State of the Word 2020: The WordPress Virtual Event of the Year

Today made history in the WordPress community with the first virtual State of the Word. State of the Word is an open source tradition at WordCamp US year over year. During this presentation, Matt Mullenweg reflects on the accomplishments of the community that keep the project alive and growing and discusses the goals for the next year and beyond. 

2020 has brought a lot of firsts—even in the WordPress space. This year we learned to work together while apart, that safety is more important than comfort, and growth is more valuable than speed. He discussed the latest releases and updates to the project, followed by a live Q&A where community members around the globe submitted questions via video. I have to admit, it was nice to see the faces of so many friends that I haven’t seen this year.

There were a number of key highlights in the #SOTW so let’s hop into some of our favorites.

The Gutenberg Roadmap and Project Updates

The open source community has been on edge waiting for the next phases of Gutenberg since its official release in 2018. Well, today we learned that we are two years into what Matt believes will be a 10 year process.

Matt reviewed the Gutenberg roadmap which has 4 phases of launch and highlighted the successes of phase 1 before explaining the current phase 2 iteration. Phase 2 gives the users a “full site editing experience” which lets users “reimagine” what themes can do. He was enthused to share the latest updates and adaptations that the editor has made in the previous year.

Here are a few takeaways from his Gutenberg update:

  • Gutenberg was released in 2017 and became the default editor in 2018
  • There have been 15,000 commits to the code base since Gutenberg was released 
  • We’ve had over 95 public releases
  • He shared the rundown of the Gutenberg roadmap (Phase 1: Easier editing, Phase 2: Customization, Phase 3: Collaboration, Phase 4: Multi-lingual
  • 5.5 released block patterns, inline image editing
  • 5.6 had over 600 contributors (all female or non-binary contributors)
    • Automatic updates for core

3 Major Releases Take Flight In 2020

Mullenweg followed the updates on Gutenberg with the announcement of 3 major releases starting with 5.4 named after jazz trumpeter, Nat Adderley. This release featured over 550 contributors that created a welcome guide to help new users get familiar with the WordPress platform, design tools, increased privacy updates, and performance enhancements in navigation and speed.

The second release was 5.5 named after legendary vocalist, Billy Eckstine. This release had the most contributors to date with over 800 volunteers in the community.

5.5 had the most contributors to date with over 800 people working together to bring block patterns to life on the editor. Block patterns help users create shortcuts in combining text and images such as a hero image that scrolls or testimonials with pictures. Additional features included a cleaner UI and a distraction-free editor which can hide your internet browser for a more focused writing experience. This release also changed how users can access blocks by creating a block directory that is activated by searching for a specific block that you can install in real-time while editing a post or page. Last but not least, the 5.5 release provides inline image editing you can make within the editor so you don’t have to use separate software to edit your content.

Over 600 contributors came together for the third and final release (5.6) which honors the iconic Nina Simone. The culmination of this release was historic for WordPress since it was comprised of women and non-binary contributors. The community poured out support and excitement around this release.

The release brought improvements to the platform behind the scenes with features like opting in to automatic updates for core, support to the rest API for application passwords, and support for PHP 8. On the user interface side, 5.6 will include features such as cover block improvements, layout flexibility around buttons, and more block patterns. The addition of more block patterns will be seen in the new twenty twenty-one theme which has a clean and minimal design. 

WordPress Sets New Records

In a year where sustaining a connection to the community was just as important as improving the platform, many milestones were crossed. There was a celebration of many “firsts” that showed the strength of the WordPress platform that ranged from growth to the platform, diversity in leadership, and the expansion of education and mentorship in the community. One of the highlights of these “firsts” was the growth of WordPress as a content management system in the market. Here’s a breakdown of the way WordPress expanded online in 2020:

  • WordPress grew by 4% with 39.3% of the internet using the platform to power their websites. 
  • This 4% growth also reflects the largest market-share increase since the statistic began to be tracked in 2011.
  • This is more than 10 times the market share owned by the #2 competing CMS platform in the market.

The Community Embraces Online Events

In addition to the platform growth online, the community came together to create online events and mentorship experiences. These gatherings shaped how users collaborated, learned, and connected with each other from all over the world during a year that required us to stay indoors. Matt referenced some of the year’s biggest events such as WP Block Talk, WordPress Accessibility Day, Hallway Talks, and more. 

The growth and expansion of the online community and contributors have led to a new way for people to get involved and learn the fundamentals of WordPress.

Matt excitedly announced the Learn.WordPress.Org site which is a new effort by the community to create tutorials, workshops, and host discussion groups online. As the landscape for physical events continues to remain uncertain, this provides users with a way to learn about WordPress and engage with the community from the safety of their homes.

We miss you all. Hopefully 2021 will bring us all together again, safely. Until next year.

Check out #SOTW —

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Machielle Thomas
Machielle Thomas | Content Manager
Machielle Thomas writes and curates web and email content for marketing professionals, small business owners, bloggers, and more.

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