Matt Mullenweg Unveils Gutenberg Roadmap at WCEU, WordPress Agencies and Product Developers Sprint to Prepare

photo credit: WordCamp Europe Photography Team

At his WCEU keynote address in Belgrade, Matt Mullenweg laid out a detailed roadmap for Gutenberg to land in WordPress 5.0 within the next few months, garnering mixed reactions from attendees. Gutenberg’s timeline is one of the most pressing questions for those who work in the WordPress ecosystem.

The Gutenberg team has sustained a rapid pace of development over the past year with 30 releases since development began. There are currently 14,000 sites actively using the plugin and Mullenweg plans to roll it out to WordPress.com users in the near future. He announced that the WordPress 5.0 release could be ready as soon as August. In the meantime, the Gutenberg team will continue to refine its current features according to the roadmap Mullenweg outlined in his keynote:

June 2018

  • Freeze new features into Gutenberg
  • Hosts, agencies and teachers invited to opt-in sites they have influence over
  • Opt-in for wp-admin users on WP.com
  • Mobile App support in the Aztec editor across iOs and Android

July 2018

  • 4.9.x release with a strong invitation to install either Gutenberg or Classic Editor plugin
  • Opt-out for wp-admin users on WP.com
  • Heavy triage and bug gardening, getting blockers to zero
  • Explore expanding Gutenberg beyond the post into site customization

August 2018 and beyond

  • All critical issues resolved
  • Integration with Calypso, offering opt-in users
  • 100k+ sites having makde 250k+ post using Gutenberg
  • Core merge, beginning the 5.0 release cycle
  • 5.0 beta releases and translations completed
  • Mobile version of Gutenberg by the end of the year

Mullenweg said he hopes to increase Gutenberg usage to 100,000 sites with 250,000 posts made over the next few months. WordPress.com will be instrumental in that goal with a call to action for opt-in that will appear on several hundred thousand sites. In July, WordPress.com will switch the Gutenberg editor to opt-out. Mullenweg said he hopes to gather data from how users respond, especially those who have third-party plugins active on their sites.

Switching between editing posts in the mobile apps currently breaks but Mullenweg anticipates this will be resolved by August, with full mobile versions of Gutenberg available by the end of the year.

Mullenweg opened his keynote by drawing attendees’ attention to a new “Public Code” link in the footer of WordPress.org. This campaign, organized by Free Software Foundation Europe, aims to require any publicly financed software developed for the public sector be made available under a Free and Open Source Software license.

Mullenweg also announced St. Louis, MO, as the next location for WordCamp US in 2019-2020. The local WordPress community in the city spans two states with members from both Missouri and Illinois who have hosted seven WordCamps since 2011.

Developers and Agencies Double Down on Gutenberg Preparation, “Playing for Keeps”

The process of getting products and client websites ready for Gutenberg is a leap for nearly every company and freelancer invested in the WordPress ecosystem. Mullenweg said he cannot guarantee a specific date for release but thinks that “5.0 is going be ready within a relatively short time frame.”

Although many WCEU attendees expressed skepticism about the accelerated timeline for Gutenberg’s inclusion in core, most recognize the importance of working towards making their clients and products compatible with the new editor.

Gutenberg technical lead Matias Ventura said it’s too early to tell whether the WordPress community will be ready by the time Gutenberg is included in core. “I think people have already been trying to get ready and we’re already seeing many major sites being launched using Gutenberg,” Ventura said. “From what we’ve seen with plugin authors building compatibility for Gutenberg, it seems there’s already enough momentum going on that it could be achievable.”

Brad Williams, CEO of WebDevStudios, said his company’s team of engineers has been actively preparing for Gutenberg since late last year and is “very excited about what it means for the future of WordPress publishing.” Williams assigned two Gutenberg Leads internally to head up everything related to the new editor and conducted internal training with staff. WebDevStudios also built and released its own Gutenberg add-on framework called WDS Blocks, a framework that includes new custom blocks that many WDS clients use.

“Having a potential release date, even if it’s only a target month, is incredibly helpful,” Williams said. “This gives us a goal to work towards with each of our clients to verify we are ready for the release. I expect the majority of our clients will not enable Gutenberg on release, but we still need to make sure we have an upgrade plan ready for WordPress 5.0. We are working closely with each of our clients so they understand what is coming, the benefits Gutenberg can provide them, and what a potential roll-out plan will look like. We are also making sure any new leads coming in the door are aware of Gutenberg and the impact it will have on their new WordPress project.”

Gary Jones, plugin developer and WordPress engineer at Gamajo, expressed apprehension about the timeline. He also plans to make use of the Classic Editor plugin to opt sites out of using Gutenberg.

“With 737 open issues, I think the August timeline may still be a little short,” Jones said. “That’s only for the ‘critical issues’ to be resolved but introducing such a massive change to the basics of managing content like this needs more than just the critical issues resolved; it needs all of the workflow to be very smooth as well.”

Jones said he doesn’t think the typical rhetoric of getting a ‘1.0’ release out the door applies in the case of Gutenberg. “There’s too much riding on it for it not to make a great first impression for the user base who haven’t been following its progress,” Jones said. “A plugin can have a much quicker release turnaround time for non-critical improvements and fixes than what WP core would have.”

Jones said he plans to wait until the merge proposal before tackling plugin compatibility and will wait until 5.0 is out to start improving the experience for his clients. He said this may require creating custom blocks or installing plugins that add custom blocks clients might need. “By then we’d also know how ACF, Pods. and other plugins we use, and the Genesis theme, are supporting Gutenberg editor (or not),” Jones said.

Jake Goldman, President and founder of 10up, said his company already has an internal mandate that all new public plugins and major plugin updates must have at least “beta” support for Gutenberg. 10up’s Distributor product is already Gutenberg-ready and the company has several Gutenberg-ready plugins and updates expected to ship in the next 1-2 months.

“Clients are trickier,” Goldman said. “We have two big client projects started in the last couple of months that are using Gutenberg, and some pretty complicated custom blocks and extensions. We have a couple of other customers who are curious or in the exploratory phase. Two big client projects have us a bit gun shy about adopting [Gutenberg] as the ‘standard’ on newer projects until it matures a bit more and begins to focus a bit more on the ‘enterprise use case / user stories’ – there are some real challenges with those user stories.”

Goldman also said he was encouraged to hear that Calypso will adopt Gutenberg in the next couple of months, because he hopes it will address some of the confusion and fragmentation issues.

He doesn’t anticipate Gutenberg actually landing in August, however. “I don’t see August, frankly, because I don’t think the core team has a clear vision for ‘how’ an upgrade with Gutenberg will work,” Goldman said. “That said, I suspect Matt is knowingly putting timeline pressure on the team – a bit of ‘if I say August, we can probably hit November’ type mentality.”

Mason James, founder of Valet, said he is confident his clients and products will be ready after testing Gutenberg on hundreds of sites. His team is watching a few products that have compatibility issues but he is hopeful these will be resolved soon.

“The timeline of August seems a bit optimistic,” James said. “I’d be surprised if that is met, but our clients will be in good shape if that happens. We’ve also been sending information to our clients via email, a whitepaper, to try to mitigate any surprises ahead of time.

“We decided last year that Gutenberg was a tremendous opportunity for us to reinforce our value proposition to our clients,” James said. “It’s an ongoing important initiative for us this year; We’re playing for keeps.”

Carrie Dils, a WordPress developer, consultant, and educator, has also jumped head first into getting her products compatible with Gutenberg ahead of the new timeline.

“I’m feverishly working to get an updated version of the Utility Pro theme (my primary product) out the door,” Dils said. “The Gutenberg updates are just one part of a larger overhaul (including a minimum requirement of PHP7 and WP 5.0+). I’ve also made the decision not to incorporate Classic Editor theme styles. All looking forward, no looking back.”