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WCUS 2018 State of the Word

WCUS 2018 State of the Word


Last year, all people wanted to know was how will Gutenberg evolve and improve the overall WordPress environment. Not so many things changed this year, as well. With the recent 5.0 update and all that it brought with it, the WordPress community was eager to learn how we all can cope with the changes that happened. Here’s what Matt had to say about it all.

WCUS 2018 State of the Word recap

With just days from the 5.0 release, the key point we all waited to hear was how well and reliable the update has been made. Still, Matt started his State of the Word talk with the so-called Bill of rights, The four freedoms:


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Followed by the common mission – democratizing publishing and its meaning:


Later on, Matt reminded us of the struggles of the classic editor in WordPress and quickly reintroduced us to the Gutenberg Editor (which we also described earlier). Among new Gutenberg features, I was happy to see things like:

  • Preview animation (ghostwriting, spoiler alert)
  • Beautiful transitions between blocks
  • mobile apps Gutenberg in February 2019, bringing all to the devices of the future

that will make content creation much more interactive, useful and fun!

Afterward, Matt briefly mentioned the status quo for the past decade with the classic editor and how it wasn’t good enough, stating how so many of us got used to the workarounds. Only to finish it with the concept and a solution for the status quo – blocks:


So, if questioned about the key takeaway from the WCUS 2018 State of the Word, I would repeat his words:

Learn blocks deeply. Learn javaScript more deeply.

since they are the present and future of WordPress. So, to recap the first part of his talk, Matt summed it up like this:


Moving on to the next talk segment which was phase 2, 3 and 4 announcements. Plenty of interesting things are about to happen in the WordPress ecosystem I’d say:




To sum it up: the idea is to manage sidebar content area with Gutenberg, bring the new inline editing experience to customizing your entire site. Convert widgets and elements in blocks, as well as everything you could do in menus to be able to put into a block. And then, phase 3 and 4 multi-user editing and workflows, bringing Google Docs collaboration capabilities into WordPress.

At the very end, Matt shared what he learned during this past year and working around Gutenberg and 5.0.


The conclusion of this years #sotw was that Guttenberg happened completely in the public eye, but too many decisions were made in silos and not clearly communicated. Something that can and will be improved for 5.1 and beyond. What’s more interesting, changes that are along the way could mean that we might not need 10k-20k themes in the future. That a lot of the customization moves to verticals, allowing people head starts for their business.

One more interesting information was that we all as a community are making the overall web a safer place: 57% of WordPress sites are using HTTPS! Still a long way to go but we’re getting there.

Also, a new thing starting this year: a theme song and a very first choice is Tighten up by Archie Bell & The Drell (hidden meaning perhaps?):

WCUS 2018 State of the Word Q&A

Traditionally, Matt’s talk was finished with a Q&A session which went exactly like this.

Q1: What is the role of themes as phase 2 is completed?

Matt: Everything is going to change, themes will need to add new support. We will let themes opt into replacing headers and footers with reusable content blocks. Themes will be able to register block areas. With themes more easily modifiable, we may not need 20,000 themes anymore but definitely will need more than hundreds. Also, I am not clairvoyant. I am curious to see what folks build with this framework.

Q2: What lessons have been learned about communication and transparency? A lot of  blog posts have come from Automattic employees coming into 5.0

Matt: Automattic has a lot of employees, but we had a lot of non-Automattic releases leads too. We tried to read and respond to every Gutenberg plugin review, read Twitter, YouTube comments, and get as much feedback as possible. We have a way we do things in WordPress regardless of company affiliation. So, we shouldn’t attack the company because of individual employees if anything, it encourages more companies to donate employee time to the project.

Q3: Will you define a more robust layout language for WordPress?

Matt: We are starting to develop this, but are watching what people are building organically to learn from them. We’re not there yet. The mockups I showed are just mockups.

Q4: In Japanese, we had a difficult time translating the mission of “democratizing publishing,” thirteen years ago, and the world has changed so much since then, could you explain what that means today?

Matt: It’s a broad mission we can work on the rest of our lives… WordPress has succeeded as much as it has because we were more flexible and easier to use than our competitors. In the last ten years, we have lagged behind on that, and we should have been working on Gutenberg earlier.

Q5: Why isn’t WordCampUS called WordCamp America to encourage Canadian cities to compete?

Matt: It used to be called WordCamp San Francisco, so we are headed in the right direction. I hope Canadian cities apply to host in 2021 or 2022.


Q6: What can we do to set aside funds for contributors who don’t have employers donating their time?

Matt: The WordPress Foundation has 0 employees, so we don’t need HR, management, or oversight. Employers who donate employee time take care of that for us. I will consider it.

Q7: You mentioned folks gave 1 star reviews on Gutenberg as a feedback mechanism, what would be better?

Matt: I don’t know. Voting is hard; representative elections are hard, we don’t know.

Q8: I wanted to talk to you about the use of the word “We.” Is “We” the people in this room, everyone who uses WordPress, or is it Matt Mullenweg? The post that announced 5.0 said “We have decided…” and there is no way for the community to know who “we” is. No one knows. Who is “we” in the future?

Matt: “We” is contextual. In terms of the release date, it was the 5.0 release leads. I also said “I” as in “I take responsibility.” I don’t just go in a cave and decide these things. It was really difficult to have these conversations. WordPress tries to have conversations in the open, but newcomers were entering those chats and causing distractions. We created a private channel just for the 5.0 release leads, without drive-by folks. Can you imagine if your company meetings had random folks talk for 5min?

We need to help people feel like they were heard. I did a lot of work leading up to the release listening to people. There were a lot of inputs.

Q8: You realize you are describing a government structure w/o a government?

Matt: If only there were a meetup for that.

Q9: What does the release cadence look like in the future?

Matt: Let me tell you about my dreams. Channels based on stability: stable, beta, nightly. I want to aspire to a cadence where we start a two-week sprint and freeze the previous one.

Q10: Native multilingual functionality, what does that look like from a functional standpoint?

Matt: I don’t know, & I don’t want to prescribe a specific technical direction. We need to experiment. I want us to get customization out of the way 1st, as layout/image may need translation.

Q11: Organizer of WordCamp Moscow asks: How does 5.0 upset the theme/plugin dichotomy, as blocks are theme-y but released as plugins?

Matt: We are seeing the first bits of this now. We will need a block directory and a layout directory. Please don’t put blocks in themes.

Q12: How will you make sure that people outside of WordPress know that Gutenberg is here?

Matt: What do you think?

Q12: You have to answer.

Matt: This is the hard question side of the room. Other projects are using Gutenberg already. We need to keep teaching people how to use blocks. If we do it right, we can integrate the block directory into the editor so you can install plugins on the fly.

The talk was finished with the Bebo release video, in case you’ve missed it, here goes:

Wrapping up

Loved our WCUS 2018 State of the Word recap? Show us some love, share it all across the web and comment on your favorite part! What are some of your key takeaways from this years #wcus and #sotw?


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Ivana Cirkovic

Ivana is a Digital Marketing, PR and Social Media consultant with over nine years experience in the field. She is also a WordPress enthusiast and an active member of WordPress community who lives online almost 24/7. In love with Twitter, WP, photography and NYC.

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