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.
Core Releases of WordPress in 2016
Matt: We’ve had a cool year of Core releases as well, and I just want to celebrate some of these. Version 4.4 Clifford launched with responsive images. Also, WordPress Embeds it was also the first to bring in the scaffolding for the new REST API. 4.5 named for Coleman Hawkins included inline links, responsive previews, custom logos. And finally, 4.6, named for Art Pepper, included inline plugin and theme deletes, and in-browser content backup. This is very much a year about doing things differently.
For the first time ever in WordPress history, we’re going to pre-announce the Jazzer that will be honored in the next release. Never happened before, but we’re very excited about this. I’m proud to announce WordPress 4.7, Vaughan, named for Sarah Vaughan, and to talk about it, I would like to invite to stage the amazing Helen.
— WordCamp US (@WordCampUS) December 3, 2016
A look at WordPress 4.7 Vaughan
Helen Hou-Sandí: Hello everybody…. My name is Helen. Helen Hou-Sandí. I am the release lead for WordPress 4.7, and I’m really excited to get to talk to you a little bit about it today. There is a lot happening in this release thanks to a lot of people here, and then a lot of people who aren’t here. I’m not going to get to cover every single thing that’s happened in 4.7, but I’ll talk a bit about the things that I think are going to impact a lot of people.
— WordCamp US (@WordCampUS) December 3, 2016
The first is, we have a brand new default theme for 2017. It is a beautiful theme. I am extremely excited about it. It has a multi-section front page that you can set up, and I’ll talk more about setting it up in a few minutes. You can have a beautiful large header video, something that we started to see more and more across the web. You have widget areas, Nav menus, all those sorts of things that you’ve come to expect from a WordPress Theme.
This one in particular, I think, really targets businesses. Let’s think about a coffee shop. I think that’s a pretty typical example, but also like a doctor’s office or your local candy store or something like that. I’m really excited about it, and I hope to see more and more people using it over the next year.
I meant to mention WordPress 4.7 will be coming out on Tuesday. Promise!
I also would like to recognize the people behind WordPress. Behind 2017 we have over a hundred contributors to 2017 which is really amazing. Themes are a place where a lot of people start contributing because that’s what a lot of us do when we get started with WordPress, is we start tinkering with themes, and that’s a really great place to learn how to contribute to a piece of software, so that’s very exciting.
These features, we have this multi-section home page, I’m just going to scroll. What this scrolling doesn’t quite show you is that those big images actually stay fixed when you’re scrolling, and this stuff scrolls over it, and it’s a really cool effect. That will show up again later.
To support this theme, in particular, this time around, but also to set us up for better theme setup in general, that’s been the central focus for this release of WordPress. How do you get your site setup, especially for the first time?
Those of you who follow me on Twitter, for basketball gifs I assume, watched me Tweet a 60-part Tweet storm about what it was like to change the theme on my site which is Helen.blog. It’s a pretty simple site, but trying to change my own theme was this really complicated process – and I’m supposed to know what I’m doing! So I thought a lot about that. What can we do to make this theme setup process better? In 4.7 we’ve done a lot of work toward making this better.
This is a feature, the video’s going to play in the background while I talk about it. We have two features here, that we’re looking at, that work together. They’re called Starter Content and Edit Shortcuts. What this means is that themes in 2017 will ship with this. It can define some content that will better showcase them when you first go to customize them. That could be a Nav menu setup. So the social Nav menus are pretty common where you have those little icons for Yelp, and Instagram, and that sort of thing. It’s sort of magical how those icons are made to appear in the first place.
— WordCamp US (@WordCampUS) December 3, 2016
We sort of pre-populate that for you in giving you an idea that this is something that will work really well in this area. So for example with these edit links, in this example it’s editing the tag line, but think about having a widget. When you set up a theme for the first time, you have widget areas and they’re labeled, but you have no idea what corresponds to which. Themes now can pre-populate them, kind of say, this theme is really good for businesses, and so in the footer here, you can have a widget for your business location and ours.
Not only will it show that widget – it doesn’t make it live on your site – but it shows it to you when you’re customizing for the first time. Then you get a little edit icon, and you can go and you can edit it right from there, and really get started with this good solid base for setting up your site for the first time.
Also, along with that we have better menu building which means that when you’re setting up a Nav menu for your site, you can actually add new pages right from there the same way that you can make categories. When you’re writing a post, now you can add pages. You don’t necessarily have to be ready to write your grand About page, but you know that you want it in your menu when you’re setting up your site. Now you can just add that.
Also we have custom CSS, additional CSS, which a lot of you have probably seen. It’s very common in themes, definitely a lot of commercial themes. It’s also a feature in Jetpack, although not with live previews, so it’s really cool in 4.7 is that we will have live previewing custom CSS. So you can make tweaks for those of you who are comfortable with it. And it will work with Jetpack, I promise, because I’m a heavy Jetpack custom CSS user.
This is one of the features, this is stepping a little outside of the setup process, but we have these big beautiful video headers, and 2017 showcases them. I know that there are a lot of themes out there that have started to do this. So I’m really excited that we have a uniform way of handling this for our users and that you can have these big beautiful videos to check out on your site.
We also have some cool features. I think of these as sleeper hits. I really like this one. We have PDF thumbnail previews for those of you who have to do a lot of document management in WordPress, something higher ed, I used to do that. You get thumbnail previews now of the first page of your PDF so that you know, you can tell your stuff apart, and you know my upload worked and feel a little better.
We have user admin, or user dashboard languages. What this means is that when you have multiple languages installed on your site, your individual users can actually choose which language they prefer their dashboard in.
You may operate a Spanish news site. But you have an English writer who is good with Spanish but maybe prefers to use our interface in English. Or even a Spanish speaker who prefers their interfaces in English, which happens. Actually my husband is one of the people.
Finally, I think this is finally, for developers I think this is a thing that a lot of you are really excited about. WordPress 4.7 includes the content endpoints for the REST API.
Really, it’s thanks to this team over here I think spread out a little bit, I’m really excited about this, I’m really excited about taking this enthusiasm and building stuff with it. That’s what I really like to see, and that’s what made me feel like this really, truly has been a successful thing that we’ve chosen to do.
Finally. Two finally’s! I would like to give a special thanks to these two people who we call release deputes, Jeff Paul, who is a team lead at XWP, and Aaron Jorbin whose job title I don’t know, but he’s here somewhere, you can ask him. They’ve been incredibly helpful to me through this release. There’s a lot of management, people wrangling. I’m a developer, and occasional designer, but my strengths are not necessarily in project management and that sort of thing. Having people who’ve been able to help me in those areas has been incredibly valuable, and I deeply appreciate you, and I’d like a round of applause for these two.
We also ran some quick numbers. We have more than 475 contributors, yeah, to 4.7 which is significantly more than some other past releases. I think when – I actually lead 4.0 – and I think we had maybe 300 then, this is huge growth in that area, and of those 475+ contributors, just over 200 of those are first-time contributors, and that’s extremely exciting to me.
Now I get to leave you with one final thing, and that is that you get a nice preview of the release video. It’s coming on Tuesday, and so, thanks to Rommie Abraham for producing and narrating this video. He’s local to the area. You get to watch it, and I want you to pay special attention to the Jazzer, Sarah Vaughan, I’d like to pay attention to the middle name.
Video Voiceover: WordPress 4.7 Vaughan, named after jazz legend Sarah “Sassy” Vaughan, makes it easier than ever to set up your website the way you want it.
Meet Carly. Carly operates a pet store, and needs a website. Carly looks at her options and discovers WordPress. With WordPress, Carly can choose from thousands of free themes to fit her needs. Carly’s decided on 2017, a brand new theme for WordPress built from the ground up for businesses. 2017 includes a sleek design with large images throughout. Perfect for both small businesses like a pet store, and larger businesses.
Because this is a brand new site 2017 will show some starter content to help Carly visualize how it can work for her store, and get started with customizing it to fit.
New visual edit shortcuts show what aspects of her site can be changed right there within the live preview. As she customizes her theme, Carly notices that she can add a video to her heading. She chooses a video she shot of her niece with her puppy and adds the video header to her site directly from her tablet.
Because you can create pages while editing menus in the Customizer in WordPress 4.7, Carly can continue building her site structure without breaking her current workflow. Carly wants to make one more change before she’s ready to share her site: make the name of her store more noticeable. The new CSS panel makes this easy, and shows your changes live as you build.
Matt Mullenweg: I can watch that puppy all night.
Video Voiceover: With that she publishes the brand new website for her pet store. Carly’s happy.
WordPress 4.7 includes all of these features and more along with the exciting developer features like REST API Content Endpoints. WordPress 4.7 Vaughan. Helping you set up your site the way you want it.
Matt Mullenweg: Can we get one more round of applause for Helen? It is incredibly humbling and one of my favorite parts of the work I do to be able to work with folks like Helen and other contributors, so thank you.
We’re going to talk a little bit about … By the way, that video was pretty funny, I liked how it was like, consumer, consumer, consumer, and the REST Content Endpoint API. Someone was probably like, “Oh, I get this. I get this. Whaaat?” When everything’s capital letters, you know …
Content endpoints for the REST API
I’m going to talk a little about the REST Content Endpoint API. We like to show some of the examples that are starting to use it, and we have two cool new ones to highlight this year. The first is the Guggenheim Museum. Beautiful amazing museum in New York. If you go to Guggenheim.org, and click around, notice how fast it is, and then view the source and see the amazingness that is happening, because it is actually fully powered by the new Content Endpoint APIs.
The second site that you can see this on is vocativ, which is stories from the deep web. I don’t know what that means, deep web or dark web, I forget. Those would be very different. It’s safe to visit, don’t worry, I checked it out. They have an entirely 100% React front end that I thought was pretty cool.
Then we have ustwo with Human Made’s help built their site completely in React and are using the new Content Endpoint APIs. What’s especially cool about ustwo is it’s actually fully open source. If you go to http://ustwo.com/blog/open-sourcing-our-website, much like WordPress.org and Calypso and everything like that, they are open-sourcing as well. Some cool stuff happening with APIs, a round of applause for that. It’s been some good things.
It’s been a busy year, but actually I want to rewind just a little bit. Talk about a longer term view towards the past and marry that to a longer term view towards the future. We have had 14 releases, major releases, in the past five years. So 14 times we’ve done what Helen just talked about, what I talked about for the releases that happened the past year. They’ve been led by 10 different release leads. Helen is joining the small crew which has done two or more. Congratulations!
It’s been, if you noticed 14 over five years, it’s very steady. Almost exactly three per year, which is what we started to do about five years ago. We’ve had a very, very predictable release cycle, which has definitely…. We’ve cleaned up I would say quite a bit our release management side of things, and our sort of…. Even though it’s still a struggle every time, but the project management, the getting things in on time, the testing, the all of that. It’s so much smoother than it used to be. For those of you who are around pre-3.0, you know what I’m talking about.
Also in the past five years, we’ve managed to grow WordPress’s market share from 13% to 27.2%. It more than doubled. This is not market share of people running a CMS, this is market share of all websites. And this, both the size and the growth is completely unprecedented. The number two is around 3.3% and the number three is 2.2%. It’s Joomla and Drupal. Just in the past five years, we’ve grown the equivalent of, like, what Drupal has done over 16 years. Six times over.
— WordCamp US (@WordCampUS) December 3, 2016
It’s a real testament to how the community has come together, and really thought about the user first, and thought about how the experience is going to be, and how it affects everyday folks. Not just developers, not just whatever it is that we might be ourselves, really thinking about the larger community.
We’ve also had a new default theme every year since 2010. I will say that 2017 is one of my favorites because you haven’t seen a theme like that before. You haven’t seen that done with WordPress this way before. It brings us. We’ve been doing it this way for about five years now. We’ve had a success that has brought us to this point, but what can we try next?
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.