WordPress and Inevitability

As someone who has been working with WordPress in one way or another since almost the very beginning1 and as someone who been doing web work for just as long I have some opinions about WordPress and its community’s reaction to Gutenberg.

Getting mad is a waste of time. Complaining to anyone other than to those who manage WordPress development is a waste of time. Shouting into the ether is a waste of time. Fearing for a job or a business is a waste of time. Fearing for a career is a waste of time. At one time we all had to teach ourselves how to work with WordPress. Eventually we realize, or we don’t, that change is inevitable, technology is not static, and it is the ability to bend with change and to learn that makes us good at what we do.

Gutenberg, or something like it, is unavoidable. While WordPress may power approximately 30% of the web the confident feeling that number instills is not nearly as impressive when you learn that JavaScript (and seemingly Python) are agressively overtaking PHP in demand, anyone paying enough attention already feels a notable shift on the horizon. Equally telling is when someone threatens to leave WordPress for something else in a fit of frustration, it’s often not something contemporary to WordPress like Joomla or Drupal or Expression Engine but something that’s notably newer like Craft CMS or Grav or Ghost. Part of WordPress’ strength is it’s strong stance on backwards compatibility but this is also its greatest weakness. If the WordPress community really wants to maintain the status quo then they face the very real risk of losing the very thing they’re trying to preserve. Somebody will build a new CMS, or already has, and through some combination of modern technologies and lean community responsibilities will eat WordPress’ lunch. Just as WordPress did once upon a time2.

While WordPress is an open source community project, at the end of the day it is Automattic’s and the WordPress Foundation’s community. These are the entities that spend money and resources on WordPress development and that makes them the ones who guide what direction WordPress takes. If that feels unfair to you, I suggest you consider the effort it would take to fork the project and maintain an alternate version.

Personally, when it comes to Gutenberg I feel the effort spent in dread and frustration to be much more than the effort spent to just learn something new3.

  1. When exactly, I can’t quite remember. It was right out of high school and I remember thinking how great WordPress and PHP were comapred to Movable Type and Perl. I vaguely think it was before plugins. 

  2. There’s a reason there’s not a lot of talk about Movable Type or Typo3 or Vignette Story Server anymore. 

  3. Also, is everyone just pretending this isn’t a perfect opportunity to clone a series of popular plugins, push them to market first, and manuever yourself to a community leader? Shortcodes and widgets (among others) just became pretty shakey, re-implementing them is ripe for disruption.