Matt Mullenweg stands behind a podium beside a screen reading Hola Howdy to the attendees at WordPress State of the Word 2023.
Image Credit: Gianluca Stamerra

WordPress State of the Word 2023

NewsCategory
14 min read
Courtney Robertson

WordPress co-founder Matt Mullenweg held the annual State of the Word address on Monday, Dec. 11, 2023. The State of the Word is an annual update on the progress across the WordPress project and a look ahead to the following year.

This post will recap the event's highlights, including statistics and features that were released, as well as previews of those to come.

State of the Word livestream

Like State of the Word 2022, this year's event was live-streamed and delivered in person for the first time beyond North America, in Madrid, Spain. You can watch the full recording of the live stream below.

Introduction to State of the Word

The event began with Rocio Valdiva introducing WordPress Executive Director, Josepha Haden Chomphosy. Josepha shared that she is approaching 10 years as an Automattic-sponsored contributor.

She went on to share about the WordPress 6.4 under-represented gender-led release.  GoDaddy was staff participating in this release included Core Technical Co-Lead, Mike Schroder and Training Co-Lead Courtney Robertson and noteworthy contributor, George Mamadashvili. Scott Clark, JR Tashjian, Drew Jaynes, and Ryan Neudorf were also participating.  

Josepha then introduced WordPress co-founder Matt Mullenweg.

2023 in WordPress

Matt took to the stage and turned our attention first to a look back at 2023.

Matt Mullenweg stands at a podium during State of the Word 2023 and shares about WordPress 20th Anniversary

WordPress turns 20

On May 27, WordPress celebrated its 20th anniversary. From its humble beginnings as a blogging tool to the framework for applications that we can build today, WordPress runs over one-third of all websites online. The WordPress community celebrated the occasion with cake and gatherings across the globe.

Matt Mullenweg stands at a podium during State of the Word 2023. To his right is a screen with the locations of 70 WordCamps scrolling by.

The strength of WordPress is the community

WordPress's market share is a testament to its community. In 2023, we saw:

  • 70 WordCamps in 33 countries
  • 3,300 gatherings, including WordPress School Days (including Kids Camps and YouthCamps)
  • 2,500 organizers made this possible
  • The annual meetup survey is here! This year, we propose a unified survey for all Meetup members and organizers. Please complete the Annual Meetup Survey – even if you haven’t participated in a meetup recently!
  • https://w.org/meet is a new way to see upcoming events, much like the events in your WordPress dashboard widget.
  • 1,339 new contribs to WordPress.org this year

WordCamp Asia

The first WordCamp Asia was held in 2023.

The second WordCamp Asia will be held March 7-9, 2024 in Taipei, Taiwan. An anticipated 2,000 attendees will gather for this event, alongside speakers, sponsors, and volunteer organizers.

WordCamp Asia 2024 homepage

WordPress Remembers

Within the past month, WordPress.org Profiles were overhauled. As part of this, profiles from community members no longer with us received an in-memorium identification and are included in WordPress Remembers.

What can WordPress do?

Recently refreshed parts of the WordPress.org website, include the Showcase and Enterprise pages. Attendees in the live stream were calling for improving the criteria of websites showcased for areas around accessibility.

WordPress Showcase was announced during State of the Word 2023, as having been recently relaunched.

Matt shared that WordPress can scale to handle Swifties, as Taylor Swift was recently named Person of the Year and referenced the White House website when discussing WordPress security.

Openverse: 2023's Beacon of Open Education Excellence

Openverse is more than just a search engine; it's a vibrant part of the broader WordPress family. It's a place where anyone can dive into a sea of openly licensed and public-domain media. Consider it your go-to resource for photographs, audio clips, and more.

This isn't just a search tool; it's a gateway to a world of diverse media, each piece waiting to spark creativity. And the best part? It's woven into the fabric of WordPress but stands alone, welcoming users from all corners of the internet.

Then, we have our WordPress photo directory, a gem in its own right. Here, the spotlight is on photographs, each one carefully chosen for its potential to bring a WordPress site to life. These images come with a promise: they're not just beautiful; they're crafted for seamless integration into your WordPress journey. Contributors from across the globe pour their vision into this space, making it a treasure trove for website creators and bloggers. GoDaddy-sponsored contributor Marcus Burnette participates as a team representative and moderator for the Photos team.

Celebrating a significant milestone, Openverse has been awarded the 2023 Open Education Award for Excellence in the Open Infrastructure category, affirming its invaluable contribution to the open education community.

WordPress Playground updates shared during WordPress State of the Word 2023. The customizations screen for Playground are displayed here.

The WordPress Playground

The WordPress Playground is an innovative sandbox environment, a place where creativity meets technology. It's where you can experiment with WordPress in a safe, contained space, free from the constraints of a live site. Think of it as your personal testing ground, an area to explore new ideas, themes, and plugins without affecting your actual website. It's all about giving you the freedom to tinker, learn, and discover the full potential of WordPress in a risk-free, user-friendly setting. This is where the magic happens, where you can push boundaries and watch your WordPress skills flourish.

Give it a test yourself at WordPress Playground Beta/RC. Want to test GitHub pull-requests? See WordPress Playground PR Previewer.

To date, nearly 57,000 people have used WordPress Playground and at Google I/O conference, Adam Zelinski shared a demonstration.

Twenty Twenty Four theme

Each year, a new default theme is released for WordPress, showcasing the latest features. Twenty Twenty Four has been touted as the most beautiful default theme to date. Matt shared testimonials from multiple WordPress community members as the video demo played.

Gutenberg: envisioning the future of WordPress

As you navigate the roadmap laid out by WordPress, it's clear that the journey ahead is exciting. The roadmap charts a course towards an even more powerful and user-friendly WordPress. The four phases include:

  1. Easier Editing — Already available in WordPress, with ongoing improvements
  2. Customization — Site Editing, block patterns, block directory, block themes
  3. Collaboration — A more intuitive way to co-author content
  4. Multilingual — Core implementation for Multilingual sites

Matt invited Matias Ventura to share about the upcoming collaboration phase.

Gutenberg is sharpening its focus on enhancing writing and design capabilities. Writing in WordPress is set to become more fluid and natural, with features like footnotes and a clean, distraction-free interface in the editors. Design tools are also being refined to empower you to create with more precision and less effort.

While collaborative and workflow tools are still under development with no fixed timeline, you can get a sneak peek at what's brewing through the prototype demo in the Gutenberg experiments. The conversation is open and ongoing on the Gutenberg GitHub page, inviting insights and participation.

WordPress real time collaboration demonstrated during State of the Word 2023.

The philosophy behind blocks is evolving. The aim is to provide design units that strike a balance between flexibility for creators and consistency for end-users. You'll be able to interchange patterns and apply specific theme.json styles to these patterns, giving you unprecedented control over your site's design. Matias demonstrated the Interactivity API with a demo website: https://wpmovies.dev/.

Matias Ventura shows performance statistics for the block editing experience.

The roadmap also hints at significant performance improvements. Both the editor and front-end experiences are being fine-tuned for speed, with the editor already achieving a two-fold increase in efficiency and goals to enhance it even further. This, coupled with WordPress hosts' ever-increasing performance speeds, will continue to advance the speed of WordPress.

Matias Ventura shares a reimagined editor dashboard experience at State of the Word 2023.

When it comes to admin design, expect WordPress to offer an experience as unique as your needs yet familiar enough to be instantly recognizable as the WordPress you know and trust.

This glimpse into the future underscores Gutenberg's role in the ongoing evolution of WordPress, aligning with the broader roadmap's promise of progress and user empowerment.

2024 and beyond

Learn AI deeply

In today's event, Matt encouraged the community to delve deep into artificial intelligence, harnessing the power of AI to craft Playground blueprints for specialized areas like SEO and e-commerce, all personalized with a name you choose. Matt envisions conversational tools that not only perform tasks but also explain their actions, akin to a personalized tutor guiding you through the process

Screenshot of the new Data Liberation site available on WordPress.org/data-liberation demonstrated during State of the Word 2023.

Data liberation

Looking to 2024 and beyond, data liberation emerges as a critical focus area. The goal is to unlock the web, making migrations from one WordPress instance to another seamless with improved tools for the wxr format, plugins, themes, and more. Migration, a traditionally complex task, is being reimagined with the community at the forefront through first-party plugins, tools, and workflows designed to simplify the process. Imagine one-click migrations the ability to copy and paste effortlessly—Gutenberg is being optimized to be among the best for such tasks.

There's also a concerted effort to cultivate and communicate WordPress's core ethos more effectively. The idea is to streamline how contributors engage with the platform—providing each with a dedicated Slack channel, GitHub repository, and a more efficient backlog for registering new plugins, exemplified by the streamlined process at https://wordpress.org/plugins/developers/add/. The current wait time is 61 days, but Matt aims to reduce that drastically.

And, importantly, a hearty shout-out to the plugin and community teams—your contributions are the lifeblood of WordPress, and acknowledging your efforts underscores the collaborative spirit that propels the platform forward. GoDaddy understands the value of these teams as we continue to sponsor Evan Herman to the plugin review team and support Sandy Edwards as a WordCamp organizer, mentor, and KidsCamp/Youth Camp Program Manager.

WordCamp US 2024

WordCamp US 2024 will take place in Portland Oregon in mid September.

Nearly skipped as an announcement, an attendee inquired about WordCamp US 2024. We expect to see the event in Portland, Oregon, in mid-September. Josepha indicates there will be two contributor days and two event days.

Question and answers

State of the Word Q&A with Slido questions visible on the screen behind Matt Mullenweg

The format of Q&A sessions with Matt have evolved over the past year. We've seen tools like Slido integrated, so that questions can be crowd-sourced and vetted. Questions asked that didn't get an answer at the event will be reviewed on the Project team site.

WordPress plugin metrics

In 2022, WordPress.org controversially removed active install growth data for plugins from its repository without warning. The stated cause was concerns over the sufficiency of data obfuscation. This action left plugin developers without a key metric they used to gauge their plugins' growth or decline, leading to widespread consternation and debate about transparency and the rationale behind the decision. The WordPress community, particularly plugin developers, found the move unexpected and called for clearer communication and the reinstatement of the data​​.

When asked about plans to provide metrics again, Matt indicated there are no announcements to make about this. He expounded upon the blueprints.json details for the relaunched WordPress Plugin Preview button.

The future of blogging

The monetization landscape for bloggers is becoming more challenging with complexities like GDPR and cookie consent pop-ups complicating the ad ecosystem. The viability of programmatic advertising is also in question. To combat this, building a direct connection with audiences through RSS, email, and messaging platforms is key. Diversifying income streams through merchandise, donations, memberships, and sponsorships is also advised. Ultimately, cultivating a loyal readership, akin to Kevin Kelly's "1000 true fans," can sustain a blog financially in the long term.

Slack to Matrix

The WordPress community is considering transitioning from Slack to Matrix to enhance communication. The initiative aims to leverage Matrix's open-source platform to align with WordPress's ethos and provide better collaboration tools. A Matrix server has been set up, Slack chat histories have been migrated, and a Slack-Matrix bridge allows simultaneous communication. Despite the progress, some challenges like accessibility have paused the full migration. These issues, including licensing and the need for accessibility improvements, mean the transition to Matrix is on hold as Matt announced.

AI, openness, and community

When discussing how AI can empower WordPress users while maintaining the core values of openness, freedom, and community, Matt Mullenweg suggested that AI tools should be seen as productivity enhancers through prompt engineering. He humorously proposed imagining a scenario where one doesn't have fingers to type, thereby allowing the AI to take over the typing task. Additionally, he mentioned the idea of offering to tip the AI, pointing towards a potential interaction model or appreciation for AI's assistance.

From 43 to 85% market share

Matt suggested that enhancing e-commerce functionality, through WooCommerce or other plugins, is crucial for WordPress to expand its market share from 43% to 85%. He acknowledged that even within WordPress, tools can sometimes create friction for users, implying that streamlining the user experience is also vital for growth.

AI & multilingual

When asked to speculate upon AI and multilingual websites, Matt shared:

Translation tools are being built into browsers so that there will be less push for human-created 1st party translations of websites.

Matt Mullenweg

Matt Mullenweg's first website

Reflecting upon how Matt managed to pass his high school Spanish studies, he indicated taking on projects for additional credit. This is how his first website was created on Geocities. He's backed it up for all to admire. Visit https://Saxmatt02.com to explore more.

Timestamps

Want to jump quickly to watch the video yourself? Look no further:

00:28 State of the Word 2023 is a celebration of the WordPress community and its values.

  • Josepha Haden Chomphosy introduces the WordPress project executive director, emphasizing the community's values and inclusivity.
  • The executive director expresses hope for the future of WordPress, highlighting recent accomplishments and the spirit of the community.

04:16 Celebrating 20 years of WordPress

  • WordPress has evolved from a blogging tool to a framework for applications
  • Honoring the Spanish Community for leading the world in WordCamps

09:01 Running a survey to improve meetups

  • Looking to create better feedback loops and expand meetups globally
  • Relaunching the Showcase to demonstrate WordPress capabilities, addressing scalability and security concerns

11:02 Honoring WordPress community members

  • WordPress is creating a space to honor deceased community members at w.org remembers.
  • The Open Verse project aims to index all open-licensed content in the world, including Creative Commons licenses like cc0 and CC.

15:44 2023 saw finalization of phase two of the Gutenberg road map with the 2024 theme showcasing its capabilities.

  • The 2024 theme has over 35 patterns and is designed to meet the needs of artists, entrepreneurs, and writers.
  • It has received positive reviews and is considered a game changer, showcasing the full powers of Gutenberg.

18:05 Gutenberg aims to simplify writing and design

  • The editor aims to excel as a writing environment and a design tool, making significant progress in simplifying the writing experience
  • Features such as footnotes and distraction-free experience in the design editor have been launched, with a prototype for real-time collaboration underway

22:56 Introducing customizable patterns for developers and agencies

  • Customizable pattern blocks allowing customization within established boundaries
  • Ability to connect blocks to custom fields without creating custom blocks

25:07 Improving performance for both editors and visitors

  • Efforts to enhance editor performance by tracking and improving basic operations like typing and inserting blocks
  • Focusing on making the editor at least twice as fast and potentially achieving a 3X improvement in typing experience

29:27 WordPress is becoming highly extensible

  • Pages can be customized as list view or grid items
  • Admin elements will be relevant to each use case

31:37 Combining playground with AI to generate playground blueprints using natural language

  • Playground blueprints are configurations for setting up sites with plugins, extensions, and Wordpress versions
  • Generative AI is empowering everyday people and users to be more creative and democratizing technology

35:16 Unlocking web by focusing on migration tools

  • Dedicated focus on migration tools for easier switching between WordPress, other CMS, and hosts
  • Efforts to create seamless, straightforward, and frictionless migration experiences with community plugins

37:04 Introducing new migration solutions at wordpress.org

  • Projects will have dedicated Slack channels and GitHub repositories
  • Shorter review times for new projects to encourage quick start

41:11 State of the Word 2023 will be translated into four languages.

  • The presentation will be run through online tools for multi-language translation and accessibility.
  • Matt Mullengweg mentions his social media handles and the event hashtag.