WP Briefing: Episode 43: Openverse & Photo Directory– What Are They, and How Are They Different?

In the forty-third episode of the WordPress Briefing, Josepha Haden Chomphosy explores two resources for openly licensed media in the WordPress project– Openverse and Photo Directory– and how they differ from one another!

Have a question you’d like answered? You can submit them to wpbriefing@wordpress.org, either written or as a voice recording.


Editor: Dustin Hartzler
Logo: Javier Arce
Production: Santana Inniss
Song: Fearless First by Kevin MacLeod


Photo Directory Make Page
Submit a Photo to the Photo Directory
Openverse Make Page
Openverse Call for Contributions: Block Editor Integration
Download WordPress 6.1
Docs Team Contributor Day Recap Post
Hallway Hangout Block Themes (Video)


[Josepha Haden Chomphosy 00:00:00] 

Hello everyone, and welcome to the WordPress Briefing, the podcast where you can catch quick explanations of the ideas behind the WordPress open source project, some insight into the community that supports it, and get a small list of big things coming up in the next two weeks. 

I’m your host, Josepha Haden Chomphosy. Here we go!

[Josepha Haden Chomphosy 00:00:00] 

About 18 months ago, the Openverse project became part of the WordPress open source project, and at roughly the same time, we also welcomed the Photo Directory.

Since that time, we’ve seen growth in teams supporting both of these initiatives. But if you’re not involved in the day-to-day, it can be hard to know how those two things fit together or if they fit together at all.

[Josepha Haden Chomphosy 00:01:00] 

Today, let’s take a brief tour of those two projects and why they came to be. 

In my timeline, work on the Photo Directory started before the work on Openverse, so that’s where we’ll start.

For as long as I can remember, the WordPress community has raised the need for WordPress-first ways to have and host GPL-compatible photos for use in themes, site builds, and marketing efforts as a whole. As recently as 2016, that was still coming up as a question at various flagship events and among the career photographers that contribute their time to WordPress.

So in 2017 and 2018, as attention started to turn toward rebuilding the CMS using blocks, it dropped down the list of priority items. But it never really went away as a thing that people were hoping we could do for the project as a whole. So in 2019, it was becoming clear that having open source-first tools of all varieties for people whose businesses were built on our software would help broaden the availability of the open source freedoms we believe in.

[Josepha Haden Chomphosy 00:02:00] 

This began the work on the Photo Directory with the intention of providing a GPL-friendly, community-driven repository of images. It has since launched, and we have photos in it now. We have a whole team around it. It’s wonderful. But that is how that all kind of came to be. 

Openverse, on the other hand, was launched as CC Search in 2019 with the laudable mandate to increase the discoverability and accessibility of open access media.

Late in 2020, while work on the Photo Directory was underway, Matt shared with me that the team was looking for a new project home. When I first met with them, they shared an overview of the product, which they shorthanded as an open source search engine that searches openly licensed images. We were working on a repo of openly licensed images, so clearly, this was all written in the stars. And so you might be asking yourself at this point, great, how does it work together?

I think for most of us, the timeline there kind of covers the question of what is the difference between these two things. 

[Josepha Haden Chomphosy 00:03:00] 

But because I never know which of you will want to strike up a conversation about open source on an elevator, I’ve also got the elevator pitch version. 

Openverse is an open source search engine that searches, indexes, and aggregates copy left media from across the web using sources such as WordPress’s Photo Directory, Flickr’s CC Tagged Media, and Wikimedia, to name just a few. 

Another key difference between the Photo Directory and Openverse is that in order to contribute to the Photo Directory, now that it’s all built, that’s mostly done by submitting photos or reviewing photos. So you don’t really need to be a developer to join in. 

Openverse is not only a developer-centric contribution opportunity, but it also uses a different tech stack than WordPress as a whole. So it’s a good place for folks to go if they’re looking to broaden their horizons.

So that’s your elevator pitch of what Openverse is and how it uses the Photo Directory. 

[Josepha Haden Chomphosy 00:04:00] 

You have a couple of ways that you can get involved with these two projects. For the Photo Directory, as I mentioned at the start, you can always contribute photos, and they could always use more photo contributions.

I’ll include a link to the submission guidelines in the show notes below, and as I mentioned, it is a no-code way to give back to the WordPress project. So no code, development environments, and testing skills are required. The Photo Directory team also could always use more contributors to help with the moderating of photo submissions.

And so I’ll link to their making WordPress page in the show notes as well so that you can get started there. 

And as I mentioned before, Openverse is an aggregator, so it doesn’t host any media itself, but it is always accepting suggestions for new GPL-compatible media providers. I’ll link the area where you can leave suggestions in the show notes as well.

And if you are more code inclined, there’s an open issue for adding Openverse browsing to the block editor right now.  

[Josepha Haden Chomphosy 00:05:00] 

So I’ll link that issue in the show notes in case you thought to yourself, gosh, that sounds like my most favorite thing to do. That is where you can go. 

[Josepha Haden Chomphosy 00:05:12]

This leads us now to our small list of big things.

In case you missed it, WordPress 6.1 is now available. It launched on November 1st. Late, late, late in the day, and so it was easy to miss if you’re used to seeing it at a particular time. We were about six hours later than usual. But if you go to wordpress.org/download, you can get your own copy there.

The second thing on our small list of big things is that the Docs team had a contributor day. It was excellent. There’s a recap post up. I will include that in the show notes. 

And then the final thing is that there was a recent hallway hangout that talked about the site editor and block themes.

[Josepha Haden Chomphosy 00:06:00] 

The video for that is also published. I will also share that in our show notes.

And that, my friends, is your small list of big things. Thank you for tuning in today for the WordPress Briefing. I’m your host, Josepha Haden Chomphosy, and I’ll see you again in a couple of weeks.

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