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Hot Takes from State of the Word

Written by Jessica Frick on
White male standing at a podium with text Hot Takes from State of the Word

WordPress had a big year in 2022. WordPress co-founder Matt Mullenweg shared many of the highlights in this year’s State of the Word. 

The annual review of what’s happening with WordPress and where it’s headed took place Dec. 15. If you missed it, don’t worry. You can watch a State of the Word 2022 replay on the WordPress website. The presentation is about an hour long and includes tons of good information. But if you don’t have an hour to spare, below are our top hot takes from the event. 

Gutenberg Will Dominate the Web

The future of the web is block-based, and Gutenberg will be at the center of it. Total internet domination might be a bit of an exaggeration, but Mullenweg said he expects Gutenberg to be much bigger than WordPress. 

In his speech, he gave some examples of ways people are using Gutenberg beyond its original intent as a WordPress editor, including:

  • The Pew Research Center built this great interactive Political Typology Quiz. 
  • You can build your own application with EngineAwesome. It’s a drag-and-drop interface for building business applications to collect and process data instead of relying on spreadsheets. Engine Awesome is a Laravel application that uses Gutenberg as its main user interface. 
  • Automattic, Mullenweg’s company and our parent company, purchased Tumblr in 2019. The platform is now using Gutenberg as a part of its new post editor. 

That’s just the beginning for Gutenberg, as licensing is in place to allow more developers to use it in mobile and web applications. For example, EngineAwesome used Gutenberg for its UI because it’s popular and easy to use and offers more advantages to its users. It’s a smart move. WordPress powers more than 40% of websites, meaning large numbers of potential users have been exposed to the Gutenberg interface. 

The key takeaway: Don’t be surprised when you go to use a new app in the coming years, and the interface looks like you’re creating a new WordPress post.

Gutenberg Continues to Evolve

Speaking of Gutenberg, the project will soon enter a new phase of development.

As we wrote in our post on the latest Gutenberg updates, the project has four main phases. 

The 4 WordPress Gutenberg phases

  1. Easier Editing. This phase debuted in 2018 as the core editing experience for posts and pages. It has been enhanced several times with more recent releases. 
  2. Customization. This phase drove most of the recent updates like block patterns, full site editing, and moving into block-based themes. 
  3. Collaboration. This next phase of the project will add features for easier content authoring and creation among teams. 
  4. Multilingual. The final planned phase will focus on adding multilingual site support into the WordPress core. 

At the event, Mullenweg announced work will begin soon on Phase 3 after the release of the WordPress 6.2 update in March. 

The key takeaway: If you’ve been waiting before fully embracing Gutenberg blocks, your wait is over. While the collaboration and multilingual tools will improve the experience, the recent improvements from Phase 2 mean blocks are more than ready for prime time.  

In-Person Events Are Back

Attending WordCamp US was one of the Pressable team’s big highlights of the year. We were so excited to be back to in-person events after COVID-19 forced many community events and conferences to cancel or go virtual. 

Highlights of 2022 and things to look forward to in 2023

  • Meetups. The number of local WordPress meetups doubled in 2022 to more than 500. Find a 2023 meetup near you on Meetup.com
  • WordCamp. After hosting only one WordCamp in 2021, there were 22 last year. For 2023, 34 events are already in planning. Find a WordCamp near you on the official WordCamp website. 
  • Community Summit. Mullenweg also announced that the WordPress Community Summit will return for the first time in six years. The summit will allow contributors, team leads, and community members to exchange ideas and viewpoints on the challenges and vision for WordPress in the coming years. 

The key takeaway: If you haven’t been to an in-person event in the last couple of years, make plans to attend one in 2023. 

Get Ready to Party

WordPress turns 20 this year! It’s time to put on your party hats. Details on how you can join the fun aren’t quite ready. Follow along on the official anniversary website as more plans become available. 

One of the best things about WordPress is that it’s free forever. Before Mullenweg took the podium at the State of the Word, Josepha Haden Chomphosy, WordPress executive director, talked about the importance of open-source projects like WordPress and the four freedoms in the WordPress Bill of Rights:

  • The 1st Freedom: To run the program for any purpose.
  • The 2nd Freedom: To study how the program works and change it to make it do what you wish.
  • The 3rd Freedom: To redistribute.
  • The 4th Freedom: To distribute copies of your modified versions to others. 

The key takeaway: Twenty years and still going strong. WordPress powers 40% of the websites in the world. That’s unlikely to change. If you’re not already building with WordPress, It’s time to make the switch

Openverse is Growing

Openverse, WordPress’s search engine for open-source media, expanded quite a bit in 2022. The search engine allows people to search for royalty-free images and other media to use on their websites and other creative works. 

While it’s not fully embedded into WordPress yet, it’s still a valuable tool with 22 million images and 1.1 million audio files. Read our post on the Openverse benefits for more ideas on how to take advantage of this resource. 

The key takeaway: Before you pay for a stock image or audio file, consider checking the Openverse. 

New Plugin and Theme Directory Taxonomy

The official WordPress.org plugin and theme directory now use a new taxonomy to allow developers to identify different types of plugins and themes clearly. The main purpose of the new taxonomy is to distinguish between commercial and community plugins. 

Community plugins are free and maintained by collaboration within the WordPress community. 

Commercial plugins are maintained by companies and often operate on a freemium model where some features are free, but a subscription is required to unlock the full functionality of the plugin or theme. 

The key takeaway: When searching for a plugin, this new taxonomy should help you identify which ones are truly free and which ones have commercial support behind them. 

A Themeless Future?

Many of WordPress’s new features change how we build and design pages.

Read our e-book on the basics of full site editing for more details.

At the State of the Word, Mullenweg took things a step further, suggesting that the new Create Block Theme plugin could change or eliminate the need for themes as we know them today. The plugin is still in development and not intended for use on live sites, but it’s worth downloading and checking out. 

The key takeaway: A lot of features and options that used to be dependent on your theme are moving to blocks. Blocks are the future of WordPress, and it’s worth learning more about how they can work on your site. 

What Will You Build with WordPress?

The biggest takeaway from State of the Word is that WordPress will only get better. There’s so much to be excited about as WordPress enters its 20th year. We loved hearing about everything that’s in store for WordPress in 2023 and beyond. We can’t wait to see all the amazing things you’ll build with WordPress. 

No matter what project you’re tackling in 2023, the experts at Pressable are here to help. Our managed WordPress hosting plans are the fastest and easiest way to host a WordPress site. Pick a plan and start building your WordPress future today. 

Jessica Frick

Jessica serves as the Director of Operations for Pressable and spends her days focused on creating the best managed WordPress hosting experience possible. She's been using WordPress since 2008 and has been serving in WordPress-focused roles since 2010. When she's not working, you can find her spending time with her family, serving in her community, watching hilarious dog videos online, or brewing a pitcher of iced tea.