WPTavern: State of the Word 2016: Mullenweg Pushes Calypso as Future of WordPress’ Interface, Proposes Major Changes to Release Cycle
Philadelphia welcomed 1,923 attendees to WordCamp US this weekend with an additional 2,028 enthusiasts watching via live stream. Matt Mullenweg delivered his 11th annual State of the Word address to a rapt audience ready to celebrate WordPress’ progress over the past year and hear the project leader’s vision for 2017.
He began by thanking sponsors and volunteers who made the event possible by covering the bulk of the $516 actual cost per person. Mullenweg said sponsors cover roughly 85-95% of the cost of WordCamps worldwide. In 2016, the events sold a total 36,000 tickets, with costs subsidized by more than 1,000 sponsors.
Mullenweg said meetups are the leading indicator for WordCamps and these events have had the fastest growth the community has seen in five or six years. More than 62,566 people attended a local meetup in 58 countries and roughly one third of those were new members.
— WordCamp US (@WordCampUS) December 3, 2016
WordPress Foundation to Create WordPress Community Support Subsidiary
In order to better accommodate the extraordinary growth of the global community, the WordPress Foundation will be restructuring its management of WordCamps. In 2016 the Foundation took in an estimated $4.3 million, up from $2.8 million in 2015, with 99.9% of those funds related to WordCamps. Mullenweg announced that the 501c nonprofit will move WordCamps to its own company, WordPress Community Support, forming a PBC (Public Benefit Corporation) that is fully owned by the Foundation.
He explained that if certain things happened at WordCamps it could endanger the overall Foundation, so WordCamps will now be managed under their own entity where the events will have a little more flexibility in how they do things. The Foundation plans to support some like-minded nonprofits that are aligned with the overall education mission of the organization, including Hack the Hood, Internet Archive, and Black Girls Code. In 2017 the Foundation will also begin promoting hackathons to help nonprofits and NGO’s.
— WordCamp US (@WordCampUS) December 3, 2016
Internationalization is Driving an Increase in Plugin Usage
Mullenweg shared a few stats about the plugin directory, which will soon be launching a new design with revamped search functionality. This year has seen a 20% increase in active plugin usage and a 34% increase in plugin downloads totaling 1.48 billion, which Mullenweg attributed to a spike in internationalization efforts over the past year. The number of translation contributors has grown from 5,000 in April 2015 to 17,000 as of November 2016.
This year there were 1,598 plugins with language packs (up from 314 last year) and 1224 themes with language packs (up from 641 last year). Mullenweg noted that 2/3 of the world speaks one of 12 languages with native fluency and that WordPress covers all of these and many more. In fact, the 4.6 release shipped with support for 50 available languages. WordPress’ top 10 plugins are now 82% complete in the top 12 languages.
— WordCamp US (@WordCampUS) December 3, 2016
Mullenweg Continues to Push Calypso as the Future of the WordPress Interface
WordPress.com users have widely adopted the new interface for publishing. Mullenweg shared statistics showing that 68% of posts went through Calypso since its launch, 17% via mobile, and 15% through the traditional wp-admin. Mobile app and mobile browser usage are also up. “We now need to start thinking about mobile devices as the primary way people are going to interact with WordPress in the future,” Mullenweg said.
If Calypso has a chance at becoming a promising replacement for the WordPress admin, its creators will need to broaden its interoperability with the WordPress plugin ecosystem. Mullenweg announced that Calypso is now plugin aware and is open to plugins with over 1M active sites.
The next step on Calypso’s roadmap is to bring in support for Automattic’s plugins – WooCommerce, Akismet, Jetpack, and VaultPress. Mullenweg said the big focus for 2017 is to make plugins Calypso-aware, starting with a handful of the most popular ones before opening it up to all plugins.
“The hope is that Calypso, or something like it, is actually what becomes the interface that drives WordPress,” Mullenweg said. Since no one is currently building anything like Calypso and targeting core, it looks like the technology behind WordPress.com will be driving the evolution of WordPress in 2017.
If Mullenweg’s goal is to make Calypso the primary publishing engine for core WordPress, one of the major challenges will be getting plugin developers on board with building compatibility for what is currently an Automattic product. What are the implications of contributing to greater Calypso adoption? If core brings in the Calypso interface in the future, would Automattic push to include its Reader and other WordPress.com functionality, as it has in the mobile apps? These are questions developers will need to weigh when considering whether to pursue a more application-type experience via the Calypso interface.
— WordCamp US (@WordCampUS) December 3, 2016
WordPress Recommends Hosts Offering PHP 7+ and HTTPS by Default
WordPress core continues to update its recommendations and requirements with the help of hosts who are adopting the latest technologies. The official recommendation for WordPress hosting is now PHP 7 or higher. After WordPress.com switched to be 100% on PHP 7, Mullenweg said the network’s performance doubled and CPU load fell in half. Just 4% of self-hosted sites are on PHP 7, but the new recommendation should help move more hosts towards getting their customers updated.
— WordCamp US (@WordCampUS) December 3, 2016
Beginning in 2017, WordPress will have progressive enhancement for certain features that are only available for encrypted sites. Mullenweg announced that WordPress.org is now tracking HTTPS adoption. So far 11.45% of active WordPress websites are on HTTPS and the project will no longer recommend hosts that do not offer it by default. “We want to bring more of the web to be secure, which is especially important in the post-Snowden era,” he said.
Trying New Things: Major Changes Coming to WordPress’ Core Release Cycle
WordPress 4.7 release lead Helen Hou-Sandí joined Mullenweg on stage to highlight a few of the features and improvements that will be coming in the official release on Tuesday. The release is arguably one of the most exciting and successful updates for WordPress in some time, but Mullenweg has a new strategy for core development in 2017.
“We’re at a junction for WordPress where what got us here wont get us there,” Mullenweg said, after highlighting how the software’s market share has grown from 13.1% to 27.2% in the past five years.
Mullenweg proposed a new structure for WordPress releases where design and user testing will lead the way. “I’m putting back on the ‘product lead’ hat for 2017,” he said. The upcoming year will have no set release schedule. Mullenweg is upending WordPress’ predictable release cycle in favor of tackling some larger items on the to-do list. He said the focus will be on performance and fixes to existing functionality in three main focus areas: WP REST API, the Editor, and the Customizer.
Mullenweg said he is particularly interested in getting first-party usage of the REST API in the admin, in hopes of having it evolve to something the project can use for the next decade. If it doesn’t, he said core will consider bringing it back into a plugin specifically for developers.
Mullenweg said he feels the editor does not represent the core of WordPress publishing, a sentiment that many users agree with. He hopes to steer it toward a more block-based approach that unifies widgets and includes an interface for shortcodes.
Mullenweg’s vision for the Customizer is to see all aspects of WordPress become more instant and provide the same interface and UI affordances as the editor. He announced that Ephox, the company behind TinyMCE, has agreed to work with the project to improve the core editing experience.
Shifting from a time-based release cycle to one that is more project-based is a major departure from WordPress’ previous release philosophy of “Deadlines are not arbitrary.” The project’s philosophy page identifies the practice of delaying releases for one more feature as a “rabbit hole” that has been tested and found to be unpleasant. The new approach to core development makes no guarantee that WordPress will have any releases in 2017.
If the experiment is not a success, the project’s days of frequent and fast iteration may be over for awhile. Mullenweg is willing to risk it in hopes of being able to provide more product-based leadership that will distinguish WordPress from its proprietary competitors.
— WordCamp US (@WordCampUS) December 3, 2016
“I think we’re trying to counter stagnation,” Mullenweg said when asked about the new approach to releases in the Q&A segment. “Even though we’ve had lots of releases, certain parts of WordPress have stagnated and haven’t made the leaps that they could.” He suggested that being part of a feature plugin team will give developers a way to be involved in more active releases and continue to build momentum for eventual inclusion of their projects in core.
Mullenweg plans to identify a tech lead and a design lead and will be working with them as the overall product lead. He envisions that when one area of WordPress gets to the point where the software can ship significant user-facing improvements, a release will be born.
“We’re at the point now where the steps WordPress needs to take are more significant to get the other 73% of the web it doesn’t have yet,” Mullenweg said.
In a return to WordPress’ poetic roots, he concluded by reading a poem called Praise Song for the Day by Elizabeth Alexander.
The video of the State of the Word address will soon be available on WordPress’ new YouTube channel.
Matt Mullenweg just completed the 2016 State of the Word presentation at WordCamp US 2016.
This year, Matt focused on a variety of important topics, including the state of user experience in WordPress today, goals for future interface improvements, a WordPress growth council, internationalization gains, the further proliferation of secure websites, and important changes to the WordPress development process.
WordCamp US in Philadelphia
Matt began his talk by thanking the city of Philadelphia for being a great host of the first two WordCamp US events, as well as the sponsors, organizers, and volunteers that helped make WordCamp US one of the most successful and smoothest run WordCamps ever.
He also said the per person cost for WordCamp US is over $500 per person, and that only the sponsors make that happen. And next year, WordCamp US is making its way to Nashville.
WordCamps and meetups in 2016
There were 116 WordCamps in 2016, and over 36,000 attendees, 2,056 speakers, 1,036 sponsors, and 750 organizers.
There were 3,193 meetup events in 58 countries. These were attended by more than 62,000 people, or nearly double WordCamps.
Matt says it’s the fastest growth there has been for these events in around five or six years. WordCamp Europe actually had more people than WordCamp US this year, which Matt took as a personal challenge for Nashville.
WordPress.tv publishes more than 26% of all talks, and now there is an official WordPress channel on YouTube, so more and more videos will begin to be available wherever people want to watch them.
WordCamp public benefit corporation
More than a year ago, work began to separate WordCamps from the WordPress Foundation, in order to make WordPress event organizing more flexible and to better protect the WordPress trademarks that the foundation holds.
One of the things the new public benefit corporation will be able to do is support like minded non-profits, and in 2017 will be sponsoring three: Hack the Hood, the Internet Archive, and Black Girls Code.
Also, the organization will start to promote hackathons for non-profits and NGOs.
WordPress’s extended family
Matt gave a shoutout to WordPress’s “cousins” like BuddyPress and bbPress, highlighting a lot of features that have gone into the software in the last year.
BuddyPress and bbPress
WordPress.org itself uses BuddyPress and bbPress. For ages, it’s used outdated versions of bbPress, and in the past year launched a new support form that uses modern bbPress and WordPress profiles use bbPress. Matt says projects like these will get new support and engagement over the next year.
HackerOne is a security website that allows software organizations to offer bounties to hackers for responsibly disclosing security bugs.
GlotPress has had a big transformation in the last year, as it is no longer standalone software on top of BackPress, but rather a plugin for WordPress. If you’ve never been to translate.WordPress.org, you’ve seen GlotPress in action, and it’s pretty amazing.
WordPress.org is a central hub for the WordPress community. Matt highlighted some of the work that’s been going on this past year around languages, support forums, and more. He also says that new work will be going into P2/O2, which are used for the Make WordPress blogs.
And he gave attention to the new WordPress plugin repository, which finally uses WordPress itself, and has a whole new design. You can see the new design in action on the new demo site, which should role out to the main Plugins directory soon.
WordPress in all languages
WordPress 4.6 was available in 50 languages the day it was released. And the top 10 plugins are 82% translated in the top 12 languages used in WordPress.
Language packs have been a huge help in helping translate plugins as a community project on Translate.WordPress.org, rather than having to ship translations inside the plugin itself.
1,598 plugins are now using language packs, and 1,224 themes use them. This is huge for the future of WordPress working great in every language.
Also, in WordPress 4.7, we’ll see per-user language choices.
WordPress Growth Council
Matt recently posted about a WordPress Growth Council to help WordPress grow and maintain marketshare.
He says that what got WordPress to where it is today, won’t get WordPress to where it can be tomorrow. He blogged about this new growth council, which folks can apply for, which will help guide product direction in WordPress going forward.
Matt actually said in Post Status Slack recently that if WordPress doesn’t make changes to the interface and otherwise, he’d expect WordPress marketshare would begin to decline by 2018.
HTTPS & PHP7
11.45% of WordPress websites are now served via HTTPS. Matt talked last year about how LetsEncrypt and PHP7 were going to be a big deal, but they’ve turned out to be, “huge.” And WordPress will now start applying progressive enhancement techniques for WordPress websites.
WordPress.com is now fully on PHP7, which he says was an enormous accomplishment. He’s also announced that WordPress.org will now recommend PHP7 by default.
Matt gave some updates on Calypso’s adoption since it was released last year. He says that 68% of posts on WordPress.com are now written in Calypso. 17% of posts are written via a mobile device, and only 15% of users are using the WordPress admin. For reference, Calypso is the default method of publishing on WordPress.com now, so that includes the desktop website, desktop app, and mobile app.
Matt says that building Calypso is like, “building a plane while it’s flying.” And while it’s hard, he says it’s worth it, but it’s like rebuilding WordPress — which took 13 years to do — in only two years.
The future of Calypso includes making it “plugin aware”, so that prominent plugins (most Automattic plugins included) would be recognized and manageable via Calypso.
In fact, Calypso is plugin aware today, as the merge has just happened. So now plugins can include custom code to be manageable via Calypso. This is an interesting move to me, especially since Calypso — while open source — isn’t an official WordPress project, but rather an Automattic-owned interface.
Matt says that someday he’s like to see Calypso, “or something like it,” eventually to become the WordPress interface.
Core releases in 2016
WordPress 4.5-4.7 will have been released by the end of 2016. Matt says, “this is very much a year about doing things differently.” And in that spirit, he’s pre-announcing the jazz musician in the release. I’m sure Jeffro will be pleased WordPress 4.7 will be named “Vaughan”, after jazz musician Sarah “Sassy” Vaughan.
Helen Hou-Sandi came to the stage to discuss WordPress 4.7 in more detail.
WordPress 4.7 will include a variety of features, and will be released on Tuesday, December 6th.
New default theme
WordPress includes a new default theme that with a multi-section home page that’s a brand new WordPress feature. And generally Twenty Seventeen has a lot more broad base appeal for businesses and non-blogging applications than many past themes.
Theme setup process
Helen really wanted to focus on user interactions in WordPress 4.7. She used the example of her “tweet storm” about what it’s like to change a theme, which took dozens of steps and included a lot of unclear processes.
Themes in 4.7 can define content that ships with the theme, such as a nav menu setup, sample page content, a password protected page, and other content that would be utilized in the theme. This will be a massive improvement in the initial theme setup experience that I love to see in 4.7.
Better menu handling
WordPress 4.7 includes better menu building that will also assist the new user experience. Now when you are building a menu in the customizer, you can add a page right from the menu screen, so that if you haven’t yet written your “about” page or whatever else, you’ll be able to create that draft straight from the menu screen, so the user doesn’t have to know exactly which flow is necessary to setup their site.
Helen highlights sleeper features, like thumbnail previews for PDFs and user dashboard languages so a user can use a different language than is set by the site administrator.
The WordPress REST API
To big applause, Helen noted the inclusion of the WordPress REST API Content Endpoints in 4.7. She says that she’s excited to take the momentum and excitement around the API and turn it into more real-world projects where people test and put it to practice.
Jeff Paul and Aaron Jorbin were the deputy release leads for 4.7, and more than 475 contributors submitted code to 4.7. Over 200 of those contributors are first time contributors.
Sneak preview video
To end the preview of WordPress 4.7, Helen shared a sneak preview of the WordPress 4.7 video, created by friend Rami Abraham, that highlights “Carly”, who is a small business owner building her business website. The video shows a couple more great sleeper hits, like customizer preview icons to help editing, and video headers.
That’s WordPress 4.7
WordPress 4.7, I believe, is going to be one of the best releases we’ve seen in a long, long time. It’s jam packed, and while I’m sure we’ll have plenty of follow-on work, there’s been a hugely ambitious effort with tons of awesome contributors. None of it would’ve happened without Helen.
WordPress REST API and examples
After the video, Matt came back on stage.
A look at the past and future
Matt spent a few minutes reflecting over this past, and busy, year; but also spent time discussing the past few years and what’s in store in the future.
Matt recognized the “predictable” release cycle that we moved to around WordPress 3.8, and how that’s been a huge benefit for the platform in general.
In the past five years, we’ve seen WordPress go from 13.1% to 27.2%, and this kind of marketshare for a CMS is “unprecedented.”
He says, “What can we try next?” In other words, he wants to do things differently going forward: “What got us here, won’t get us there.” In order to do this, he’s proposing a new structure for core development.
Matt said he wants to see a simpler, faster UX, while simultaneously making it more powerful. This has been my number one goal for WordPress the last few years, so I’m thrilled to see him highlight it. In the coming releases, he, “wants to see design leading the way.”
In 2017, Matt says he’s going to be a heavily involved project lead again.
No set major releases in 2017
Matt made a huge announcement by saying that there will be no set releases in 2017. WordPress Core will continue to move forward, managing maintenance and other items, but will shift to three main focuses for features that will dictate the next several major releases:
Number 1) The WordPress REST API
He says we need shift from thinking about the input, to measuring the output. He wants the conversation of success metrics to get beyond the “thousands” when, “WordPress is in the tens of millions.”
Matt sees powering the WordPress admin with the REST API as a core focus for 2017. In addition, this effort will include shipping authentication tools in WordPress core, so that external applications can connect to WordPress websites. He says if we can’t move forward with this goal, then we need to consider making the API a plugin again.
Number 2) The Editor
Matt wants to see a lot of work on the WordPress editing experience. Matt says he showed “block-faced editor” in a State of the Word slide a few years ago, and calls it his “white whale”.
He says we need to be candid about our shortcomings with WordPress so that we can more effectively move forward. Andrew Ozz and Ella Van Isuelde have been massively influential on the editor improvements we’ve seen over the past few years, and their contributions will be huge for moving this goal forward.
Number 3) The Customizer
“The customizer is not yet fast enough, and flexible enough, to meet our current needs.” He’s excited to see all the new work going into the customizer, but knows there’s a lot of work to do to take the customizer to the next step.
How to get these goals accomplished
He says that new major versions of WordPress will not be released until these features are ready. He says that as each project is completed, there will be a major release to go around it.
I’m fascinated by this new approach. It’s like taking the current feature project framework and taking it multiple levels up. It’s definitely a way to shake things up, and that may be great, considering so many people in the WordPress space enjoy complaining about the slow process that is WordPress feature development.
Matt, as project lead, says he’ll personally be taking these on as the lead. And work will begin immediately to make it happen.
So, I don’t know if the next release will be called WordPress 4.8, or when it will be, but I’d be shocked if it’s four months like past releases. But I guess we’ll see a lot of minor releases for all the other aspects of core development.
Matt says he thinks we’ll fall while we learn to walk in this new way, and that’s okay.
I have to admit, these are some pretty surprising announcements. I’m excited to dig more into the particulars over the coming weeks, but I do think this serves as a worthwhile and important jolt into WordPress core development. That’s not to say I think WordPress development has been bad, I think it’s been great.
Matt finished by reading a poem by Elizabeth Alexander, titled, “Praise Song For The Day” that marked a fitting end to the talk.
I think the key takeaway should be like he said: “what got us here, won’t get us there.” Let’s see how this goes.
Photo credit: Brian Richards for Post Status.
DigitalCube launched Shifter at WordCamp US today, the first serverless hosting product for WordPress. The Japanese development company specializes in WordPress and AWS integrations. Shifter was built by the same team behind the company’s Amimoto cloud hosting platform.
Shifter converts WordPress sites into a series of static HTML files and serves them up via a global CDN (AWS) for high performance hosting, eliminating the burden of software maintenance and server updates. The product targets websites that have a low frequency of updates, such as business or portfolio sites, as well as maintenance and support providers.
Shifter allows site owners to turn WordPress on or off in its administration center. The service is a hybrid of a WordPress static site generator and a hosting solution. Shifter hosts the static files it creates and allows users to connect their domains. It leaves the standard WordPress management and administration workflow intact and compiles a new version of the static files anytime users update content inside WordPress. The service starts at $30/month and offers support for unlimited sites.
As the first commercial product to provide serverless WordPress hosting, Shifter offers a unique way to tackle the security concerns that plague WordPress and its plugins and themes. Because the software is used by more than 27% of all websites, it has become a big target for hackers and spammers alike. Shifter’s creators see WordPress as a prime candidate for serverless architecture.
DigitalCube team members met the Philadelphia-based J2 Design company at last year’s WordCamp US and partnered with them to improve their branding, copy writing, and approach.
“At that time, we were having problems in design, branding, and communication,” product liaison Shinichi Nishikawa said. “The name ‘Amimoto’ was originally a Japanese word and was difficult for people to pronounce or remember. We saw their work and asked them if we could form a partnership.”
Together the Amimoto and J2 Design teams took the project from concept to launch in about three months. They built Shifter with AWS, Docker, and the Serverless Framework. The development team behind the project also supports and manages sites such as The Japan Times, AOL Japan, and Mazda. They frequently contribute to open source projects, including WordPress, Serverless Framework, and WP-CLI.
Shifter has exited beta and the company has launched a Kickstarter campaign with a $10,000 goal to fund future development on the project’s roadmap, including domain mapping, a way to visualize usage of bandwidth and storage, multi-factor authentication, advanced scheduling, and WP-CLI support.
In the WordPress world, when we look back an 2016 I think we’ll remember it as the year that we awoke to the importance of marketing. WordPress has always grown organically through word of mouth and its passionate community, but the hundreds of millions being spent advertising against WP has started to have an impact, especially for folks only lightly familiar with us.
I’ve started to hear about a number of folks across many WordPress companies and industries working on this from different angles, some approaching it from an enterprise point of view and some from a consumer point of view. There’s an opportunity for learning from each other, almost like a mastermind group. As the survey says:
Never have there been more threats to the open web and WordPress. Over three hundred million dollars has been spent in 2016 advertising proprietary systems, and even more is happening in investment. No one company in the WP world is large enough to fight this, nor should anyone need to do it on their own. We’d like to bring together organizations that would like to contribute to growing WordPress. It will be a small group, and if you or your organization are interested in being a part please fill out the survey below.
By working together we can amplify our efforts to bring open source to a wider audience, and fulfill WordPress’ mission to truly democratize publishing.
If this sounds interesting to you, apply using this survey.
What is 'Seasonal Marketing' and how can you make the most of these trends? (http://gplnk.co/2gD1cXS) via
As we head into the final stretch of the year, most marketers realize they’re encountering consumers with a completely different mindset – one that is filled with twinkling lights, fizzy drinks, time with family, festive tunes, and chilly nights. As a result, most brands are shifting their messages and content so it speaks directly to this new (albeit predictable) mindset. This shift is known as seasonal marketing, and even if your company doesn’t offer something your consumer can wrap up with a bow, you can still take full advantage of the holiday season – particularly because of its cyclical nature.
"Producing that perfect piece of evergreen, seasonal content can make all the difference in driving results."
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