State of the Word 2021 | Q&A

It was a treat for me to see some folks in-person and online at Matt Mullenweg’s State of the Word on December 14th. For me, the thrill of his annual keynote is hearing his perspective of the year and what questions it raises in the community. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to all of the questions! We only had a handful of pre-submitted questions which I’ve included along with their answers in my post below. After those, I’ve listed all the questions that were received during State of the Word (with the exception of the banana shake questions 😉

How do we do this?

All unanswered questions have been assigned reference numbers (Q1, Q2, Q3, etc) and any corresponding answers that come in the comments will be labeled similarly (A1, A2, A3, etc). Just like twitter, but slower! 🙂

Pre-Submitted Questions

Matt, me, and my team are building a decentralized publishing infrastructure to bridge WordPress users to Web3. We hope to help content creators leverage blockchain to reach the end goal of democratic publishing. Especially for heavily censored places where people don’t have the freedom to distribute and access information. What do you think WordPress would evolve in the Openverse/metaverse, and how could we deliver the right tool to the WP community? Thanks for answering my questions, and if there’s a chance, I would love to get in touch for a follow-up conversation with you or the team.

– Phoebe Poon

Web3 is currently a collection of ideas, aspirations, and technologies and, in this context, refers to a decentralized web built on cryptocurrencies and the blockchain. 

It’s important to note that decentralization is not exclusive or inherent to the blockchain and crypto. Solid, a project from Tim Berners-Lee and MIT, is an excellent example of this. Self-hosted, open-source WordPress sites are already a great example of decentralization on the web, where users already own their data. The blockchain itself may be trustless and decentralized, but the gateways to access it and abstract it for users might not be. Openverse is an open-source, centralized tool to enable the discovery of openly-licensed media that challenges proprietary libraries of stock photography, licensed audio, and more. – Zack Krida, Openverse project lead.


I’m curious how many people use WordPress Block Editor vs. Classic Editor, raw numbers, and percentages. I’m looking forward to tuning into the event on Dec. 14th.

– Mathew Wallace

The Gutenberg plugin has over 300,000 active installations, while Classic Editor plugin has over 5 million. It’s hard to draw any specific conclusions from these numbers since each plugin serves a different purpose. Having the Classic Editor plugin provides users and clients with a choice of how to create their content, so folks who have that plugin installed could still be publishing primarily with the Block Editor.


My question is about the plugin review team: This is a very special team. It is closed, has only two members, and although we have nearly 60k plugins now, 100+ more coming every week, the team never got more members. The team has power (reject plugins, closing plugins, ban users, etc.), and it has no rotating policy, although the work is very stressful. WordCamp organizers have a rotating policy; why do we have no rotating policy for the plugin review team? And/Or how can we prevent misuse of powers here?

– Torsten Landsiedel

Great question. We have had several people on the plugin review team at various points. Unfortunately, there have been cases of legal threats and illegal harassment against the team’s members, and I will not expose community volunteers to that. That said, there are other community teams involved in reviewing disputes about blocked accounts, and there are plans in place to automate any checks we can, so humans are involved in the parts humans do best. – Josepha, WordPress Project Executive Director


I am afraid that the block editor is dividing the community we are so proud of. As a long time community member, many people come to me as a “representative” person (WordCamp & meetup organizer, speaker, moderator, GTE, etc.) and complain about Gutenberg. Devs are complaining about the fast moving target, the incomplete documentation, and the changes. Users complain about full screen mode and UX problems (especially with older themes). How can you help us volunteers or the people in general to have a smoother transition?

– Torsten Landsiedel

Although the recommendation is to build themes as block themes and migrate existing themes to blocks, older themes are still supported. In this direction, the Widgets Editor was released in 5.8 to support Legacy Widgets in the Block Editor and add native blocks in Widgets Areas. However, it is recommended to implement migration paths from Widgets to blocks.

With the advent of FSE in WordPress 5.9, the new Site Editor will supersede the Customizer, hidden by default. Still, whenever WordPress detects hooks that need the Customizer in themes and plugins, it will be available automatically.  Further, companies participating in the Five for the Future initiative are increasing the number of sponsored contributors focused on developer advocacy and documentation to help smooth this transition. – Matías Ventura, Gutenberg project lead


Hi Matt, first, thank you for providing this space to ask a few questions. My questions relate to the newly formed PHP Foundation and the future of PHP. In your 2015 State of The Word, you told the community to learn JavaScript deeply. With Automattic as an integral part of the newly formed PHP Foundation, is it time to learn PHP deeply? Any chance you might like to read the tea leaves and share your thoughts about the future of WordPress, JavaScript clients with PHP servers? Where do you suggest we (the community) focus our efforts in 2022?

– Rita Best

PHP is a foundational language for WordPress, so many people in the ecosystem already know it deeply. That said, it’s always smart to know your software’s tech stack well. The WordPress project has benefitted so much from the PHP project and community. This sponsorship is giving back in the way that I hope companies in the WordPress ecosystem give back to our project—think of it as a proactive Five for the Future contribution to PHP. – Matt Mullenweg, WordPress project lead

Additional Questions

Q1. Can we curate the content on WP.org? It’s hard for the good theme/plugins to rise to the top, and I think a little help would go a long way. It’s been talked about for years, but nothing has ever come from it. – Nick Hamze

Q2. Any plans to go public this year? Via SPAC, maybe? Before it’s too late! If not, why? And what’s the long-term vision of the company? – Emre Sokullu

Q3. What are you doing to make WP enterprise Dev Ops ready for multi server setups? Code migration for entire db and theme settings? – WapTugDotOrg

Q4. Are patterns responsive? – Yashwardhan Rana

Q5. I’d love to see the WP community, which is committed to freedom of speech and freedom of the press, to take a stand in support of Julian Assange – Leo Germani​

Q6. [Will] the Classic Editor plugin will be phased out next year? – Tanisia Greer​

Q7. What are the tradeoffs of doing the Collaboration phase before the Multilingual phase? – Ian Dunn

Q8. Can we talk about the timeline for implementing that core implementation of multilingual support? Speaking as someone who works for nonprofits in a bilingual country, this is essential for growth. – Autumn Corvus 

Q9. Is the idea that by the end of phase two, Gutenberg will make it easier to switch themes without as many styling headaches ie. by retaining the same block layouts? – Anthony Church

Q10. Blocks play a huge part in CMS. Recently Shopify released their opinionated framework Hydrogen for higher customization; what are your thoughts on this? Could we see something similar coming from WP? – Arthur Ferreira

Q11. Are there any updates on Tumblr? Also, to follow up on my question at the last in-person WCUS in 2019, what do you think is the biggest challenge for Gen-Z and younger people to get into WordPress, especially with social media, other website builders, and other content management systems being distractions, plus not many into traditional blogging or owning their sites? Thank you! – LemonadeCode G

Q12. What’s in the roadmap for multilingual support? – Ricardo Alday

Q13. What can WordPress do better to improve diversity, not only in gender, color, but to increase the number of contributors from unusual countries? – Allyson Souza

Q14. When will the theme directory preview be fixed to show a great preview, not the same block posts – Maz Ziebell

Q15. Would [you] unblock woo commerce for free WP? – Mohmmad Hossein Ghorbanian Deilamy

Q16. How are we going to convince designers that it will be easy to bring their work to life? (especially designers outside WP universe) – Luis Rull

Q17. What can be done to improve the accessibility of the front end output of WordPress sites to ensure they work better for people with disabilities? – Amber Hinds

Q18. Is there something expected after Gutenberg? Abdullah Ramzan 

Q19. With Gutenberg being the center of WordPress development, who do you believe will be the biggest WordPress user base in, let’s say, 5 years? – Ellen Bauer

Q20. What is WP doing to keep up with the development of PHP? – Taco Verdonschot 

Q21. Will there be a place for writing themes from scratch in the future of WordPress, like with HTML, CSS, and JS? Or will designers jump straight to the block editor, making developers obsolete? – Paul Fernandez

Q22. Have you considered any possibilities of leveraging Web3 technology for the WordPress project or open source software governance? – Aaron Edwards

Q23. [Will] Gutenberg be moving toward trying to be the operating system of the web?- Christopher J. Churchill 

8 comments

  1. Riad Benguella · January 4

    A9. The main goal of phase 2 is to be able to edit the whole site: layout, templates and content using blocks and the block editor. Initially, with block themes we are keeping the same behavior as classic themes when switching themes, this is giving preference to the new themes templates instead of retaining the custom templates edits made by the user. But it’s right to say that this is temporary and that for the next steps, one of our goals is to provide the right UI to allow users to retain custom templates and custom layouts when switching themes.

  2. Riad Benguella · January 4

    A17. With blocks, the content produced by WordPress is not a black box anymore. Blocks give the editor semantic awareness about the content itself. So by making each block markup accessible, we ensure that the output produced for WordPress is as accessible as it can be by default.

    The same semantics allow the editor to provide guidelines for folks as they write their content: like automatic color contrast checks, suggestions about wrong headings being used…

    Also, with WordPress themes moving towards being 100% block based with block themes, that semantic awareness and capabilities is expanded towards more than just the content of posts and pages and now include the layout and the templates as well.

  3. Josepha · January 13

    A1. As you mentioned there’s interest in curating themes and plugins, but it’s hard to do. Themes and plugins are some of the clearest markets in the WordPress project and making opinionated decisions about who gets to be highlighted ends up being more contentious than one originally assumes.

  4. Josepha · January 13

    A4. Yes! Patterns are responsive! There are more resources to learn about patterns here: https://gutenbergtimes.com/the-wordpress-block-patterns-resource-list/

  5. Josepha · January 13

    A6. There are no plans currently to phase out the Classic Editor in 2022, though it will not receive additional features. In order for folks to have the most feature-rich experience, I recommend setting the block editor for them as the default.

  6. Josepha · January 13

    A14. That’s one of those things that’s hard to give a clear timeline to, because the team that works on that is small and their work is really expansive (Meta handles all of WordPress.org, all the directories on the site, and all of our many networks). But if everything goes smoothly :fingers-crossed: the work to update it should start this year.

  7. priethor · January 18

    A18. Gutenberg is a long-term project to reimagine WordPress and reimagine it a piece at a time. We are still in the second phase of the currently planned four ones; with years of development ahead to accomplish the current goals, there are still no plans further down the road. However, as we achieve milestones in our current path, the web evolves, new challenges and ideas arise, and WordPress and Gutenberg will grow accordingly.

  8. Channing Ritter · January 27

    A16. Great question! As design possibilities in WordPress continue to grow, it will be more and more important to communicate those possibilities to designers. I think there are many different ways we can help demonstrate to designers that they can bring their work to life using WordPress — especially because there are so many new ways for people to create without needing to know code.

    One great example of this is the WordPress.org Pattern Directory. If you’ve used Patterns in WordPress lately, you know they make it easy to quickly add unique layouts to your site. Soon, WordPress.org members will be able to sign in and submit patterns to be added to the directory. This is a huge opportunity for designers to be a part of the overall WordPress ecosystem without having to know how to code a plugin or a theme — it empowers designers to contribute while providing users with a library of vibrant design options.

    Block themes are another huge opportunity for designers to bring their work to life. With the new Site Editor released with WordPress 5.9 this week, it’s quick and easy to design block themes without knowing any code *at all*. This opens up a whole new world of possibilities for designers who are interested in creating their own themes.

    In the past, there have always been more developers than designers contributing to the WordPress project — so it’s exciting to see the opportunities for designers expanding so dramatically! I’m hopeful that this will inspire even more designers to get involved with the project.

Have a thought? Leave a comment!