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State of the Word 2023: Key Highlights and Innovations

State of the Word 2023: Key Highlights and Innovations

On December 11, WordPress enthusiasts from around the globe gathered in Madrid, Spain, for one of the most important events of the year – the State of the Word keynote. 

It was delivered by one and only Matt Mullenweg, the esteemed co-founder of WordPress. He shared the significant WordPress achievements in 2023 and offered a sneak peek into the platform’s future.

In this article, we’ll delve into the event’s highlights and WordPress achievements over the past year. Then, we’ll try to unveil the roadmap for its evolution.

Celebrating Two Decades of WordPress

In 2023, WordPress has turned 20. That’s a huge milestone for a platform that started as a simple tool for blogging and journaling. It has evolved into a comprehensive platform capable of creating websites of any kind and serving as a robust application framework. 

Now, WordPress powers over a third of all websites, a testament to its widespread impact and adaptability.

The anniversary was celebrated globally. In the keynote, Matt shared a captivating collection of photos from these international celebrations, highlighting the global reach and diverse community that WordPress has nurtured over two decades. 

WordCamps and Meetups in 2023

2023 has been a remarkable year for the WordPress community – in-person gatherings have bloomed. There were 70 WordCamps hosted across 33 countries in 2023 – a significant leap from the 26 WordCamps of 2022.

Finally, the first flagship WordCamp in Asia was held. Looking ahead, WordCamp Asia is set to be a major event in 2024, scheduled for March 7 in Taipei, Taiwan.

Matt was very grateful to over two thousand WordCamp and Meetup organizers for making these community gatherings so vibrant and memorable. 

To make these community-driven events even better, Matt encouraged global WordPress enthusiasts to participate in the 2023 Meetup Survey. Your insights and feedback can shape the future of WordPress Meetups.

WordPress.org: New Look and New Pages

Recently, we have seen a significant redesign of the WordPress.org website, enhancing its functionality and aesthetic appeal. Besides the new look, a few new pages were added:

  • WordPress Events – a central hub for upcoming WordPress events worldwide. Now, users can locate and join community events near them more easily and quickly.
  • WordPress Showcase – an exhibition of notable WordPress websites. These include Taylor Swift’s website, which, according to Matt, manages 100,000 requests per second at peak times. There’s also the White House website, showcasing WordPress security and reliability.
  • WordPress Remembers – a dedicated space to honor community members who have passed away.

Building on last year’s State of the Word, Matt Mullenweg revisited the topic of Openverse – a search engine dedicated to exploring the web for media under Creative Commons licenses. 

Openverse received the Open Education Award for Excellence in Open Infrastructure, a testament to its impact and innovation in an open-source technology field. Matt congratulated the Openverse team for this outstanding achievement.

WordPress continues to expand its collection of openly available content. The WordPress Photo Directory, a resource for free stock photos, has expanded significantly to help users create more engaging posts.

WordPress Playground

Matt Mullenweg also discussed the WordPress Playground. This innovative, cutting-edge, browser-based sandbox operates on WebAssembly, seamlessly integrating PHP and database functionality. It has emerged as an invaluable tool for developers, providing a swift and efficient environment for testing and experimentation.

In just the past six months, WordPress Playground has seen remarkable usage, with nearly 57,000 individuals leveraging its capabilities. To illustrate its potential, Matt showcased a compelling demo of Playground, expertly crafted by Adam Zelinski, which highlighted the platform’s versatility and ease of use.

Twenty Twenty-Four: A New Era in WordPress Themes

The year 2023 marked the finalization of Gutenberg Phase 2, which was centered around customization.

The release of Twenty Twenty-Four, the newest default theme, represents a significant shift from traditional WordPress themes, moving from the usual focus on blogging to a broader range of purposes.

Twenty Twenty-Four, introduced with the WordPress 6.4 update, boasts 35 unique block patterns thoughtfully designed to cater to artists, entrepreneurs, and writers alike. Matt Mullenweg highlighted the theme’s early success, sharing positive reviews that hailed Twenty Twenty-Four as a game-changer and potentially the best default theme WordPress has ever offered.

Progress and Future of the Gutenberg Project

Matt Mullenweg revisited the ambitious roadmap of the Gutenberg Project, underlining its four pivotal phases:

  1. Editing
  2. Customization
  3. Collaboration
  4. Multilingual

The year 2023 marked a significant milestone with the completion of Phase 2, focused on customization. Moving forward, 2024 is set to embark on Phase 3.

Enhancing Writing and Design With Gutenberg

Matias emphasized that Gutenberg is ambitiously designed to excel in two key areas – as a writing environment and as a design tool. While the writing component was primarily addressed in Phase 1, the project continuously evolves to simplify and enhance the user experience.

Recent updates have introduced user-friendly features like the footnote block and a distraction-free mode, each aimed at refining the writing process. These additions showcase Gutenberg’s commitment to providing a seamless and intuitive environment for content creation.

Pioneering Real-Time Collaboration With Gutenberg

A major focus in Gutenberg’s development is enhancing online collaboration capabilities. While a definitive timeline for its full implementation is still in the works, Matias presented a prototype during the keynote. With this feature, multiple users can work in the same editor simultaneously, with changes visible to all collaborators instantly.

For those eager to explore this functionality, it’s available via the Gutenberg plugin. By enabling the Live Collaboration experimental feature, users can test real-time collaboration. However, as the feature is still in its development stage, user input is invaluable for its ongoing refinement.

Patterns Evolvement

Reflecting on the progress in 2023, Matias highlighted the evolving role of patterns in the Site Editor, particularly in response to user feedback. 

A common sentiment was, “Blocks are great, but sometimes they are a bit too granular.” To address this, patterns have been introduced as larger design units, offering an ideal solution for freelancers, agencies, and enterprise customers who seek more substantial design elements.

In 2024, patterns will remain a central focus in Phase 3 of Gutenberg’s development. A noteworthy upcoming feature is the Zoom Out mode, which will allow users to view and edit their site’s structure at a higher level, enhancing their ability to manage the block hierarchy.

Matias also outlined three key advancements planned for patterns and their benefits to the users:

  • Semantic category swapping – interchange patterns within specific categories, like hero sections. This allows dynamic customization of website components.
  • Integration of theme.json with patterns – apply style variations to individual patterns. It’s a boon for developers and agencies, offering end-users customization options within predetermined boundaries.
  • Hybrid pattern customization – modify the text or content of a pattern across multiple pages, while still maintaining the ability to update the pattern’s global design. This approach offers enhanced flexibility in content management and ensures design consistency.

Performance Improvements

A key area of Gutenberg enhancement is its performance, mainly the editor experience for content creators and the user experience for website visitors.

Matias presented a comprehensive dashboard highlighting the efficiency of basic editor operations and their progressive improvement over time. A notable achievement he shared is the recent doubling of the editor’s speed, with an ambitious target to triple the typing speed in the upcoming WordPress 6.5 update.

On the front end, significant strides are being made with the development of the Interactivity API. This innovation aims to render transitions on block-based themes and websites immediately, elevating the user experience. Matias showcased a live demonstration of this feature’s potential.

If you want to explore it further, visit WP Movies to experience these improvements firsthand.

Innovating the WordPress Admin Design

Matias unveiled the new admin design for WordPress. It draws inspiration from the Site Editor, particularly its list view. This approach will be applied to the WordPress admin interface, allowing for a more cohesive and intuitive display of elements like pages, posts, and media, all in a list format similar to the Site Editor’s design.

The new admin area will also be highly extensible. It’s crafted to adapt seamlessly to various specific needs, making it a versatile tool for all types of WordPress users.

Be sure to leave your feedback on the new admin design. Whether through the GitHub repository or social media channels, your insights and suggestions can help improve the WordPress admin interface.

Embracing AI in 2023 and Beyond

Matt Mullenweg highlighted 2023 as a year of AI, marked by the advancements in generative AI technologies like GPT-4, Gemini, and MidJourney. WordPress is actively embracing this AI technology through experiments with the Playground.

The experiment adds the ability to use natural language to interact with Playground blueprints. Matt showcased a compelling demo where a simple prompt led Playground to seamlessly configure an entire eCommerce site, complete with plugins and content. 

Matt emphasized that generative AI can make complex tasks accessible to all, regardless of their technical expertise. He even envisioned a future where AI not only performs tasks but also educates users, enhancing their knowledge and skills.

In light of these developments, Matt’s advice was clear – delve deep into understanding AI and leverage its potential to educate and innovate.

WordPress in 2024

Looking ahead to 2024, WordPress has started an ambitious initiative alongside Gutenberg’s Phase 3 – Data Liberation. This project aims to revolutionize how data is migrated within the WordPress ecosystem and beyond, addressing the complexities of transferring data across various platforms and WordPress sites.

The essence of Data Liberation is the development of seamless migration tools designed to minimize friction and remove the digital barriers imposed by some of the more restrictive CMS platforms. An example of such barriers is the limitation some platforms apply to exporting user data.

At the core of this initiative lies the development of a one-click migration tool with a keen focus on optimizing WordPress’s export format. Additionally, the project seeks to enhance the reliability of copy-and-paste actions, a critical aspect of data migration.

WordPress.org plans to host a variety of community plugins, tools, and workflows to facilitate easy migration, underpinning this initiative with a strong community effort. This will be complemented by dedicated Slack channels and GitHub repositories for each migration project, fostering community involvement and ensuring swift project reviews.

Concluding his vision for 2024, Matt Mullenweg announced the location for WordCamp US 2024 – Portland, Oregon. In a new initiative, WordCamp US will be held in the same city for two consecutive years, making Portland the host for both 2024 and 2025 editions.

We will be looking forward to seeing you there!

Watch State of the Word 2023 Replay

Watch this YouTube video if you want to listen to the full State of the Word 2023 keynote and see all the demos yourself.

Author

Leo is a Content Specialist and WordPress contributor. Armed with his experience as a WordPress Release Co-Lead and Documentation Team Representative, he loves sharing his knowledge to help people build successful websites. Follow him on LinkedIn.


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wpadmin December 19, 2023 0 Comments

Why FastVPN is streaming ahead in 2024

As censorship tightens and cyber threats escalate, FastVPN has developed new features to protect your privacy and expand digital access in 2024. 

While autocratic governments have imposed more online barriers, we remain committed to protecting your Internet freedom.

This year we introduced a Chrome extension for streaming, embraced the WireGuard protocol, and implemented split tunneling — all in response to your feedback and a changing online world.

From bypassing geo-blocks to safer online banking, our tech can help you browse and stream securely on any device. Read on as we detail the upgrades pushing FastVPN to new heights.

Securing your streams with a VPN

Tired of geo-restricted messages stopping you from watching Netflix shows? That’s where FastVPN’s Chrome extension comes into play, blowing past virtual walls to unlock a world of entertainment.

With our new Chrome extension, you can access better movies, TV series, and live sports with buffer-free immersion, thanks to its performance-enhancing optimizations. 

Graphic demonstrating speed and security

Speed meets security with Wireguard

FastVPN’s commitment to excellence shines with its Wireguard protocol, which marries speed with security, offering you a seamless online experience. WireGuard utilizes advanced cryptography and network coding to establish ultra-secure links instantly. 

So whether you’re uploading a work presentation or playing multiplayer games, frustration will become a thing of the past. Documents transfer immediately, downloads blaze ahead, and your ping stays impressively low even on crowded networks.

FastVPN security protocols allow you to enjoy digital privacy without performance penalties or tradeoffs. 

Split tunneling: The best of both worlds

Juggling multiple activities online requires flexible tools. That’s why FastVPN provides split tunneling to help you multitask more easily.

Imagine managing online banking while streaming a Taylor Swift concert in Argentina. Split tunneling makes this possible by providing a secure VPN connection for sensitive tasks while staying connected to local services. 

This game-changing feature lets you cherry-pick which apps enter your encrypted network while accessing your local standard connection. For example, secure banking and shopping transactions go through FastVPN while software updates flow unimpeded.

You can also eliminate the tradeoff headaches of working and gaming simultaneously across global and local spheres.

Download and upload with security

Torrenting with peace of mind

Torrenting carries uncertainty, given the decentralized and unregulated nature of peer-to-peer sharing. Copyright clashes are common, while fears loom around invasive tracking.

Choosing the right VPN is crucial for stress and hassle-free torrenting. FastVPN provides watertight protection to download torrents safely across all our high-speed servers.

Our network utilizes enterprise-grade AES 256-bit encryption implemented using robust OpenVPN, WireGuard, and other protocols. This translates to an impenetrable shield guarding your traffic end-to-end so ISPs or outsiders can never decipher what files you share or download.

Covering all bases 

FastVPN routes data transfers through our global network of optimized servers and can handle high loads. No more sluggish P2P exchanges – download movies, music, games, and more at fast-lane speeds.

We also support key features like Kill Switch and DNS leak prevention. And you can rest easy knowing FastVPN upholds a strict “no-logs” policy for all usage. No timestamps, traffic data, or monitoring means your activity stays invisible.

Whether exchanging sensitive documents or binge-watching the latest shows, you can turn to FastVPN for a low-cost VPN plan. Our trusted technology and user-friendly policies empower carefree file sharing from the get-go.

Protected wi-fi

Unlimited connections, unlimited possibilities

With support for unlimited devices, FastVPN understands that your digital life isn’t confined to one screen, from browsing on public Wi-Fi to protecting your smartphone during online shopping.

Downloading a VPN can help you enjoy security on multiple devices, ensuring that your online activities remain under one shield no matter where you log in. 

Protecting your Internet freedom 

FastVPN will continue evolving as the digital landscape shifts, with our sights set on expanding servers, boosting speeds, and deploying next-generation encryption. 

Today’s first step is downloading FastVPN and securing a safer path to a free and open Internet in a troubling world. Together, we will continue championing your Internet freedom now and long into the future.


FastVPN is a budget-friendly app that can help protect your Internet freedom, offering plans for less than $1/mo.


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wpadmin December 18, 2023 0 Comments

Charting a Path for Diversity

WordPress 6.4 Release Leads: Charting a Path for Diversity and Innovation

Released in early November 2023, WordPress 6.4 marks the final major release of the year. It’s a noteworthy one at that – it’s an underrepresented gender-led release.

Codenamed “Shirley”, this version pays homage to the legendary American jazz artist Shirley Horn, known for her unique voice and intuitive piano-playing style.

This spirit of versatility echoes in WordPress 6.4’s new default theme, Twenty Twenty-Four. On top of that, this version includes over 100 performance improvements to bring a more dynamic and intuitive content creation experience.

For this story, we chatted with Anne McCarthy from the Core Triage team and Maggie Cabrera from the Default Theme team. Our conversation sheds light on WordPress 6.4’s release process and underscores the importance of diversity, equality, inclusivity, and belonging (DEIB) in the tech world.

We have previously reported behind-the-scenes stories on WordPress releases, including WordPress 6.3. This time, let’s delve deeper into WordPress 6.4!

How It Started

Leading a part of the 6.4 release represents a fresh and exciting chapter in Maggie Cabrera’s WordPress journey.

“I’ve contributed code to some WordPress releases, but I’ve never led any part of them,” Maggie says. Her experience collaborating with people who worked on the default theme further fueled her aspiration to lead the task.

“I always like to work on things that are the closest as possible to the user,” she explains. Maggie’s passion for block themes and user-centric solutions encouraged her to apply for WordPress 6.4’s open call for volunteers.

On the other hand, Anne McCarthy has been an integral part of the WordPress release squads from versions 5.9 through 6.4, primarily as a Core Triage lead.

Anne had been a Test lead and a release coordinator before, where she gained valuable insights into the intricate flow of information and the bug resolution process during a release cycle.

Her experience was further enriched by her work with the Full Site Editing (FSE) Outreach Program. In that program, her tasks included identifying and flagging issues.

After the release of WordPress 6.0 – where Anne was the release coordinator – her knack for problem-solving led her to return to the triage role.

“I was keen to return to that scale of work and type of responsibilities. It closely aligns with my general work the most,” Anne says. Her homecoming to the Core Triage lead role underscores her detail-oriented approach to improving WordPress.

Working on a WordPress Release

Anne and Maggie contributed to different aspects of the release. Anne focused on triaging the core software while Maggie worked on the default theme. With their expertise, Anne and Maggie shaped the release’s development process and set a new benchmark for future versions.

Anne McCarthy and Maggie Cabrera with a fellow WordPress contributor at a WordCamp

When asked to explain her working process in this release, Anne says that she worked on a broad scope of tasks due to her role in the FSE Outreach Program and her ad hoc effort to do the source of truth for the releases.

“I found myself spread across a wide range of tasks. To sum it up, get the right information to those who need it. This included everything from bug reports to tiny feature details,” she explains.

A significant part of her work involved reviewing content and identifying which documentation needed to be updated. For the 6.4 release, Anne prioritized releasing the source of truth two weeks earlier – a strategic move to empower the wider release squad.

Her focus also extended to initiating release assets, such as a tracking issue for the 6.4 highlight grid. Anne also dedicated her time to testing and triaging, ensuring the release’s smooth progression.

Meanwhile, Maggie’s role centered on managing the default theme’s GitHub repository, organizing issues, reviewing and creating pull requests, and coding parts of the theme.

When it came to decision-making, she shared her responsibilities with fellow Default Theme team co-lead Jessica Lyschik. Together, they navigated choices that shaped the theme’s direction.

To accommodate different time zones, they set up weekly meetings on a Slack channel. These meetings updated the community on the theme’s development, discussed challenges, aligned on what needs to be done, and encouraged contributors’ involvement in crucial discussions. Then, the team would work on the action items by responding to each other’s pull requests and issues asynchronously.

While the previous default themes were more suitable for text-oriented websites like blogs, Twenty Twenty-Four was designed to be multipurpose. It’s packed with 35 patterns that can accommodate business and image-heavy websites like photography sites.

a demo page of Twenty Twenty Four using portfolio site homepage pattern

“When Twenty Twenty-Four designer Beatriz Fialho, Jessica, and I had our first call, we discussed our vision for the theme. Jessica said it would be nice to have a more business-oriented yet flexible theme. Meanwhile, Bea had this idea for a theme that works for multiple purposes,” Maggie reminisces. “I think this is going to be a very nice thing for theme creators who want a Swiss knife of a theme with multiple options. So, everyone can find a way to make the theme work for them.”

Clearly, this focus on flexibility and ready-made elements reflects an evolution in the design of block themes.

The Challenge

The development of WordPress 6.4 posed some challenges for Anne and Maggie. Their decision-making and collaboration skills were tested under tight deadlines. “Some hard decisions had to be made, including removing the Font Library from this release,” Anne says.

Font Library was set to be WordPress’s new font management feature, which enables users to manage fonts across the site. This way, fonts can be as easily managed as visual assets in the Media Library.

The feature went past 6.4’s Beta 1, but the release squad decided that it still needs more feedback and testing. Font Library is now postponed to WordPress 6.5, the next major release.

“Delaying a feature release is always hard, but it’s important to ensure its stability so users can have the best possible experience,” Anne explains.

For Maggie, the primary challenge was coordinating with many people within a short timeframe. She notes that 6.4 is one of the releases with the shortest development period – approximately less than two months.

The development started in late August during WordCamp US 2023. With a public release date in early November 2023, most of the work needed to be done before that. That way, there was time for everyone to test, fix, and improve the release.

“Sometimes making decisions is not easy, especially when there’s no clear solution,” Maggie says. “But at the same time, the biggest challenge can also be your best tool. When you don’t really know which way to go, there will be many people discussing which way is better and why.”

The team’s diverse perspectives and expertise transformed decision-making into a rich, collaborative process. Maggie emphasized that she was never alone in such a dynamic environment, and the team’s collective wisdom guided her toward the best solutions.

A notable concern during this release was performance, particularly due to Twenty Twenty-Four’s many complex patterns. Amazingly, the development team turned this challenge into an opportunity to enhance the performance of all block themes with numerous patterns.

Maggie feels very proud of this collaborative effort that brought a significant advancement for WordPress themes overall.

The Fun Stuff

The process of developing WordPress 6.4 was not just about overcoming challenges. It also brought joy and satisfaction to Anne and Maggie.

For Anne, the most exhilarating part of working on a release was the opportunity to collaborate with other underrepresented genders in technology. “Working in technology for 12 years, it’s an extremely rare experience and one that I hope becomes less so,” she says.

Maggie finds it delightful that so many people will use and benefit from the new default theme. It’s even more meaningful as default themes become the culmination point of the year’s advancements, as it usually coincides with the final major WordPress release.

Working with a vast community of contributors was also a profoundly rewarding experience for Maggie. Announcing the default theme at WordCamp US’ Contributor Day was a highlight. Many people came together to take part in the theme’s development. Maggie found the collaborative spirit productive, humbling, and inspiring – a reflection of WordPress’ vibrant and dedicated community.

In terms of features, Anne is particularly thrilled about the new default theme, Twenty Twenty-Four. She believes it can amplify users’ creativity across WordPress sites.

“There are various pieces in this release that are directly related to feedback from the FSE Outreach Program, which always excites me. I’m most excited about Patterns and how we can apply layouts and alignments to synced patterns in the editor. This resolves a longstanding issue that started with reusable blocks,” Anne says.

Twenty Twenty Four theme's full page pattern designs

On the other hand, Maggie’s favorite improvement in WordPress 6.4 is the template-swapping feature.

“Before 6.4, you had to remove a built-in template from a theme or empty its content to paste a new pattern into it. Now, users can easily switch between templates and patterns by default,” Maggie explains. “It’s a very simple change, but it offers so much more flexibility for theme developers.”

Empowering Inclusivity

WordPress 6.4 is the second WordPress release led by folks of underrepresented gender groups, which include – but are not limited to – women and non-binary people. This represents the platform’s effort to promote diversity, equality, inclusivity, and belonging within the WordPress community and the wider tech world.

“I think it’s a powerful way to give real-world experience and center folks who might otherwise have a hard time getting the same opportunities,” Anne says.

She believes this initiative contributes positively to the individuals involved and brings up new feedback so that contributors can benefit from future improvements. She also added that an underrepresented gender-led release should help improve transparency, collaboration, and clarity for everyone involved.

However, Anne also expresses concern about the long-term inclusion of diverse individuals. “It’s one thing to bring diverse folks to a project and another to keep them. We need to work on the latter,” she says.

Maggie agrees with advocating for more involvement of underrepresented genders in leadership roles, aiming for a future where it becomes the norm. She envisions a WordPress community where diverse leadership melts into the fabric of the release process.

To ensure that no one is left behind, Anne suggested the term “underrepresented gender-led release” instead of “all women-led release”. This is because the latter excludes transgender and non-binary people who are also actively involved in this initiative.

Using the language of “women and non-binary people” is also problematic. It perpetuates the misconception that all non-binary people identify with aspects of femininity, while there are trans men who equally need support.

“I think this term strikes a balance between comprehensive and concise. While we could go with something more uplifting, like “trailblazer-led release”, I find using more specific terms helps folks know that it’s for them,” Anne explains.

Onwards and Upwards

Addressing potential contributors, Anne encourages everyone interested in triage to start their journey now.

She highlights a tutorial she created on Learn WordPress, which guides newcomers through triaging on the Gutenberg repo. This resource is a practical starting point for those who want to understand triage and contribute meaningfully to the project. “It will help you get a feel for the experience, the hard calls, and the breadth of issues impacting the project,” Anne says.

Maggie offers insights for those aspiring to lead a Default Theme team. She emphasizes that design expertise is not a requirement. The primary responsibilities are management, support, and organization. The role actually resembles a project manager, where coordination and communication are key.

“A designer will do the design. A Default Theme lead will have a say on how the theme is built and some of its functionality, but you’re never going to work alone. You’re leading the work. What’s essential is GitHub proficiency,” she explains.

Maggie emphasizes the collaborative nature of the role. Team members are always surrounded by experts and mentors, facilitating contributions and making the process less daunting.

Through WordPress 6.4, Anne and Maggie did not only contribute to a technologically advanced release. They also helped foster a culture of inclusivity and collaboration, paving the way for future innovations in the WordPress ecosystem.

Author

Maya is a Content Writer and WordPress Contributor. With years of journalistic experience under her belt, her main goals are to help people understand complex processes in a simpler way, and tell the stories of people who thrive thanks to technology. When she’s not writing, you can find her watching sci-fi movies while eating ramen.
Follow her on LinkedIn.


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wpadmin December 15, 2023 0 Comments