Podcast Episode

419 – State of the Word 2018


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State of the Word 2018

In today’s podcast, I recap the annual State of the Word address made by Matt Mullenweg at WordCamp US in Nashville, TN.

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Full Transcript

Business Transcription is provided by GMR Transcription.

On today’s episode, we are going to talk about the recap of WordCamp U.S. and the State of the Word, right here on Your Website Engineer Podcast, Episode No. 419. Hello and welcome to another episode of Your Website Engineer Podcast. My name is Dustin Hartzler, and there has been a ton of activity in the last couple days when it comes to the WordPress space, so let’s go ahead and dive right in. We’ll talk all about it.

The first piece of news and the only news that I’m gonna share with you this week is WordPress 5.0 “Bebo” is now out into the WOW. There have been huge updates to the editor, if you haven’t heard. Gutenberg has been merged into core, and it is an incredible release. I’m in the camp of really liking it. I really enjoy this new interface. I don’t have the – my show notes are very basic, so I don’t have a lot of chance to create these blocks, and have images, and move things around, but people that don’t like it just say that they don’t like it. I haven’t heard real compelling reasons like, “Oh, it’s harder to use,” or “I don’t like the block feature,” or “It’s unintuitive.” It’s really difficult to make a product better when someone just says, “Oh, I don’t like it.” So, if you do have feedback, whether you like it or not, let me know, let people that are developing WordPress know so they can make those changes and those adjustments to make it better.

I know that change is hard, and we don’t like to change, and it’s been dozens of years – okay, not dozens of years, but it’s been 10 years since anything has changed with the visual editor within WordPress, and I think this is a great change, and if you haven’t updated to 5.0, do it now. I think it’s really cool. There are lots of new blocks that we’ll talk about. We’re not gonna dive all in to WordPress 5.0 here on the show because I’ve got a lot to cover from the State of the Word and what’s happening in the WordPress space over the last year.

But, WordPress 5.0 has the same Gutenberg editor, and it’s included with blocks, and there are a few blocks that are automatically included, so you can make a block of text that’s a paragraph or a heading, you can do preformatted text, so if you want it to look like code snippets, or you can do a quote, an image, a gallery, a cover, a video/audio columns, files, code, lists, button embeds, and there’s tons more that are out there. There are blocks that are coming for almost all of the major plugins – so, WooCommerce, Yoast, all of the big-name plugins that you’re familiar with. There’s gonna be blocks to help you add those things easier.

The big thing with WordPress 5.0 is we’re gonna try to eliminate the use of short codes. Short codes are those weird codes that you have to figure out how to use, and then you can add it, and it’s just kind of a pain point. With blocks, you can start typing, you can do the backslash key – that’s the one with the question mark – so you can do backslash and then “paragraph,” and you can start typing a paragraph, or you can do backslash “list” and you can start typing an ordered list. You can do a lot of things right from the keyboard, and you don’t have to use the mouse a lot. I really like it, it’s really cool, and I highly recommend checking it out.

Also, with the release of WordPress 5.0, there is a stunning new default theme. It is the 2019 theme, and it is designed for the block editor, so there are some features, custom styles, and whatnot that work specifically with the block editor. It’s a simple type-driven layout, it’s versatile for all themes and sites, and it is really cool. You need to give this a try and take a look at this. I know that some of these “20” version themes – 2012, 2013, 2014 – some of them aren’t the best, but I really like the visuals of this.

So, that’s what I wanted to share with you today. The plugin of the week is going to go along with the news of WordPress 5.0, and if you aren’t quite ready to showcase to your clients, maybe you’re still trying to figure out how we can start using the block editor, you can always turn on the Classic Editor. It is a plugin; it will remain in WordPress through 2021, so that gives us three full years of moving on and getting into the Gutenberg experience before you actually have to start using Gutenberg. So, you can check out the Classic Editor – it’s a plugin in the WordPress repository – and that will basically make your WordPress site exactly the same as it was. Of course, you won’t get that new editor experience, but you can always toggle that plugin on and off when you are ready to use Gutenberg.

All right. Let’s talk about this weekend. This weekend was WordCamp U.S. It happened in the United States in Nashville, Tennessee. It is the second year for WordCamp U.S. in Nashville, so next year, it will be moving to St. Louis. As they do, they like to have these national events in two locations or in one location twice annually, and that way, it just makes it easier for logistics the second time and whatnot, so next year, it’s moving to St. Louis, and I was able to attend WordCamp Nashville. I wasn’t able to go to the State of the Word live, mainly because I was a volunteer in helping out at the WooCommerce booth all weekend, and in that time, as soon as the State of the Word started, that was the time that it took a couple hours to tear down our booth, get everything packed up, and sent back to the warehouse.

So, the State of the Word – I just wanted to give you some recaps of what’s going on in the WordPress space, and Matt kind of flipped it this year. Usually, he does all of the stats about how many WordPress installations there are, what percentage of the internet, and how many WordCamps, and all this kind of stuff. Normally, that’s one of the first things, and then he talks about whatever’s to come. Well, this year, it was all about Gutenberg at the start, and then we’ve got the stats as we go, so let’s go ahead, and we’ll talk about all those things right now.

So, the State of the Word was delivered at 4:00 p.m. Central at WordCamp, so it was the very last thing. Matt started off by talking about the four freedoms – the freedom to run the program for any purpose, the freedom to study the program and how it works and change it to make it do what you wish, the freedom to redistribute the code, and the freedom to distribute copies of your modified versions to others. So, those are the four freedoms of WordPress. The data is portable; you can move it anywhere you want. You can run it from anywhere from an AWS server on Amazon that has millions and millions of people viewing your website down to a Raspberry Pi for a small integration or some sort of small application inside your own house.

It’s both free and priceless. This is one of my favorite things about WordPress. There’s so many people that make a living – a full-time living – from this free software, so it is free, but it’s also priceless at the same time. You can keep WordPress – you can use WordPress and keep your entire life. You can grow with you, and it’ll continue to stay updated. The core team will continue to add new features like Gutenberg and keep it up with the times. It is supported by a robust commercial ecosystem of over $10 billion per year, so what this means is with that $10 billion a year, how much people spend on premium plugins, on service, on hosting and whatnot, so it’s a huge, huge industry when it comes to this free software.

WordPress also – one of the taglines is “democratizing publishing,” and that’s something that we talk about a lot. It just allows people that do not need to know a lot of technical information, but they can share their voice with the world and be able to create a WordPress site. To democratize means that everyone can use it regardless of language, device used, physical ability, income, location, or technical proficiency. That’s what “democratize publishing” means to the WordPress project.

Right now, we’re at 32.5 percent market share. That is very close to one third of the web. I can remember when it was back, like, 1 out of every 5 or 1 out of every 8 sites are running WordPress. Now, we’re almost to the point where it’s 1 out of every 3 websites that you navigate on a daily basis is a WordPress site. It is really astounding where WordPress is going. It’s the main reason that thousands of people flocked to Nashville, was to meet and to hang out, and it was a really great time, and it was a lot of fun to see people and see what kind of products are out there in the industry.

So, WordPress still has some problems, though. That was the next piece that Matt went into. We’ve still got some problems. He was talking about – it feels like we’re still writing a blog back in 2005. There’s – add two images side by side – why can’t I do that in WordPress? I’d like to – this is very finicky – how do I do this with the visual editor? It does not work. These are some comments that people had with the old-school, classic editor, if you will. Why? Why are you not moving? Why does it not look like what it looks like in the composer? What’s going on here? When I go to “Add Media,” there’s no video available for me to add. What’s going on with that? Why can’t I do that? And, there’s a bunch of images inside his slide deck of these things not working. Why would I add a caption? How would I add a caption? I have no clue what’s going on here.

And so, if you ever – and, another comment here took up a full slide, and it’s so true, and you see this every day working in support. If you ever try to copy text from a Microsoft Word document and then paste it into a poster page within WordPress, then you know the text never looks right when you publish it in your blog. Suffice to say, Word and WordPress are not very compatible.

So, WordPress – there are some issues. There are some things. The core team has spent an entire year and a half trying to fix that. That’s what blocks are all about. Those are the things that are in the new editor. It allows you to easily move things around, and Matt’s point here are blocks are predictable, tactile, and can be simple, like a text block, or as rich as an e-commerce interface. And so, that’s when he goes into his whole spiel about WordPress 5.0. He shows where you can copy and paste things out of a Google doc into WordPress, and it looks just fine. It strips out all the unnecessary code.

And then, he starts into the process of talking about Gutenberg – how it performed. Gutenberg was the plugin, if you remember, that we talked about for a year, basically. It was a plugin that had 1.2 million active installs. There was 1.2 million posts written, and 39,000 posts were written yesterday when he gave this presentation on Saturday – so, Friday, 39,000 posts were written yesterday with Gutenberg.

So, when it comes to the development, there was 8,684 commits with more than 340 contributors. Three hundred and forty individual people helped to write code to make Gutenberg work. Who’s sharing this? – and, this is part of the stats that’s going on with Gutenberg – there were 277 WordCamp talks. That’s up 1,285 percent. So, 277 WordCamp talks specifically on Gutenberg. There was 555 meetup events about Gutenberg, and there were more than 1,000 blog posts specific to Gutenberg.

Now, he talked about themes a little bit and how themes are getting ready for Gutenberg; they’re continuing to grow. And then, he spent some time talking about 2019 – the new default theme. It’s built with Gutenberg. And then, he highlighted some new websites that were built completely with Gutenberg, and so, there’s a few of them out there. And then, the big joke was – a few years ago, he said, “Learn JavaScript deeply.” That was something that was kind of the buzzword – I believe it was two or three years ago. So, instead of learning PHP, it was now “Learn JavaScript deeply,” and then he’s got a slide in there that says, “Learn blocks deeply.” It’s kind of a play on that. So, learn how these blocks work, how to create blocks for your plugins, and how to make that interface and things look so much nicer.

So, the blocks is what now WordPress is made of. There are 70 native blocks, there are 100-plus third-party blocks, and there’s more than 1,000 layout configurations based on all of those blocks. So, blocks in the wild – it’s basically this area where you go and you start typing with the backslash, and then you can type “paragraph,” or “tag,” or – any – there’s a lot of them out there – “heading.” There’s “images,” there’s “galleries,” all that kind of stuff, and then you can start adding these to a post or a page. You can continue to add another block by hitting the “Enter” command, and “Enter” will move them down to the next line.

And then, you can start with a new block there, or you can continue with a paragraph block, a heading block, or whatever. And then, he shows – there’s some previews of how this works, showing some screenshots of the dashboard, using this new Gutenberg, what different blocks look like, so you can create a profile block if you’re running a website that has a bunch of employees or you have a team, and you can create a profile block, so you fill in the information for every person, and it displays exactly the same way on the front end.

Just a bunch of different things – a contact form, how to build just a page that has headings, and paragraphs, and block quotes, and all that kind of stuff built in. So, there’s a lot of screenshots in this, and you can watch the video – I’ve got it embedded on the show notes for Episode No. 419, so you can watch it. I’m just trying to condense this down so you don’t have to spend time watching the entire thing, but it is really neat to see and watch it live, and hear Matt say what he says about all of the different slides that he’s got in his presentations.

The next slide in this presentation is about blocks and how they’re multiplying, so now, there are blocks for Storefront, for Jetpack, for GhostKit, there’re Ultra Blocks, there are editor blocks for Stackable, Atomic Blocks – there are all kinds of blocks that are coming out there. And, there’s new libraries emerging – there’s a Gutenberg hub, there’s Gutenberg cloud, there is Gutenblock Toolkit so you can learn how to build blocks, which is really nice. There’s this thing called Block Lab that will allow you to create your own block, and basically, it generates the code necessary to create your own block, which I think is really nice.

Let’s see. We’ve got – CSS Tricks is talking about building blocks, learning Gutenberg, and how to get blocks created. What else? The next slide talks about devices used, and 52.97 percent are using desktop, with 44 percent doing it on mobile and about 3 percent of folks using WordPress on a tablet. The new editor is fully responsive, so we’re future-proofing that new editor, so no matter what type of device you’re using, you can edit and you can create content right on the go, whether it be on your phone, a tablet, or a computer.

The mobile apps – they’re continuing to meet all of the user’s needs with new versions of mobile apps. We talked about how many – 3.1 million photos and videos have been uploaded through the mobile app, 1.3 million posts were published last month. And, they’re merging Gutenberg into the mobile apps, so there’s a beta editor in February of 2019 for the WordPress app.

In review, WordPress exists to increase access to publishing, there were fundamental core problems, Gutenberg Phase 1 begins to address them, blocks are the new mental model of WordPress, and we’re bringing all this to devices in the future. And so, that is Phase 1. He gave a thank you to a few folks that spent time and hundreds of hours getting ready for Gutenberg Phase 1. Now, there are multiple phases – it goes up to Phase 4 – but Phase 2 is customizing outside of the page, and post content is complicated.

So, if you have a site that has an area where it’s got widgets, it’s got menus, and it’s got all kinds of things, Phase 2 is where you’re gonna start managing that. They’ve got a couple screenshots of what it could look like, but Phase 2 – and then, they’re gonna start working on this now – is to get blocks in the customizer, make it easier to lay out your content around your site that’s not a post and not a page.

And, they’re gonna work with menus as well. What does that look like? How can they make that menu interface very similar to the Gutenberg experience? So, those are some things that they’re working on – maybe even editing those menus in-line and not having to go to a menu section, but start editing them in-line without having to look at the back end of your dashboard.

So, that’s Phase 1 – Phase 1 is complete. Phase 2 is – they’re gonna be working on in 2019. The early version of Phase 2 will begin in the Gutenberg plugin, so we’ll need to reactivate Gutenberg, and that’s where we’ll start seeing those adjustments, and I’ll keep you updated as those things come into play and as we continue to work through the calendar year of 2019, when Gutenberg Phase 2 continues to roll out.

Phases 3 and 4 – that’ll be 2020 and beyond. So, Phase 3 is collaboration or multi-user editing of Gutenberg and workflows, and then, Phase 4 is regardless of language spoken, so it’s an official way for WordPress to support multilingual sites. Right now, some of the outstanding issues that are going is to create a navigation menu block to port all widgets to blocks, to add block support to widget editing, to register theme content areas visually in Gutenberg, to do a site health check, to add optional plugins or optional auto-updates for plugins, themes, and major versions of WordPress, create a block director in WordPress.org, and tackle the over 6,500 open issues inside of WordPress core. The minimum PHP version in April is going to be set at 5.6, and by December 2019, it will be – the minimum version will be 7.0, so we’re getting to those newer and newer versions of PHP.

So, thank you for – 4.9 was Matt’s next slide. He said there were more than 173 million downloads, and 68.4 percent are running WordPress 4.9. The release cycles went 4.9 to 4.9.8, and there was nine security fixes, 250 bug fixes, and that’s where we went until we got to WordPress 5.0. After one day of the code being ready, WordPress 4.7 – so, that was a few years ago – or, a while ago, I guess – WordPress 4.7 was downloaded and installed 2.20 million times, and WordPress 5.0 on the first day was downloaded 2.35 million times and installed, so it’s right on pace.

There’s not hundreds of millions of people saying, “No, I’m not gonna update my site.” People are updating their sites. When you update and activate WordPress 5.0, it’s going to deactivate the Gutenberg plugin by default, so just remember that, and then, if you do need that Classic Editor, you can update that as well.

So, that was 2018, and things that they learned – what the core development team learned is we need various teams across WordPress working together better, we need to keep learning JavaScript even more deeply, there’s the importance of triage and code freezes, and always announce release dates. That was probably one of the biggest sticking points with Gutenberg. It was gonna release this day, and then it got pushed, and then it was gonna release this day, and then that got pushed, and then, all of a sudden, boom! It came out the day before WordCamp U.S. I don’t think nobody was ready – the core team was ready, and they were communicating, but there was never a really official push-out to the community, like, “WordPress 5.0 is coming out on Thursday,” and so, that was one of the lessons that are learned.

The betas – it was tested more than 100 times more, and so, there was millions of active installs of Gutenberg testing and checking things in the wild, which is really good. Open source is amazing – one thing that they learned: Open source is difficult to develop in public. That’s another secret that was learned this year. Fifty-seven percent of WordPress sites are now using HTTPS. This is up 20 percent, and here come some of the stats that Matt has in his slide deck. There’s WordCamps – they’re growing every year. There was 145 WordCamps in 48 countries, and that’s up 13 percent from last year. There were 45,000 tickets sold for WordCamps. That’s up 14 percent. And then, the organizers, speakers, and sponsors are all up as well. There was 1,300 organizers, which was up 33 percent, 2,600 speakers, up 13 percent, and 1,100 sponsors, which is up five percent from previous years.

There’s an endless community of meetups, and so, there’s 350,000 people in WordPress at meetup groups, so that’s up 50 percent, so that’s – that’s a huge amount of new people that have found meetups on meetup.com. There are 687 meetup groups, up 25 percent, and there were 5,400 meetup events, also up 24 percent. So, people are meeting even outside of these big meetups; they’re meeting in their local communities, which is awesome.

Matt wrapped it up talking about WordPress.org just a little bit, that if you go to WordPress.org/about, you can see the mission statement. If you go to /download, you can see how you can download and get the latest version of WordPress. You can go to profiles.WordPress.org/username, and then you fill in your username, and you can see all of the badges and all of the bio and stuff, so you can have your own profile on WordPress.org. You can go to WordPress.org/support to see support, you can see the forums, and you can post any issues that you may be having. You can go to WordPress.org/Gutenberg, and you can get a feel for what Gutenberg is without actually installing it on your site.

And, that’s pretty much it. Thank you to the sponsors, Matt said, to Blue Host, Google, WooCommerce, and Jetpack, and that was the wrap. There was a ton of organizers that helped put the WordCamp on. There were 200-plus volunteers that put the thing on. The video is in the show notes, so you can go ahead and watch it there, or you can watch it on Matt’s site over at matt.blog, and that’s what I wanted to share with you today – the recap of WordCamp U.S.

It was a lot of fun, like I said, and it was an amazing time to just connect with the community, and see what people thought about Gutenberg, and how we can improve WooCommerce, and it was just a great opportunity to go and see people, eat some delicious steak and barbecue, and just have a good time getting together in the WordPress space.

I’m really excited now for WordCamp Dayton that’s happening now in three months, and so, that’s happening on the first and second of March, and so, if you are interested in coming, I would highly recommend it, and you can head over to 2019.Dayton.WordCamp.com and find out more information there, and if you are looking for other WordCamps, head on over to WordCamp.org, and you can find all of the WordCamps that are in your local area so that you don’t have to drive or fly all the way to Ohio; you can find ones that are local to you.

And so, with that, that’s a wrap, and thanks so much for listening and hearing the State of the Word, and if you wanna hear the full thing, go ahead and watch it over at matt.td.blog, or you can listen to it and watch it on YourWebsiteEngineer.com, Episode No. 419. So, until next week, take care and we’ll talk again soon. Bye-bye.