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WordPress 5.9 Delayed Until January 2022

photo credit: Tom Woodward

WordPress 5.9 has been delayed due to significant blockers that could not be resolved in time for Beta 1, which was previously scheduled to be released November 16. The 5.9 release team came to the decision after a lengthy deliberation on the impact a delay will have on users and contributors.

Robert Anderson, Editor Tech Lead for 5.9, published a summary of the blockers that were found while testing full-site editing in core this week. They are identified as either blockers for beta 1 or blockers for 5.9.

“Historically (and even in the linked post), ‘deadlines are not arbitrary‘ has referred to the ability to cut features that aren’t quite ready yet, and include them in a future release,” Gary Pendergast commented on the post announcing 5.9 beta 1 as delayed. “Are there particular reasons for why this philosophy has been re-interpreted?”

Tonya Mork, Core Tech Lead for the 5.9 release, responded with an explanation that FSE is going to have to be a package deal.

“Removing those areas that need fixing were ruled out as they are too intertwined into FSE and would make it unstable,” Mork said. “Punting fixes was ruled out as these meant delivering a ‘half-baked’ experience.

“The choice is between shipping these major features in 5.9 with a delay or moving these major features to 6.0 to ship in the spring.

“Impacts were assessed. Shipping these major features sooner than later were determined to be more beneficial with less impact.”

Others commenting on the post shared concerns about the features possibly being rushed after seeing the list of blockers.

“My initial reaction when reading the Overview of WP 5.9 pending issues and blockers -issue on Gutenberg repository was ‘holy smokes, there are so many open issues and blockers,’” Timi Wahalahti said.

“Nevertheless, from the viewpoint of a developer working in an agency and having 150+ client sites to look after, I do have similar concerns that Gary and Addison (in the Gutenberg repo issue) have already shared about rushing features out. After seeing the blocker list and reading how new major features are still under works, I’d be very uncomfortable on updating to 5.9 after releasing it, knowing that some features were probably finished in a hurry.”

Contributors on GitHub cautioned that the new flows for FSE features have not been adequately tested and should not be shipped just days after landing major changes.

“I think there are some large red flags here that some things are not ready for 5.9,” Gutenberg contributor Addison Stavlo said. “Overall, it seems like right now we are rushing things in a dangerous way. We targeted 5.9 as the release for these items in core but too many things are just not ready, hence the rushing to change so many things at the last minute. Wouldn’t it be better to miss the expected target date than to rush potentially regrettable decisions and brand new flows into core WP at the last minute?”

The new proposed schedule, which has not yet been officially confirmed, is as follows:

  • Nov 30 – Beta 1 (2 weeks from now)
  • Dec 7 – Beta 2
  • Dec 14 – Beta 3
  • Dec 21 – Beta 4 (optional)
  • Jan 4 – RC 1 (5 weeks from Beta)
  • Jan 11 – RC2
  • Jan 18 – RC 3
  • Jan 25 – Release date

At the time of publishing, all 18 contributors who weighed in on a poll in the 5.9 release leads slack channel are in favor of the proposed new schedule. More blockers are being resolved and should continue throughout the weekend, but the delay to Beta 1 makes it inevitable that the stable release will be pushed back to January.

The remaining consideration is whether or not FSE will be on track for inclusion in 5.9 or if it will need to be shipped in 6.0.

“If for some reason progress does not advance on track or something unknown / unexpected happens to cause further delays, then FSE features and TT2 theme are at risk to be punted to 6.0,” Mork told the Tavern. The team is working to put safeguards in place to protect the release from further delays.

“FSE is a collection of features with some that are interconnected,” WordPress 5.9 Testing Co-Lead Anne McCarthy said. “This release includes a selection that are interconnected including Styles, Block theme flows, Navigation Block, etc. In order for them to really shine, it makes the most sense for them to be released together, making it hard to just delay shipping one. They need more time to be refined in order to be shipped together.”

The release team plans to publish an update on Monday with confirmation of the schedule moving forward. McCarthy noted that contributions have been lower this year, which has contributed to the delay.

“We need to recognize the very Human situation we’re in right now both in terms of larger cultural moments coming up with various holidays/celebrations and the reality of still being in the midst of a pandemic,” McCarthy said. “Delaying provides sustainability to get this release right without potentially burning out the remaining contributor base.”