The Ephox team and I attended this year’s WordCamp US in Philadelphia. Matt Mullenweg delivered his annual State of the Word presentation and gave us his vision for the Future of WordPress. Along the way Helen Hou-Sandí introduced some of the new features in WordPress 4.7 Vaughan. You can watch his full presentation on WordCamp TV and read our full transcript below.
Question and Answer Session
— WordCamp US (@WordCampUS) December 3, 2016
Syntax Highlighting in the Editor
Audience Member 1: How’s it going Matt? It’s great to hear that you’re not going to be doing things in the usual way, so I’ll be excited to see what you guys bring forth with the new schedule. I’m very happy to hear about the Editor being focused on. Speaking of the Editor, I’m one of these folks who still uses the HTML side of the Editor. Everyone I work with uses the visual, and so, I guess I’m just more or less asking if there’s … I know I’m not the only, but all right. Focusing on, I don’t want it…. Basically I just want that to get lost. I work with a lot of people who go straight to visual and they have made a lot of improvements made on visual. Maybe it would be great to see colored coding or something like that, or in any sort of these developer-side things to the Editor that there might be good. Is there going to be some of that?
Matt Mullenweg: Now that you asked for, yeah.
Audience Member 1: All right, all right.
Matt Mullenweg: I think that’s a wonderful idea. What would be a great way to come into that is actually, we’re thinking about syntax highlighting for some of the new code editing-
Audience Member 1: That was the term I was looking for, syntax. I was like color coding.
Matt Mullenweg: Yeah. Syntax highlighting for the new CSS editor and everything like that. There’s no reason why we couldn’t apply that to the code view of the Editor as well. The thing I want to be careful, because I’ll tell you when I use the code editor the most. It’s when the WYSIWYG messes something up. I almost want some plugin that lets you opt in that every time you switch the code editor to fix something, it reports that as a bug. That’s essentially what it is. If we do our job right, you shouldn’t ever need to go to that. Of course WordPress has code at its heart and you will always be able to access that, so don’t worry. Thank you.
Where is WooCommerce going?
Audience Member 2: Hello, good afternoon. I’m coming from Cancun, Mexico. Thank you. I wanted to ask you, there was a lot of great information about where WordPress is going, but I kind of was hoping to get a little bit of sense of where WooCommerce is going too.
Matt Mullenweg: The question is where WooCommerce is going. That has its own conference too. Check out WooConf, and the online stuff they do and everything like that. Essentially I would say the biggest thing ties into what I talked about which is…. WooCommerce, like many other top plugins, is going to create an interface inside of Calypso so that there is a fully API-driven way to interact with it either for other developers, or through this new interface. And in doing this new interface is an opportunity to reimagine some of the functionality or some of the screens that haven’t been looked at in a while, just like we did with WordPress and Calypso, and hopefully create the experience that people find exciting.
Audience Member 2: Thank you, that was great.
Matt Mullenweg: No problem, thank you. Over here?
Audience Member 3: Hi, I’m Jonathan from Montreal Canada, and I like to thank you for the new direction that we’re going with the leadership in WordPress and the release cycles. I’m asking this question for Morten Rand-Hendriksen, who’s pretty vocal in the community. He can’t be here today so that’s why I’m …
Matt Mullenweg: He’s here in spirit!
Audience Member 3: He’s here in spirit, exactly. Considering it’s 27% of the web, its footprint, WordPress is in a position of influence, and how the web works, and how the web evolves. It begs the question if WordPress as an entity, with its new leadership now, should play an active role in the bodies that govern the web. As an example what are your thoughts on WordPress taking an active role in W3C, and how with the community form policies to govern the new web?
Matt Mullenweg: Some people seem to like that. If you would like to be our representative to W3C, come on by. I’m too old for that now. You’re right though that these entities do have a huge influence, and we’ve seen, actually, what is it? Unicode consortium get really cool recently because of emoji! I had a friend who actually lobbied for the dumpling emoji to be in the Unicode and it is now there. It’s on everyone’s phone. We have a dumpling emoji, how cool is that? Definitely these standards and decisions can have a large influence.
W3C which was very, very, very important at the beginning of WordPress. That one of our big differentiators was, we validated, and we produced valid code which very few CMSs did at the time. To be honest it has drifted in the background a little bit for me. Even as we’ve kept with some things like WCAG, and other standards. Yeah, if that’s something you’re interested in, I would say that there is an opening for people who want to work on that, and yeah. That would be great to have representation.
Audience Member 3: Thank you very much.
Matt Mullenweg: Thank you. What’s your shirt say?[Off-mic response]
Matt’s Calypso Commit
Audience Member 4: Hello, my name’s Rami. I’m from a small town to ours to the west, called Lancaster.
Matt Mullenweg: Lancaster in the house.
Matt Mullenweg: [Laughs] Sorry, out of luck! No, it’s probably just because… Andy sent out the emails, he maybe just couldn’t find it. This is all public. What’s the ticket number? 9270 I think? Issue number? All of the plugin stuff I talked about is actually completely out there, and you can just go and get help, and get all the information. The email was more just go check this out. It wasn’t any secret information.
This has merged into Calypso actually this morning, and you can check it out. Also, to clarify, the one million or above is just to start working it out, because with the current structure you can’t have 40,000 of these, so with the top plugins we want to figure out how it’s going to best work, so we can then generalize that plugin infrastructure, for the rest of the WordPress.
Audience Member 4: That is the eventual goal?
Matt Mullenweg: Absolutely.
Audience Member 4: Whaaat?
Matt Mullenweg: For those of you here who are old school you’ll remember, anyone remember the my-hacks file? Yeah. Who knows when support for it was removed? Trick question it wasn’t! The big early innovation, sometimes you have to take baby steps, at the time when WordPress started or Café Log, kind of around that time, the way that you did plugins, or modified things, was there would be a webpage that said, open this file, go to line 44, paste this code. Go to line 82, paste this code.
You were literally manually patching things. Café Log and then WordPress’s big innovation was putting all those patches in a single file called my-hacks, where you put all your hacks to the core software, and then from there we took the step to, and that was a good one, to make these self-contained. They are the plugin interface that we know and love today. There’s going to be some equivalent to that. Right now we’re still in the my-hacks phase. That’s why, it’s where we are in the timeline. We’re kind of like in 2005 again.
Audience Member 4: Thank you.
Matt Mullenweg: Thank you. One over here.
Security Talks at WordCamps
Audience Member 5: My name’s Paul, and I’m a WordPress-a-holic.
Matt Mullenweg: Hi Paul!
Audience Member 5: Actually first thing I wanted to do is thank you for working with the Black Girls Code initiative. That is an amazing initiative, I can’t thank you enough for doing that. I’m with the University of Missouri, I will lead the WordPress development on campus there, as well as secure the WordPress sites, and unfortunately deal with remediation and triage of compromised sites. One of the things those of us in the higher ed space face all the time is fighting against the misconception that WordPress is insecure, and can never be secured.
This is my first WordCamp ever. I was a little surprised when I got here and discovered that there was an absence of talks related to security and securing WordPress sites. I was wondering if you could speak to that absence as well as as far as protecting WordPress’s adoption rate. If you have any plans to help educate the WordPress community on securing sites to help fight that misconception I mentioned?
Matt Mullenweg: I’m guessing you like security, because you’re wearing the shirt?
Audience Member 5: I do work with security quite a bit.
Matt Mullenweg: Cool. I would love to say that there were no security talks, because everyone’s already 100% secure, but we all know that’s not 100% true. I think it was just an oversize in the programming for this year, where…. As balancing all the 20 or 30 things for the amazing slate of speakers we’ve had. By the way, who liked the talks this year? Good ones? Yeah. Saw some incredible ones. We just missed security, so we will fix that next year.
Audience Member 5: All right, definitely. Please.
Matt Mullenweg: That will not happen again, it is on a checklist of things that got forgotten. In terms of people who say that WordPress can never be secure, I guess in some global philosophical sense where no software can ever be secure, I agree that no software can ever be secure. Because it is written by humans, for now, and humans are fallible and we make mistakes and so by definition all software will have bugs, and some of those bugs might have security implications.
I do think, though, it’s interesting to think in systems. I think WordPress as a system can actually be incredibly secure, and that testament to that is the extremely high end websites that run it. For example Facebook, which has one of the better security organizations in the world, cyber security. WordPress is certified for them, and if you look at anything that’s on WP.com. Sorry, fb.com, they also have a cool two letter, newsroom.fb.com, internet.org, Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, all of that is actually hosted by WordPress VIP.
It runs securely, lots of newspapers, et cetera. While the software itself is fallible, you can build things around it, which I’m sure you’re familiar with it, that can check that, and restore if something goes wrong. You can have multiple layers of security. And we just need to continue to do that, because security is always a process, never a destination. I will never be able to get on the stage, and say we’re now 100% secure, because I know there’s someone waiting to release a bug until I say that.
That’s just the recognition. I do believe that our update system is relatively unique among our peers in terms of being able to push out security updates quickly. We’ve got a large number of sites, and we’ve used that. Also the fact that we work very closely with web hosts, and that basically every major web host now takes the security of WordPress as seriously as they take the broader security of their accounts. As, who’s ever cleaned up a hacked site? Isn’t that the worst thing in the world? Imagine doing that if you don’t know command line?
If you imagine you’re someone who signed up on a three or five dollar a month web host, with a one click and solve WordPress, you have no chance. You really need your host to fix that for you. Otherwise there will be some files somewhere that just keeps reinfecting you over and over and over that we’ve all heard about. The responsibility of the folks with the technical capacity to really address these issues when they do go wrong, as it will inevitably go wrong sometime in the future is important.
That’s what’s been great about our closer partnerships with hosts as well is that they have trained all their support people on WordPress, on plugins. They have done a lot of proactive work that we’ve talked about last year in getting people on to the latest version. I think we’ll continue to see the results of that. My personal goal is to have 80% or more WordPresses in the world on the latest version within a week of the release. We’re not there yet. We get to the tens of per cents, not ever to 80%. So we need to both improve our Core auto update, and work with hosts to get as many sites on the latest versions as possible. Then, when we do that for Core that will also apply to plugins and themes.
Audience Member 5: Perfect. Thank you very much.
Matt Mullenweg: Thank you.
What is the story behind Photomatt?
Audience Member 6: Hey Matt, this is really quickly, and it’s strictly a very selfish question. My name is Estras, I’m with million eyez. What’s up with that @photomatt? I want to know the story behind it, because I’m all about photography. It’s …
Matt Mullenweg: I used, my URL used to be PhotoMatt.net. PhotoMatt, like many things in my life is a pun. Many of you might not remember, but you used to get pictures printed, at a store, and it was often called the Fotomat, the f-o-t-o-m-a-t.
Audience Member 6: You’re selling that, right?
Matt Mullenweg: Yeah. Also, a lot of people don’t know, Automattic is also a pun. I try to work my name in everything. I actually own about…. I own about 40 different names with MATT in them.
Audience Member 6: MAT?
Matt Mullenweg: Diplomattic, semiautomattic, there’s a ton of different ones.
Audience Member 6: Okay, I’ll start collecting, I’ll let you know if I find some more, thanks man, appreciate it.
Matt Mullenweg: No problem, thank you. I’ve also registered all the Matt TLDs, and I’ve been getting hate mail from other Matts. They’re like, “Why do you need Matt.lawyer, and Matt.club, and Matt. …” I don’t know. I have a domain issue.
The future WordPress entrepreneurship
Audience Member 7: Thank you, good evening, Matt. This is Fahad Shakiv from Pakistan, I came here to attend the WordCamp. First of all, I want to pay my gratitude to you on adding the RESTful API with the WordPress, it’s a new vision for a lot of people that we have been developing the robots. I’m going to plan to utilize the dashboard for the ROS, and utilizing the Baxter robot with the WordPress, so thanks for that.
Matt Mullenweg: That credit goes to a lot of the people sitting over there. They did amazing work.
Audience Member 7: That’s right, we have been doing, but my question is, since we have been investing a lot on the WordPress, and the other things, definitely a future of an entrepreneur is always dependent on its…. Since we have been using WordPress, in your vision where you see the future of a WP entrepreneur?
Matt Mullenweg: The future of a WordPress entrepreneur? A lot of what we’re going to be focusing on I think could change the growth curve of WordPress. Which means that there would be … Even though we’ve been growing faster than everyone else in the market from a market share point of view, I think that we will be able to, excuse me, accelerate that and reach audiences that we’re not reaching right now. Because, if we’re honest about it, WordPress even with one of the great web hosts, that sponsor that was in the thing, there’s still a lot of steps to getting it going. I think that we could streamline that quite a bit, and make it more accessible to really fulfill our mission and our dream once it’s democratized publishing.
As we grow that market, that lifts the boats of everyone. One of the reasons why I think WordPress has such a collaborative community, when you see competitors hanging out with each other and getting drinks and essentially friendly, is that it’s a growing pie. Everyone’s slice of that pie can grow alongside. If it were a shrinking, or a static pie, the only way to grow it will be taking some pie from someone else. It’s really all about pie.
Audience Member 7: All right.
Matt Mullenweg: 3.1425, no. That’s my hope, is that, like as WordPress becomes more accessible to new users, it has more inclusive design that you’ll start to get more people all over the world, including in Pakistan, like come to you and say, “I want, not just a website, but a WordPress.” Then that creates all sorts of opportunities for people to create consulting, to create local plugins, to create local services, local hosts, local everything. Everything that you see around WordPress should be able to be bigger and more interesting.
Audience Member 7: Thank you very much, and before I leave, I’d like to invite all of you for the WordCamp Pakistan, WordCamp Lahore. We are running for definitely in February 2017. This is Fahad from PressTigers.
Matt Mullenweg: That is an acceptable popup ad in the questions. That’s why we’re at WordCamp, it’s okay.
Audience Member 8: Hey Matt, my name is Dan, I’m a developer at J2, I work about two blocks from here, so this was a pretty easy trip for me.
Matt Mullenweg: Thank you for your hardship.
Audience Member 8: Yeah. The new standard is PHP7, that’s the recommended version, but does that apply to the coding standards that we write? The next version of Core? Also, what about the legacy code? Things that aren’t compatible with PHP7?
Matt Mullenweg: Sure. That’s what we’re recommending. Meaning that we only want you to host your sites, your WordPress, and we’re only going to try to send you to people that support HTTPS, and PHP7. As it says on that page, we work all the way back to 5.2.4, I think, right now. That is because the people who are on those older versions probably don’t have as much control over it. We don’t want to leave them behind when we do, for example, a security update. We’re right now, especially in Core, I don’t see any huge reasons to adopt a different syntax or some module or something that changes that.
We can continue, as we already have, to progressively enhance WordPress as it’s on newer versions. Just like we’re saying there’s going to be certain things that get lit up when you’re HTTPS, that doesn’t mean that WordPress won’t work on HTTP, on non-secure. It just means that it will be better on this. I can entirely imagine certain features, like let’s say something new in a module in 7 or something that we could use, but in reality we’re probably not going to take advantage of a lot of the syntactical stuff because it would create backwards incompatibility.
Audience Member 8: Yeah. Do you think the inclusion is definitely something that you want to consider but it’s been a long time? Do you think that there’s a end of life date that we could look forward to? Even a year from now? Just a thought.
Matt Mullenweg: Sure, someday, and we had bumped it in the past, we’ll bump it in the future. That’s driven by the users, not by what we want necessarily.
Audience Member 8: Yeah, exactly.
Matt Mullenweg: You will see us bump these versions as – I see Gary raring to go. He’s ready to do it right now. We’ll do it as the numbers support it. The most effective thing we can do as a community is help the people who are on older versions get upgraded. In fact I know a number of plugins, I think Yoast is going to start telling people on older versions, “Hey, contact your host.” A lot of these folks, I think the host supports it. There’s just some flag, or some app they need to be moved around.
Audience Member 8: It’s a PSA.
Matt Mullenweg: Yeah. Thank you. We’ll do two over here, and yeah, we’re wrapping up soon, so …
Release strategy in 2017
Audience Member 9: Hi boss. I’m George Stephanos. I also live about two hours west of here in Lancaster. I know, crazy right? Rami is my co-organizer at WordCamp Lancaster. With the new release schedule, one of the things that has served us very well over the last three years, 12 releases, ever since the extended 3.5 release cycle was that both feature plugins and the idea that, if you don’t get into this release, not a big deal because the next release is right around the corner. With this change now, if the next release, 3.8, is taking an extended period of time to get out, is there going to be some consideration to shipping a, making that 3.9, and shipping a 3.8 sooner, with just the incremental releases, or is it we have to hold off for the big three, the Editor, Customizer, and API?
Matt Mullenweg: No. Any one of those, when it has something ready, could push a release. If one is ready in September, and the next is ready in October, we’ll do a major release in September, and a major release in October. It’s all about the readiness of that part of it. It’s also very possible that we’ll make some improvements to the Core stuff on the way, and maybe at some point we’ll package that and push it out. We’re just not committing to a deadline, so it’s a lack of schedule. It’s driven more by the quality, the functionality, and the stability of these key things. You’re right to mention feature plugins. That’s been something we’ve done well, and poorly, in the past, and I hope that this can be some examples of us doing it super well. Thank you. One more on this side.
Workshops at WordCamps
Audience Member 10: Sure. My name’s Andrew, I’m from Dallas, Texas, so plus one to barbecue. I actually contacted the organizers here and wanted to do a workshop around the Customizer for WordCamp US. You see that at a lot of WordCamps and other conferences and things, do you think there’s a spot for that in the future especially as these new release dates come out with a large change to be doing one day that’s just let’s get everybody up to speed on all this new stuff that’s come out in this new release?
Matt Mullenweg: I think that would be awesome. They’re nodding, so I think that means it could happen. I love when WordCamps do workshops beforehand. It’s kind of amazing, to your hunger project. Bringing people who have never had the power of being able to update their website before is so fun. I’m excited about these Hackathons, and yeah, we could definitely have a workshop next year. We’ll see how Nashville brings the game. Let’s wrap up these three, and then we’re done.
Keeping the community engaged in longer release cycles
Audience Member 11: Hey Matt, as a fellow tie wearer, I will tie your tie for you any time, just let me know.
Matt Mullenweg: Thank you.
Audience Member 11: With the new release cycle, how do we avoid stagnation? Let’s say, being a services business we realize that the longer a project goes on, the less interested everybody is in it. How do we keep everybody engaged, the developers, without them feeling burnt out and without them not wanting to be in that part of the project anymore?
Matt Mullenweg: It’s a good question. I think we’re trying to counter our stagnation. I think even though we’ve had lots of releases, certain parts of WordPress have stagnated. They haven’t made the leaps that we could, and so this is giving us some more time to really work on those things. I think that having a plugin is a great way to do that. For having this being able to be pushed in a plugin asynchronously from Core releases, and it can be very engaging. It can get both the thrill of releasing, and the oxygen of getting immediate feedback on whatever the new things are. I would say for a lot of these look for sort of the official plugin that we promote, that lets you get this new stuff ahead of the core release. I think for each one we’d want probably 40 or 50,000 testers at least.
Audience Member 11: As a follow up to that, do we have any sort of statistics right now about how many actual users are user testing our feature plugins before we introduce them into core?
Matt Mullenweg: Not enough. That’s why, remember, it’s design-led? A key part of design is that user testing. I think we need to start with it, we need to do it in the middle, and we need to do it at the end. By the way there’s equivalence of that for the REST API. We could do developer testing. Let’s go to some random agency and sit down with them, and say, “Hey, make a hello world using the REST API.” and see what they struggle with. See where in the documentation they get stuck. Everything can be designed better and by approaching that mindset – and by the way, it doesn’t happen just from designers, but bringing more of that DNA into our everyday conversations, I think will help us become more user-centric, and more iterative in our approach.
Audience Member 11: Thanks.
Matt Mullenweg: Thank you.
How will the WordPress Foundation work in underdeveloped countries?
Audience Member 12: Hello. My name is Assim Buwani I’m from Karachi, Pakistan.
Matt Mullenweg: Cool. Two people from Pakistan.
Audience Member 12: Before I get to my question I just want to say thank you for WordPress, it literally changed my life. It was my gateway into development and software. My question is about WordPress Foundation. One of the things you said it will focus in on 2017 is education in underdeveloped countries for WordPress for that publishing and information can be democratized further. I just want to know what that would look like on the ground? What exactly do you have in mind in terms of dispersing that education?
Matt Mullenweg: We’re going to figure that out, but if I had to lay out a general area, it would be curriculum that’s open source. Then it gets localized and someone local, perhaps like yourself, would essentially run a class with some support from the Foundation. Maybe helping getting a venue or getting it all setup, whatever, the advertising it so people know to come to it, and the idea just reaching out. Much like a workshop that we talked about pre-WordCamp. Essentially that, but in a place where it might start even from a more basic level.
Audience Member 12: Okay.
Matt Mullenweg: Thank you.
Audience Member 12: Thank you.
Matt Mullenweg: If you have ideas, and want to get involved there, hop on in. Last question, I hope it’s a good one.
Five for the future and the Growth Council
Audience Member 13: Wow, no pressure.
Matt Mullenweg: No pressure.
Audience Member 13: I’m okay, okay with that. I wanted to talk a little bit about the Five for the Future which I think is a really cool concept you brought up a couple of years ago, and we’ve seen the impact of that as some developers, and designers, and even community members are being dedicated by companies to do that full time. As someone who’s led the .org marketing contributor days for the past couple of years we see some people showing up and having energy, but then in between nothing.
I think part of that is related to maybe companies not thinking that is something they could dedicate time or energy to. Is that something that the Growth Council, that might be part of that? Is that something that, I don’t know, what do you think in terms of extending this time donation to other kinds of roles, that maybe don’t seem obvious where development and design and other things are very core to that?
Matt Mullenweg: That is amazing, because you surgically identified the one part of the presentation that didn’t make it in.
Audience Member 13: I did not see anything.
Matt Mullenweg: First, I would like to recognize, Mark and everyone else who made a slide or helped out with that State of the Word. As cool as that. Everything good in there came from them, so thank you. One of the things I didn’t get to was reaching out. Following up with some of the Five for the Future companies. Other people who already announced and I was aware they were doing Five for the Future, or I’m sure the many that I don’t know about that are doing it. I anecdotally have seen their growth in the Five for the Future, and certainly I’ve had more people tell me that this is something their company does every other Friday or something like that.
People, again, if you don’t get the 5%, even 1% is better than nothing, and it has a real impact as we’ve seen in the development so far. The … Look for that next year, I’ll talk for it about more, or in the interim that it will grow. I completely agree that it is a area that we need to highlight more, I don’t think it needs to come from the Growth Council, it could come from anyone who wants to take it on.
What I would love to do, is on WordPress.org, actually highlight the companies that are making the public commitment to do this, and celebrate them either maybe with badges on their profiles, or something like that. It is a big investment, but it is a thing that will allow us to be around 50 years from now. Because we are a commons-based system, and what comes out of WordPress is a multiple of what goes in.
But if we all just use it and take, and don’t leave a penny, take a penny, none of us leave a penny. It dries up. And so WordCamps always really inspire me, in terms of, because, and tomorrow Contributor Day. Who’s going to Contributor Day? Yeah.
Think about it if you’re not going as like something to check out, because it is the coolest thing in the world to fix something. I know it sounds silly, but you can then tell all your friends, “See that part of WordPress? I made that not ugly.” Or, “I fixed this documentation page.” Or your face ends up on a future State of the Word, it’s a really cool experience to have your work used by millions and millions of people.
WordPress is one of those places where you could do that, you can work alongside amazing folks, like some of the ones who we’ve highlighted today, and I don’t know, it beats watching Netflix. WordPress and chill, no, kidding.
On that note, I want to give a very, very, sincere thanks for all of you all for being part of this. For coming out, for bringing your energy, for bringing your people who spoke, people who volunteered, let’s just give ourselves a big round of applause.
With that, let’s get the music going again, and we can go check the after party. I will see you all there, or at the contributor day tomorrow, so thank you very much!
More State of the Word
Keep reading our State of the Word 2016 series:
- Part 1: WordCamps, Meetups and the WordPress Foundation
- Part 2: The Extended Family of WordPress: BuddyPress, HackerOne & GlotPress
- Part 3: WordPress.org Updates
- Part 5: Design, Inclusion & Growth of WordPress
- Part 6: HTTPS and PHP7 in WordPress
- Part 7: WordPress & Calypso
- Part 8: A Look Back on WordPress Core Releases
- Part 9: The Plan for WordPress in 2017
- Part 10: Code is Poetry
- Part 11: Questions and Answers
PS. Did you know Ephox makes the default editor in WordPress? Take editing to the next level with our premium TinyMCE extensions.