them about WordPress culture.

For being just one year back into in-person events, WordPress has done well in 2022 with 1,399 release contributors and 652 contributing for the first time. There were 204 people who contributed to all releases in 2022 and 424 who contributed in 2021 and returned in 2022. Some 322 contributors took a break in 2021 and returned in 2022.

People are also contributing to Openverse, which has indexed more than 22 million images, 1.1 million audio files, and has handled more than 59 million requests in the last 30 days.

Tools Coming to the Community: New Taxonomies for the Plugin and Theme Directories and Staging “Playground” that Runs WordPress in the Browser

It wouldn’t be the State of the Word without a few exciting announcements. Mullenweg unveiled a plan to add new taxonomies for the theme and plugin directories that will help users more quickly ascertain the purpose of the extensions they are considering.

For example, there would be a tag for the type of plugins that a developer might create to solve a problem but may not be intended for wide public use and may not come with dedicated support. Another tag would be designated for “Community” plugins, which Mullenweg said is for software that “belongs to all of us” with the lead developers stewarding it for the next generation. This tag is for plugins that do not have any upsells and invite contributions. Some of these plugins will be canonical plugins, those that are officially supported by core developers and receive attention from the security team. Gutenberg and the importer plugins are a few examples.

Another tag would be designated for commercial plugins that have some sort of upsell and often include commercial support. Anything with a pro version will fall within this category. Mullenweg said he wants WordPress.org to create an environment where commercial and non-commercial plugins can exist together harmoniously.

The new taxonomies will be launching in the directories this month and will also eventually make their way into the plugin and theme screens inside the WordPress admin. This will be a major improvement that will give users of all experience levels a better understanding of the extensions they are examining, making it easier to select the right type for their needs.

Mullenweg also announced WordPress’ official support for the WordPress Sandbox project, which we featured earlier this month. He outlined a plan for what will officially be called “WordPress Playground.” The experimental project uses WebAssembly (WASM) to run WordPress in the browser without a PHP server, making it possible to spin up new playgrounds in just a couple of seconds. This will enable things like a guided, interactive WordPress landing experience where developers can edit code live and see the results right away. It will also make it possible for users to try plugins directly from the directory and may someday be used to allow people to contribute to WordPress core.

A new website for WordPress Playground is located at https://developer.wordpress.org/playground/ where anyone interested can check out the experimental project for running a WordPress instance entirely in your browser. There’s also a new #meta-playground Slack channel for those who want to join the conversation.

WordPress turns 20 next year. Mullenweg noted that not many software projects make it that long but WordPress is also growing faster than ever, currently powering 43% of websites according to W3Techs and 32% according to Builtwith. A new website at wp20.wordpress.net will be headquarters for the festivities, including swag, merchandise, and a new Milestones book for the most recent 10 years of WordPress’ history.

If you didn’t have the chance to catch the State of the Word this afternoon, check out the recording below to hear Mullenweg’s vision for the next phases of WordPress and see demos of all the progress made on block themes and full-site editing in 2022.

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6 responses to “State of the Word 2022: Matt Mullenweg Highlights Gutenberg’s Progress, Announces New Community Tools”

  1. I was kind of dumbstruck to hear Matt say in the latter Q&A part of the talk that the plan is to transform Tumblr so that its backend is all run on WordPress. How can they do that when Tumblr themes appear to have functionality that WordPress 6.1 can’t even replicate yet?

    WordPress would have to have add more customization features to the Query Loop in the List View, as well as add some sort of Featured Block option that goes beyond just Featured Images to achieve this (i.e. Featured Video, Featured Gallery, Featured Audio, etc). Or are these capabilities somehow hidden within WordPress 6.1 right now and I’m just not seeing them?

    Two Tumblr themes as a quick example, which use Masonry grids, are Bone and Infinite. I see no way to recreate these with the default Site Editor in WordPress 6.1.

    But ya, I’d love for the day when I could just look at any theme on the Web and just say, “Oh, I know which blocks I can use to recreate that in WordPress”, similar to what Matt suggested people should be able to do with WordPress.

    • There’s no need for WordPress itself to replicate the features in Tumblr. The developers only need to build the features they need into plugins/themes.

      I don’t see anything mentioned that is not possible to create on top of WordPress. Featured media only needs an ID or URL stored as post meta or just auto-pulling them from the content itself. Masonry grids require loading one of many available JS libraries and hooking it to a block class. These would definitely make for some cool tutorials. :)

      Maybe some of this will be baked directly into core WP at some point, but it’s not necessary in order to recreate the functionality on Tumblr or any other WP site.

      • Justin, I went back and rewatched starting at the 2:00:00 mark of the video where Matt was talking about Tumblr, just to make sure I was understanding what he said correctly.

        The whole point of upgrading the backend of Tumblr to WordPress is to make it so “Tumblr can provide an onramp for an entirely new generation” to the “WordPress ecosystem.” So the skills you learn in Tumblr can be passed over to any part of the WordPress ecosystem because Tumblr itself will be built with WordPress.

        So what you said in your comment makes complete sense if Tumblr remained a completely separate entity. But it’s not going to be because if it was, there would be no need to upgrade the backend to WordPress at all.

        But since Tumblr is going to be integrated into the “WordPress ecosystem” and become an “onramp” for WordPress, there has to be continuity between the two. In other words, why would a Tumblr customer “upgrade” to WordPress, if they actually end up losing functionality and features that they relied upon and have become used to using? It makes no sense (although I have seen privately owned web platforms do this).

        Finally, your mention of it not being needed in the WordPress core to “recreate the functionality on Tumblr” is completely true if you’re a developer, as you could code similar functionality right now (which I was even able to emulate somewhat with jQuery & CSS fairly easily on my site). But again, as Matt noted in the talk, it sounds like he wants to make WordPress much more “accessible” to the average user, thus potentially allowing a designer to design a site “without needing to know code.”

    • I imagine that the big players will move to go headless and also look at occupying the area of squarespace and shoppify , hosting and providing an all in one fremium service. Probably with a long term aim of going platform agnostic.

      Many of the page-builders have a slightly more “agency” focus than WP.org which seems more focused on the Medium and Tumblr user.

      Most of my clients never edit their site at all, they ofter want brochureware sites which never get updated content. Some sites have been the same for 5 years and nobody ever logs in from the editor accounts. For these sort of clients a more Agency focussed hosted site provision would work adequately.

      Developers will point at the speed issues, obviously, but there are other factors which make technical excellence a much smaller slice of the value pie than web devs expect. Often business logic is an oxymoron.

  2. All this sounds wonderful, but in the meantime the most influential commiters are trying to postpone again the bump of minimum PHP version. Just like 2 years ago it is said that too much sites are using older PHP versions, “we can’t live them behind”, “we need to convince hosting companies to upgrade older WP websites” etc. – https://core.trac.wordpress.org/ticket/57345
    So the lazy minority and hosting companies are to determine largest open-source project future. Currently number of sites running on PHP

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