Letter from WordPress’ Executive Director, 2022

Last month at State of the Word, I shared some opening thoughts about “Why WordPress.” For me, this is an easy question, and the hardest part is knowing which lens to answer through. The reasons that a solopreneur will choose WordPress are different than the reasons a corporation would. And while artists and activists may have a similar vision for the world, their motivations change their reasons, too. That’s why I always focus on the philosophical parts of the answer because I know that I am speaking as an advocate for many types of WordPressers. I have a few other reasons, too, which you may not be aware of as you use our software every day.

Why WordPress?

Most importantly, the Four Freedoms of Open Source. If you have already listened to State of the Word, you have heard my thoughts on the philosophical side of open source and the freedoms it provides. If you didn’t, then the tl;dr on that is that open source provides protections and freedoms to creators on the web that should be a given. There’s an extent to which the idea of owning your content and data online is a radical idea. So radical, even, that it is hard for folks to grasp what we mean when we say “free as in speech, not free as in beer.” Securing an open web for the future is, I believe, a net win for the world especially when contrasted to the walled gardens and proprietary systems that pit us all against one another with the purpose of gaining more data to sell.

A second reason is that WordPress entrepreneurs (those providing services, designing sites, and building applications) have proven that open source offers an ethical framework for conducting business. No one ever said that you cannot build a business using free and open source software. And I am regularly heartened by the way successful companies and freelancers make an effort to pay forward what they can. Not always for the sole benefit of WordPress, but often for the general benefit of folks learning how to be an entrepreneur in our ecosystem. Because despite our competitive streaks, at the end of the day, we know that ultimately we are the temporary caretakers of an ecosystem that has unlocked wealth and opportunity for people we may never meet but whose lives are made infinitely better because of us.

And the final reason is that leaders in the WordPress community (team reps, component maintainers, and community builders) have shown that open source ideals can be applied to how we work with one another. As a community, we tend to approach solution gathering as an “us vs. the problem” exercise, which not only makes our solutions better and our community stronger. And our leaders—working as they are in a cross-cultural, globally-distributed project that guides or supports tens of thousands of people a year—have unparalleled generosity of spirit. Whether they are welcoming newcomers or putting out calls for last-minute volunteers, seeing the way that they collaborate every day gives me hope for our future.

As I have witnessed these three things work together over the years, one thing is clear to me: not only is open source an idea that can change our generation by being an antidote to proprietary systems and the data economy, open source methodologies represent a process that can change the way we approach our work and our businesses. 

WordPress in 2023

As we prepare for the third phase of the Gutenberg project, we are putting on our backend developer hats and working on the APIs that power our workflows. Releases during Phase 3 will focus on the main elements of collaborative user workflows. If that doesn’t make sense, think of built-in real-time collaboration, commenting options in drafts, easier browsing of post revisions, and programmatic editorial and pre-launch checklists.

If Phases 1 and 2 had a “blocks everywhere” vision, think of Phase 3 with more of a “works with the way you work” vision. 

In addition to this halfway milestone of starting work on Phase 3, WordPress also hits the milestone of turning 20 years old. I keep thinking back to various milestones we’ve had (which you can read about in the second version of the Milestones book) and realized that almost my entire experience of full-time contributions to WordPress has been in the Gutenberg era.

I hear some of you already thinking incredulous thoughts so, come with me briefly.

There are a couple of different moments that folks point to as the beginning of the Gutenberg project. Some say it was at State of the Word 2013 when Matt dreamed of “a true WYSIWYG” editor for WordPress. Some say it was at State of the Word 2016 where we were encouraged to “learn Javascript deeply.” For many of us, it was at WordCamp Europe in 2017 when the Gutenberg demo first made its way on stage.

No matter when you first became aware of Gutenberg, I can confirm that it feels like a long time because it has been a long time. I can also confirm that it takes many pushes to knock over a refrigerator. For early adopters (both to the creation of Gutenberg and its use), hyper-focus on daily tasks makes it hard to get a concept of scale.

So I encourage you this year to look out toward the horizon and up toward our guiding stars. We are now, as we ever were, securing the opportunity for those who come after us, because of the opportunity secured by those who came before us.

Rather listen? The abbreviated spoken letter is also available.

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