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The evolution of WordPress: 2023 State of the Word

On December 11th, 2023, the WordPress community tuned in as Matt Mullenweg, the co-founder of WordPress, took the stage for the eagerly awaited ‘State of the Word’ keynote. This event isn’t just a mere address; it’s a celebration of the milestones achieved by the open-source giant and a tantalizing preview of the path ahead. Dive into our detailed roundup of Mullenweg’s speech, where we unpack the pivotal moments and breakthroughs unveiled during this significant event.

For the first time, the State of the Word ventured beyond North America, choosing Madrid, Spain, as the host city. This decision reflects the vital role that Madrid plays in the WordPress project. The event was live-streamed on the WordPress YouTube channel, allowing WordPress enthusiasts and newcomers worldwide to participate.

The event kicked off with a warm, bilingual welcome from Rocío Valdivia, a respected WordPress Community Steward. Her greeting echoed the enthusiasm of Madrid’s Spanish-speaking WordPress community and its counterparts worldwide. Then Josepha Haden Chomphosy, the dynamic Executive Director of the WordPress Project, set the stage for Mullenweg’s much-anticipated keynote.

2023 retrospective

Kicking off his keynote, Matt Mullenweg delved into a reflective journey of WordPress’s triumphs in 2023. He shined a spotlight on the year’s most significant milestones, underscoring the collective efforts and breakthroughs of the community. A standout achievement that Mullenweg proudly emphasized was the remarkable surge in WordCamps. With a record-breaking 70 events spanning 33 countries, this figure more than doubled the count from the previous year, showcasing an expanding global footprint and vibrant engagement within the WordPress community.

The relaunch of WordPress Showcase

Mullenweg’s keynote highlighted the WordPress Showcase, emphasizing the platform’s versatility and power in creating professional and highly functional websites. This initiative aimed to provide a richer array of examples showcasing what WordPress is capable of. To illustrate the platform’s impressive performance capabilities, Mullenweg pointed to Time.com’s remarkable achievement: handling 100,000 requests per second when Taylor Swift was named Person of the Year. Furthermore, he showcased WordPress’s robust security features by citing Whitehouse.gov as a prominent example of a high-profile website powered by WordPress.

Openverse and the Open Education Award

Mullenweg brought attention to Openverse, a noteworthy initiative that earned acclaim by winning in the Open Infrastructure category at the Open Education Awards. This project, dedicated to bolstering open education, plays a pivotal role in expanding web access and enhancing affordability in the educational sphere. Such an accolade underscores WordPress’s dedication to advancing open education and its active support for initiatives that amplify educational access and opportunities.

Re-introducing Playground

In his keynote, Mullenweg reacquainted the audience with ‘Playground,’ an innovative tool designed to empower users, learners, extenders, and contributors by enabling the instant creation of a WordPress environment directly within a browser. Playground serves as an accessible and intuitive platform, ideal for executing straightforward design tasks or developing new WordPress plugins. To explore and utilize Playground, simply head over to developer.wp.org/playground, or to learn more, check out the video on WordPress.org

The new default theme

Mullenweg unveiled the 2024 WordPress theme, which incorporates over 35 built-in patterns and fully utilizes the capabilities of Gutenberg. This theme received praise from users, with some even calling it the best default WordPress theme of all time. The theme’s integration with Gutenberg showcases the power and potential of the block editor in creating visually stunning and dynamic websites.

Growing the WordPress community

In 2023, the WordPress community witnessed an impressive surge in growth, welcoming 1,339 new contributors to the project. This remarkable increase not only highlights the expanding reach and appeal of the WordPress ecosystem but also underscores its vibrant and ongoing support around the world. 

These new contributors, coming from diverse backgrounds and bringing fresh perspectives, have fueled the platform’s continuous evolution. Their dedication and passion are more than just numbers and represent a collective commitment to enhancing and refining WordPress. The community’s involvement is a cornerstone in WordPress’s journey, driving innovation and fostering an environment of collaborative growth.

Audience at the 2023 State of the Word

Looking forward to 2024

Mullenweg discussed the dynamic evolution of Gutenberg, WordPress’s block editor engine. He shared an update on Phase 3, which will focus on real-time collaboration. But the vision doesn’t stop there. Mullenweg teased the upcoming transition to Phase 4, an ambitious leap toward multilingual development. This move promises to break language barriers, offering unparalleled flexibility and functionality and taking bigger strides towards democratizing the web for all. 

Writing flow improvements and design enhancements

Matias Ventura, the lead architect of the Gutenberg project, took the stage to describe enhancements in writing flow and design. These improvements introduce features like footnotes and improved distraction-free writing modes. Additionally, the Core team is working on advanced design tools to build visually appealing content, such as a Summit mode that will allow developers to build sites that will give clients the ability to customize some of their sites without breaking the overall design.

Custom fields and more user-friendly UI

The WordPress team worked on a new user interface that allows for easy connection between blogs and custom fields. This improvement aims to bridge the gap between developer-friendly custom fields and user-friendly blogs, providing a seamless experience for both developers and users.

Performance update for the WordPress editor

One initiative we can all get behind is the optimization of the WordPress editor. Mullenweg announced that the editor will soon be twice as fast, with the team aiming to make it even faster in the upcoming WordPress 6.5 release. This performance update will benefit both site editors and visitors, ensuring a smooth and efficient editing and viewing experience.

Interactive experiences with the Interactivity API

Mullenweg introduced the Interactivity API, which allows WordPress users to create engaging and interactive experiences on their websites. This experimental API presents new opportunities for creating dynamic and interactive content. Users can explore the proposal, test the Interactivity API at wpmovies.dev, and provide valuable feedback, which will help the developers enhance the API even further.

Mullenweg discusses data liberation at the 2023 State of the Word

Data liberation and migration tools

Mullenweg brought into focus his team’s dedication to data liberation and the development of advanced migration tools. This commitment is particularly important in an environment where many non-WordPress platforms do not provide export tools, making content migration to WordPress or other competitors a significant challenge. WordPress has always been a pioneer in user empowerment, facilitating seamless transitions from platforms like Wix. This approach not only fosters a more open web but also addresses a common hurdle for users desiring platform flexibility. Moreover, the roll-out of new, first-party community plugins on WordPress.org will further streamline data liberation, eliminating digital barriers and granting users greater control over their content.

The Q&A session

The question and answer session marked the most interactive segment of Matt Mullenweg’s State of the Word address, offering insights into key WordPress topics. During this session, attendees, both live and online, had the opportunity to pose thought-provoking questions, which Mullenweg addressed, shedding light on WordPress’s future, monetization strategies, and the role of AI in an open and inclusive community. Jose Ramón Padrón, head of Spanish-speaking communities and growth at Automattic, moderated the Q&A.

Monetization strategies for blogs

During the Q&A session, the topic of monetization for blogs was raised. Mullenweg acknowledged that the ad ecosystem is changing, with GDPR regulations posing challenges for independent publishers. He emphasized that building an audience and creating great content remain the best ways to monetize a blog. Strategies such as merchandise sales, sponsorships, and paid subscriptions can generate revenue and foster a strong relationship with readers.

Integrating ActivityPub

An attendee inquired about WordPress’s plans to deepen its integration with ActivityPub. Matt Mullenweg responded by highlighting the recent upgrade of ActivityPub to a community plugin and its official inclusion in the fediverse. He also hinted at future integration with platforms like Tumblr while emphasizing the need for increased demand to drive substantial integration efforts, especially considering the current modest 5,000 installations.

AI and WordPress

Mullenweg discussed the role of artificial intelligence (AI) in the future of WordPress. While it was disappointing to learn that there are no immediate plans to incorporate AI into WordPress functionality, Mullenweg shared his excitement about the potential for generative AI to create conversational interfaces with WordPress and encouraged everyone to continue learning about AI and AI tools. Mullenweg emphasized the importance of finding effective ways to communicate with AI tools for maximum benefit.

What is truly in store for 2024?

The State of the Word 2023 was a thrilling window into the dynamic world of WordPress. Mullenweg’s keynote celebrated the past year’s triumphs and unveiled groundbreaking developments on the horizon. From the transformative enhancements in Gutenberg to the pioneering strides in data liberation and AI integration, WordPress is not just evolving — it’s revolutionizing how we interact with the digital world. Looking forward, it seems clear that WordPress will continue to lead the charge in the open-source arena, consistently driving innovation and empowering a diverse, global community. 

Keep your finger on the pulse of this ever-evolving platform by staying connected with Namecheap and EasyWP, your go-to sources for all things WordPress. The journey ahead promises to be nothing short of extraordinary.

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Rodney Brazil avatar

Rodney Brazil

Rodney is the Content Marketing Editor for EasyWP, and a writer at Namecheap. As an SEO specialist, he strives to create entertaining and valuable publications for all internet creators. Offline, he enjoys running, acting, and pizza. More articles written by Rodney.

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