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Discussions about the future of WordPress seem to be popping up every other day. My latest sighting being Josepha Haden Chomphosy sharing her thoughts on WP Tavern’s new podcast - WP Tavern Jukebox (which is worth subscribing to, by the way).
Josepha is Executive Director of the WordPress project and one of the many things she does is help coordinate volunteer efforts across the ecosystem. One particularly interesting point she raises is in the podcast is about the breadth of WordPress ecosystem; the community’s expectations Vs how the open source model typically operates at a much smaller scale. Joseph suggests that there needs to be a way to engage predictably with the wider community.
A lot of the commentary has been around Gutenberg and how the ecosystem will embrace it and adapt. Or not. The noise is getting louder around this topic as Gutenberg matures and becomes a viable alternative to Page Builders. Most agree that Gutenberg will play a major role in the long term.
There is also the ongoing discussion around the commercialization of the ecosystem as the broader market becomes increasingly interested in investing in the space. Salesforce $300M investment in Automattic back in 2019 being the prime example, which raises the question: how will Automattic’s role evolve as it grows.
The future of WordPress has been on our mind for a while too. Last October Tom Fanelli posted a thought-provoking piece -- Nobody is Investing in the Future of WordPress -- that triggered some heated discussions on socials. Addressing the problem that low-cost, low-quality technology doesn’t benefit the future of WordPress.
So there’s a lot being said about the topic and while there is a lot of disagreement I think most folk are aligned with the idea that the evolution of platform and ecosystem must continue to serve its ultimate purpose: to democratize publishing.
I invited a number of people who I know or follow to contribute to this intro post. I asked them to look in their crystal ball and share what they think WordPress and the ecosystem will look like in 10 years time.
In no particular order...
Robert is President Emeritus of Joomla, member of Make WordPress Hosting, and contributor to ICANN At-Large
WordPress will be radically different in 10 years. The ecosystem will also undergo dramatic changes. Let’s start with how WordPress will morph into a more invisible type of software. Today we have WordPress front and center. The installation, administration, and content creation are straight-forward tasks albeit with slight learning curves. There is a consistent utilization and application of WordPress in 99%+ of all WordPress websites.
Just in the last three years we have seen huge changes which will come to fruition and greatly change our perception has these features expand upon their original missions. First we have Gutenberg Blocks which allows content creators to more easily and systematically deal with content. Additionally Blocks can allow for unique local and 3rd party content to be inserted into one’s site. Second on the big and recent change list is Full Site Editing (FSE). The goal of FSE is to create a site and page builder experience within WordPress that will compete with the likes of Beaver Builder, Elementor, and others. As we see here, the last few years will be indicative of more features and functionality being co-opted from the greater WordPress community.
This doesn’t make WordPress quite invisible, but that’s what the next 10 years are for. Headless WordPress and WordPress SaaS providers will obfuscate the underlying WordPress experience with incredibly easy on-boarding, content tools, and deployment. For the freelancer or micro-agency, this will make work either extremely easy or worse, reduce the needs for hiring such help (think Wix, Squarespace, and Shopify). So who will succeed?
As WordPress grows in flexibility, very experienced developers will be called upon to integrate headless environments and integrate with 3rd party and enterprise APIs. The hosting companies which can trivially support these more complex, flexible, and scalable websites are in the best position to succeed over the next 10 years with a more invisible WordPress.
Chief Marketing Officer
If you look at the evolution over the past 5 years, I think it’s clear to see the trajectory of the ecosystem as a whole as well as businesses that operate in the industry of WordPress over the next 10 years will only continue to grow. As you said, given its massive footprint and the fact that it is open-source is what has made it possible for at least a few dozen extremely successful companies to grow to be wildly successful by solving difficult problems – helping users accomplish exactly what they want.
This is incomparable to any other website platform/CMS ecosystem, let alone any industry – I haven’t heard of any other multi-million dollar businesses being built around another content management system or ecosystem – and that’s for good reason, the open-source nature, power & community of WordPress substantially outperforms anything else out there.
Chief Instigator & Expansion Lead
In 10 years, if WordPress still exists, it will be because it continued to move in the headless direction, making it easier to couple its best functionality with other powerhouses on the web.
From a community stand point, Automattic will have pulled further away from .org and focused on the corporate value of .com, leaving the "rest of us" to sort things out on our own. That might seem initially problematic, but more likely it will open the door for new and unique opportunities and innovation.
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Co-founder at forgemedia LLC and former CMO at Kinsta
It's always interesting to think about what WordPress will be like 10 years from now. Recently hitting 40% market share (source), I think the future is bright, and the amount of room for growth is enormous. However, there is a lot more work to do to continue competing with other platforms, primarily ecommerce solutions, such as Shopify, Wix, Square, etc.
The advantage they have right now is excellent onboarding and no split ecosystems. There has always been a massive disconnect between WordPress.com and WordPress.org. As a new user, this is understandably confusing, and it creates a horrible first impression.
On one end, you have WordPress.com, a business trying to make money. On the other end, you have WordPress.org, an open-source project driven by hard-working volunteers and the community. In the middle, you have plugin and theme developers that rely on the ecosystem to make a living. It's a complex problem to solve, but I do feel something needs to change.
Another significant issue is how saturated the market is becoming with all the themes and plugins. WordPress has always been a popular choice because you have options. However, how are users supposed to know how to choose from the tens of thousands of products? Again, this creates a not-so-great first impression as you waste countless hours trying things.
I think WordPress 10 years from now will look quite different. We hopefully won't need many of the current plugins or themes we're using right now. I'd love to see a more streamlined and straightforward approach to starting a WordPress site. Therefore, we must continue to support the open-source community and treat volunteers/moderators with respect to keep pushing WordPress forward.
Currently, I can't see any real competitor for the flexibility and speed of development compared to WordPress.As the ecosystem develops and it's open-source nature, I believe it will be very hard for another platform to emerge and create such a broad set of tools (with currently 60k+ plugins available).
WordPress will continue to grow its footprint on the internet as a whole way beyond the current 40%, especially as old websites, with systems that are no longer relevant (like Flash for example, which used to be the standard at some point) are going to be removed from the web.
That being said, there are plenty of advances that I hope that WordPress will tackle, to be able to compete in the long run: Taking both a Static approach to websites that don't need dynamic functionality AS WELL AS dynamic frameworks like ReactJS for the frontend will allow WordPress to "keep with the times".
In 10 years, I believe we will see additional methods of browsing the web becoming more standardised, whether it's via VR or AR or through smart speakers.
Being a content management system, WordPress will be able to expand beyond the basic screen set up to serve content for additional channels and delivery systems.
Read Vito's story: atarim.io/blog/business-wordpress-rocknroll-the-story-of-vito-peleg/
Find more about Atarim: atarim.io
Follow Vito on Twitter: @Atarim_io
It's interesting read industry insider's take on this -- some common themes seem to emerge.
More importantly, WordPress needs to understand what the community needs and it seems that Josepha and here team are working towards facilitating that, which is good news.
Feel free to share your ideas in the comment section below too.
Hosting providers spin their positioning in all manner of ways but it’s ultimately about removing technical barriers between the platform and people’s ambitions. For WordPress WordPress to become faster, more agile and had a solid foundation. Ideas that inspired the naming of the blog, BTW.
A healthy ecosystem nurtures innovation and we’ve experienced this first hand. 800+ investors believed in our vision and backed us.
It’s not just us. Providers such as Cloudways, Kinsta, GridPane and Rocket are pushing the boundaries to… democratize high performance WordPress hosting. So that awesome WordPress-powered ideas are not killed by crappy tech.
I’ll conclude with this and thank those who contributed to this post.
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