WordPress Contributors Discuss How Core Can Better Enable AI Innovation

As AI-powered technology is rapidly evolving to exponentially extend human capabilities, WordPress contributors do not want the platform to get left behind. AI-powered website creation could even become a threat to its existence, more than a competing CMS, if WordPress doesn’t ensure the platform is easily pluggable for AI-powered extensions. A new discussion on the Core developer’s blog asks what WordPress can do to better enable AI innovation.

“WordPress Core always seeks to provide a stable foundation for folks to build upon directly and extend as they see fit,” Automattic-sponsored core contributor Anne McCarthy said. “Even if a new technology is not actually included in Core, the project aims to enable innovation and progress through extension (plugins, themes, etc.) wherever possible and sensible.”

McCarthy shared a video of what it might look like to have AI integrated into Gutenberg’s experimental command center to build out pages based on AI-suggested designs. She asked three questions of contributors:

  • How would you want to see Core updated so it can be extended in ways accessible to AI technologies?
  • For those  building, or trying to build, with AI today, how does Core currently enable or hinder this effort?
  • Are there any concerns that you think the community should be aware of as this space is explored?

WordPress co-founder Matt Mullenweg is optimistic about the prospect of further integrating AI into open source development.

“In 2015 I told you to learn Javascript deeply,” Mullenweg said last month in the Post Status Slack. “I don’t have a catchy phrase yet, but my message for 2023 will be to spend as much time leveraging AI as possible. The boosts to productivity and capability are amazing. This is not a web3/crypto/widgets hype cycle. It’s real.”

Mullenweg also encouraged WordPress professionals to consider how AI and open source can work together.

“Open source and AI are the two mega-trends of the next 30 years,” he said. “They complement each other, and you should think deeply about how. ChatGPT can’t read Shopify’s code.”

StellarWP-sponsored contributor Matt Cromwell commented on the latest core discussion, suggesting that AI innovation is better left to plugin developers.

“All AI options currently require integration with a 3rd party system, some sort of pricing and authentication, this feels to me to clearly be plugin territory,” Cromwell said.

“The other concern here is that the current Core roadmap is very full. At what cost would the project chase an AI integration? At the expense of multi-editing collaboration features? At the expense of multi-lingual features? I find it hard to imagine pursuing the current roadmap with excellence and stability AND adding a huge AI integration as well.”

Bluehost-sponsored contributor Jonathan Desrosiers, one of the reviewers of the post, clarified that the intention was to “fuel discussion around what AI looks like in the WordPress ecosystem and how that may be blocked currently.”

“As you said, the roadmap is definitely full and adding new things should not be done unless there are extremely compelling reasons,” Desrosiers said. “But, if there are small “paper cut” changes that can be made in Core (new filter or action hooks, etc.) to allow plugins to better experiment and flesh out AI integrations in the WordPress world, I think that we certainly should consider these.”

Cromwell suggested WordPress could add a settings panel for integrating various API’s, such as payment gateways and OpenAI API keys, to prevent conflicts and streamline API usage across multiple plugins.

Rob Glidden proposed that contributors consider the possibility of having AI chatbots as a user type for the future collaboration workflow inside WordPress:

I would suggest looking at AI chatbots as (“just another”) user type in the upcoming Phase 3 of collaboration/workflow.

I for one want an AI chatbot on my multiuser collaboration team in a phase 3 WordPress.

In the multiuser collaborative workflows already described in “Phase 3 Collaboration” it seems like basically the same infrastructure should work for both human users and AI “users”.

Indeed, it is not a huge stretch in reading that document to think of “users”, “collaborators”, and “creators” as also being bot-ish users, assigned and performing tasks within a workflow.

CodeWP-sponsored contributor James LePage echoed Cromwell’s concerns that focusing too much on integrating AI might make WordPress less competitive on the features that have already been identified for Gutenberg’s Phase 3 roadmap:

As some others said here, as a WP user, I’d much prefer a really strong focus on the existing Phase 3 roadmap items as I think it would make our CMS a lot more valuable and competitive to other tools out there, as opposed to integrating AI somehow.

One other thing is that there aren’t really any standards here. There are large players, but they keep changing the way their AI works, and probably will continue to do so. We’d be trying to hit a moving target.

As much as WordPress contributors are spread thin across the project’s current Gutenberg roadmap of goals and improvements, you don’t get to choose when new technology is bearing down on your industry, forcing you to act or become obsolete. The WordPress community has built a robust plugin ecosystem, but leaving it all to third-party integrations may not be enough to keep the software relevant in the coming years. Ensuring that WordPress is compatible with the future of AI-powered innovation is critical if contributors want the platform to continue to be the best CMS and website builder available on the web.


9 responses to “WordPress Contributors Discuss How Core Can Better Enable AI Innovation”

  1. I’ve been using AI to build a new WordPress based website using Bing AI. In a little over three weeks, I’ve got 120,000 words/ 100 articles and have created a coherent website looking into the heady topic of self-transcendence.

    It strikes me that a way forward would be to build a plugin which adds an ai box into the sidebar of the editor screen, similar to the way Bing presents itself, which would make the user experience better. One that self-learns the site content and editorial style would be even better.

  2. Just thought I should add. I’m a psychology student of just two months into a part time course. I’d originally envisaged creating the site in three years but found Bing AI a way to jump ahead of that plan in a massive way, it’s taught me lots about the subject, probably advanced my learning by three years.

  3. The premise of many of the core contributors thoughts are flawed.

    AI will certainly transform websites but AI makes design less important and consequently design tools like Gutenberg somewhat redundant.

    Content and functionality will remain important but the AI will be be analysing and exposing the content and functionality and in many (probably most) cases the user will not even see websites design

    Core should concentrate on building apis and exposing them to smart agents rather than doubling down on pretty websites

  4. Hi all
    Everybody will be able to create themes, plugins, patterns, blocks, images, etc. I think WP could focus on being a solid, performative and secure base for all that. For a lot of updates without crashing. An “impossible” platform to hack.
    Reliable information will also be even more vital.
    A platform that can easily and performatively work with a lot of data. Have a easier core way to create structures, tables, cross information.
    A stamp for Human Created Content.
    AI fetches web content. This should be certified as Human vs AI generated. WP can have a major role here.

  5. I haven’t founded a huge company that powers a huge chunk of the web, but I disagree with Mullenweg. I think this is just another fad exactly like block-chain. Where’s all the block-chain changes to the world/tech/economy? Exactly.

  6. good to see that the WordPress community is taking a thoughtful approach to how AI can be integrated into the core. so much to unpack phew

    i’d like to add something to the part on chatbot. there’s already plugins for that. like getgenie, they have something called geniechat.

  7. I agree with Matt that AI should be in plugins. There are so many ways to use AI in WordPress and putting it in core forces developers to follow one direction, which is not always good.

    Adding a panel for API integration (like entering keys) is also bad if users don’t want to use AI. Or if they do, AI plugins usually have their own settings panel. In that case, users have to look at different places to set up the AI functionality.

  8. AI could be a big opportunity for the Gutenberg devs to avoid UX compromises, and focus more on the needs of designers and nocode developers instead.

    Non technical people won’t touch UI design interfaces anymore.

    If I were Matt I’d focus on leveraging AI to rewrite WP from scratch avoiding all the accumulated technical debt.

    Without Gutenberg as the middle layer and directly on top of a modern and fast framework, with a nocode UI interface similar to Framer, something UI designers who would want to use.

    If you really think about it you’ll come to a similar conclusion that AI comes for middle management and layers of abstractions build for humans. The experience gained with Gutenberg development could be leveraged to train a really good AI model.


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