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WordPress 5.9 Proposed Scope: Major Push Towards Full-Site Editing, Plus a New Default Theme

WordPress 5.9 is starting to take shape as Josepha Haden Chomphosy published a planning roundup at the end of last week with a tentative schedule and scope. This will be the last major release of the year, which Haden Chomphosy said will require “a slightly larger release squad,” considering the proposed scope.

The squad leads have not yet been named with the exception of Matt Mullenweg as release lead, Haden Chomphosy as marketing lead, and Jonathan Bossenger who was invited to be a technical writer as part of a small experiment in the 5.9 release cycle. Bossenger said this new role was created “to get the technical details of new releases translated into accessible and actionable information for other contributor teams.” The rest of the team will be named as features are confirmed to land in the release.

“The main goal for 2021 is getting full site editing to all WordPress users,” Haden Chomphosy said as a preface to the scope of work outlined for 5.9. These include the following block and site editing features that Matias Ventura previously identified as already underway in Gutenberg:

  • Blocks + intrinsic web design
  • Navigation menus
  • Interface for theme.json
  • Refining editing flows for block themes
  • New default theme
  • Additional design tools

A few other items are being considered for the roadmap but may not be ready in time. These include:

  • Pattern insertion + creation
  • Unzip/Rollback Failsafes
  • PHPUnit Tests
  • Improved compatibility with PHP 8.0 and 8.1

The proposed timeline puts the go/no go date for features at October 12, with Beta 1 arriving November 16, and the general release on December 14.

While this timeline seems ambitious for the proposed features, work on many of these efforts has already been happening for months via the Gutenberg plugin. The continual work happening alongside core in the plugin has many advantages but also introduces some complexity into the release process.

One common complaint logged on the 5.8 retrospective was that backporting PHP changes from the Gutenberg plugin to WordPress core was a significant pain point for contributors.

“The current structure of the Gutenberg plugin makes it really hard to locate the changes necessary to bring to WordPress core together with related JavaScript logic,” Greg Ziółkowski said. “Before anything else, we should make it more transparent in the plugin what’s already in WordPress core, what’s ready to be backported, and what’s still an experiment.” Ziółkowski has opened a ticket to discuss how contributors can make backporting a more semi-automated process.

Meanwhile 5.8.1 RC 1 is on deck with 41 bug fixes for core and 20 bug fixes for the block editor. The minor release is expected to land this week.