After two full days of talks, parties, and networking, WordCampers lined up to fill the massive room at the top of the conference center. It was Matt Mullenweg’s 10th annual State of the Word address, in which we learn about the last year in WordPress and what’s to come.
Mullenweg began by thanking the city of Philadelphia, sponsors, the 200 volunteers, and organizers saying, “this has been the smoothest WordCamp ever.”
This year was huge for WordPress events. There were 115 total WordCamps in 41 countries, with 36,000 tickets sold. 750 organizer worked on those camps and 2,056 speakers talked. That was dwarfed by the 3,193 MeetUps held across 58 countries.
This year’s WordCamp US alone brought in 1,898 in-person attendees and 1,878 live stream.
All of these WordCamps were supported by the WordPress Foundation, which had an increase in revenue this year from $2.8 million to $4.3 million. In the past, the Foundation has been considered a nonprofit, which means there are very specific rules WordCamp organizers must follow.
To streamline this process, the WordCamp part of Foundation will be held under a subsidiary called WordPress Community Support. It will be owned by the Foundation but actual WordCamps will get more flexibility in how they operate.
Instead, the Foundation will support like-minded non-profits such as Hack the Hood, Internet Archive, and Black Girls Code. Money will also go towards running educational workshops in underdeveloped countries and promoting hackathons for nonprofits and NGOs.
After its release this year, Hacker One has reported over 65 hackers fixing bugs and getting paid for it. Mullenweg said the program will be expanding in the coming months but didn’t specify how yet. Make sure to watch it if you’re interested in helping.
Another big security win this year was HTTPS. Currently, 11.45 percent of WordPress active sites are on HTTPS. With that, more and more hosting companies are making it the default for all sites. Mullenweg hopes to increase this next year and mentioned there will be certain features to come that will only be available if your site is HTTPS.
“We want more and more of the web to be secure,” Mullenweg said.
One of the biggest focuses for WordPress.org was something near to Mullenweg’s heart — support. He got his start in support forums and understands just how important they are, and he encouraged others to jump in a forum.
“Participating in forums is not just a great way to help other people but a great way to learn as well,” Mullenweg said.
There was huge plugin news with a 20 percent increase in downloads this year. Mullenweg pointed to the cause for this being internalization. During translation day this year, 17,ooo people contributed. There are almost 1600 plugins that come with language packs. That number is up from 314 the year before showing how important accessible plugins are to the WordPress community.
“WordPress is great but WordPress with plugins is magical,” Mullenweg said.
Accessibility & Marketing
Accessibility was a huge theme in this year’s State of the Word. Mullenweg pointed to the new site, design.blog. It features essays from 40 different people about design and diversity.
He pointed at two particular essays that look at how changing your thinking can allow for a more inclusive design. WordPress can play a huge part in allowing different and unique voices to be heard.
“A lot of our opprotunities to grow in the coming year is on the human side,” Mullenweg said.
He also urged developers to check out the accessibility guidelines and allow their code to be more accessible. “You’re addressing wider and wider audiences and bringing more and more people in,” he said.
WordPress got by on a lot of marketing by happenstance. But we now have a real opportunity to coordinate a little bit. There’s no one company in WordPress company can do that but we’re a community. We can become a lot more sophisticated with our messaging on WordPress.org.
2016 was the year of PHP 7. That said, only 4 percent of sites were on 7 or above. In addition, the official recommendations on WordPress.org for WordPress is PHP 7 or greater and HTTPS.
WordPress.com is 100 percent on PHP 7 and since making the change performance has doubled and CPU load fell in half. Mullenweg urged everyone to consider making the switch to PHP 7.
For the first time ever, the namesake for the upcoming core release was announced. WordPress 4.7 will be named “Vaughan” after American Jazz Singer Sarah Vaughan. Release lead Helen Hou-Sandi led a walkthrough of the upcoming features including the new default theme, live previews, and REST API content endpoints.
Mullenweg wrapped up the talk with a discussion of the future. The biggest thing changing will be the release schedule — most notably, there won’t be one. Instead of trying to stay to three releases a year like we have been for the last five years, Mullenweg is going to take the role of production lead and focus on three main areas. Now, instead of pushing a release at a certain time, nothing will be updated until it is the way he wants it.
“Design will be leading the way for coming releases,” Mullenweg said. “These main focuses are all we’re going to work on until they are ready.”
The first focus will be the REST API. According to Mullenweg, the team will shift from thinking about what is being put into core but instead look at how what is being added is affecting users. A huge goal is to get the REST API running on every WordPress site. For now, one of the biggest problems with the API is authentication, so that will be a main focus.
Another focus will be the editor.
“WordPress was created from publishing and editing and we should have the best interface in the world for that,” Mullenweg said.
The editor is something that is very important to Mullenweg and he went as far as to say he will keep working on it until he dies or until he sees it become what he imagines it to be. That would mean having a more efficient interface and not having widgets, menus, shortcodes, and sidebars feel like different things.
The last point of focus for the year will be the customizer. According to Mullenweg, we should be able to edit something and see it immediately preferably on multiple devices.
Each of these focus areas will have a tech lead and a design lead, both of whom will be in constant communication. There will no longer be a date guaranteed and nothing will ship until it is up to the goal set in place for it.
“We’re at the point now where the steps we need to take over the remaining portion of the web is significant,” Mullenweg said. “I am certain we will fall a few times over the coming year as we think about this but I’m looking forward to talking about it at the town hall in WC Europe in six months.”
Mullenweg ended the talk with the thing that brought us all here in the first place, the beauty of the code.
“It’s time to get back in touch with our poetic side,” he said.