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The Future of WordPress: 6 Keys

As you know, WordPress turned 10 years old yesterday. It’s an exciting time, but increasingly I’m also thinking more and more about the future of WordPress.

After all, we’ve built an entire business and, with it, all of our futures, on this awesome web publishing platform. Thus, we have a vested interest in making sure it continues to proliferate … but so do you!

So I wanted to share what I thought were the top challenges (problems and threats) and exciting opportunities for WordPress for the foreseeable future.

(By the way, challenges ARE opportunities. And WordPress and the community behind it are up to them!)

However, like anything, WordPress must adapt or die. It must also preserve and protect some of the things that have made it relevant and vital and immensely popular.

But with that I’ll admit … I really don’t have a crystal ball. And I certainly can’t predict the future.

Right now though, at this stage in WordPress, the community and the Internet, here are the key challenges and issues I see that are extremely relevant to the continued success of WordPress into the future:

1. Blogging

My own story starts like this, “I started a blog with WordPress.” So many countless others have similar stories and their lives have been changed like mine. All because this simple, beautiful, easy to use software allowed us to share our thoughts and ideas, experiences and expertise with the world.

We call it blogging, but it is so powerful that it often gets lost in what it allows us to do. The Internet is the greatest communications vehicle ever invented … and WordPress allows millions of us to easily connect and communicate with it.

Blogging is the heart and soul of WordPress and what it does (and has done) for the world. WordPress started out as “blogging software” and we can’t lose touch of why that is so powerfully a part of what WordPress is. Ever. It’s vital history and heritage.

And although I love how WordPress allows my mom to start and maintain her high school alumni site easily or for people to run full-blown ecommerce sites … empowering people to just share their lives freely with the world (on their own domain and hosting without regard to someone’s shifting policies) has been the underlying reason why WordPress is where it is today … 10 years later.

I believe if we always hold on to what blogging is to people and thus to WordPress … we’ll be in good shape for the next 10 years.

That is the world changing part of WordPress.

2. Mobile

When I started iThemes in January 2008, the iPhone had just come out. Although I had one and loved it, I never thought it would fundamentally change not only our business, but the entire web in 5 short years.

It has changed how people access the Internet … now, we take the Internet with us in our pockets. That’s something you probably take for granted now, but in 2008, things were different. (Additionally, back 5 years ago, screen sizes were getting bigger, not smaller and you didn’t have to worry much about turning your screens!)

But because of this, it has also changed WordPress. We’ve now got to think about mobility like never before. We’ve got to ask questions like, how are people reading the sites built with WordPress? And how are people publishing their content?, more than ever because of this.

WordPress has to continue to change and adapt with how people use and access and create for the Web. And that means making sure we’re understanding and innovating with this drastic change via WordPress.

It’s an exciting challenge that we’re all eager to fully understand.

3. Identity

In my first point, I mentioned the heart and soul of WordPress has been blogging and that we should never forget it or neglect that it allows millions to share their ideas and thoughts online.

Having said that, I have loved leveraging WordPress though for much more than just blogging. In fact, we’ve built more “CMS” type themes than anything else from the very beginning because of the power and flexibility of WordPress.

But here lies another challenge for WordPress … What is it?

Is it blogging software? Is it a full-blown content management system? Is it a framework for [insert your brilliant ideas about what you can do with WordPress]?

It’s one of the biggest questions the community is wrestling with currently.

Because WordPress is so powerful and extendable, the challenge will be to make sure WordPress remains simple, beautiful software that empowers people to publish their sites on the web.

So my questions are … what will WordPress be in 6 months, 1 year, 3 years, 10 years?

The web changes so fast that 10 years is probably a wasted exercise. But we need to continually be asking ourselves: What is WordPress? What is it supposed to do for people? And how do we preserve and protect that while innovating and adapting?

Whatever those answers are, this much is clear to me: We need to always preserve the simplicity of WordPress … while protecting against bloat.

Simplicity and ease of use is the reason I choose WordPress instead of other open source software.

Simplicity means we’re focusing on the most basic of users. This is what has set WordPress apart … the intense focus on the user. We haven’t sought to make it just a developer’s tool, although it is. I believe we can continue to make it robust and more powerful under the hood while not overwhelming users.

The majority of our users don’t necessarily care about what programming language WordPress is built in … and they don’t care about political infighting in the community … I’d go so far to say they don’t care about the license (as long as it’s free for them to use) … they just want WordPress to help them do something online.

So with any potential identity change for WordPress, we need to make sure we’re thinking about the user.

4. Security

Security on the web is an essential, non-negotiable fact of life for those of us seeking to do anything on the Web. The attacks and challenges for security are not going away … they are only increasing exponentially.

This is why we’ve asked the experts at Sucuri to do regular security tips webinars and have security tutorials and posts to walk you through protecting your sites.

WordPress is a VERY secure and stable platform. And I love and appreciate that there are very talented and committed people within WordPress that focus on making sure it stays one of the most secure pieces of software on the web.

Security is one of the reasons people continue to choose WordPress.

In the last couple of years, we’ve seen an almost exponential increase in the number of hacked sites reported. And the overwhelming majority of these aren’t because of security issues with WordPress, but rather users not keeping their sites updated with the latest, most secure versions of WordPress.

Security will always be a challenge for WordPress, but it’s one that the core team and others who make it their sole responsibility to guard against attacks are very much up to.

I, along with millions of other WordPress users, say THANK YOU and keep up the great work, while we also pledge to do our part as well.

5. Freedom

WordPress is all about freedom.

Freedom in code. Freedom of expression. Freedom to stake your claim on the Web.

But in the last year, with legislation like SOPA and PIPA in the United States, that freedom has come under attack.

Web freedom affects EVERY user of WordPress. It is one of the top priority issues for EVERY citizen of the Web now. The freedom we’ve enjoyed for so long is now being threatened by legislation bought and paid for by organizations who are seeking to legislate their dying or dead business models.

One of the scariest things as an online entrepreneur with 24+ people supported by our business and thousands of customers worldwide is to think we could be shutdown overnight because of legislation that goes WAY too far and in the process tramples on our freedoms.

Last year, thankfully, organizations like Google and Wikipedia helped alert and educate us about the above referenced bills before they were passed and caused tremendous damage to all of us … but we can no longer afford to sit back any longer … we must be vigilant and watching and ready to take action.

It’s time to start talking to your representatives to let them know how you feel about legislation that affects your web freedom. And if they don’t protect your web freedom, then you help send them to the unemployment line. 

You must be ready to act, to protect your freedom on the Web.

I’m told one of the best ways to stay up with this is through the work of the Electronic Frontier Foundation. Go signup, I have!

Also, if you don’t know who your representatives are, you can find out here.

6. YOU

I’ve been saving the best of the future of WordPress for last: YOU.

YOU are the future of WordPress.

We typically reference YOU by saying “the community.”

But without you, the community, the people, the users, the designers, the developers, WordPress is simply a bunch of lines of code.

I love WordPress, but ultimately it’s nothing without people — using it, contributing to it, extending it and telling other people about it.

Without the community, WordPress has no future.

The community has always been one of the strongest points of WordPress — and I hope that never changes.

(After all, we’ve know what happens when you don’t care about the community. I hope this lesson which launched WordPress into greatness isn’t also lost on us now and in the future.)

So with that … I have a question and a challenge for YOU:

What are YOU going to do to give back to WordPress this year?

I’ve been using WordPress for around 7+ years now … with each year, I feel more and more indebted to the future of WordPress and thankful for the thousands of people that have contributed to it over the past 10 years.

If we want WordPress to be as vibrant in the future as it has the past 10 years … WE must contribute to that future.

Here are some ideas to get you going this year …

  1. Help get someone started on WordPress.
  2. Write a blog post about why you love WordPress.
  3. Teach someone WordPress web design.
  4. Join or start a WordPress Meetup group in your city.
  5. Attend and volunteer at a WordCamp.
  6. Proudly wear your WordPress swag everywhere.
  7. Start a business around WordPress.
  8. Contribute to the WordPress documentation.
  9. Report a bug or submit a patch.
  10. Let your voice be heard.

There are more ideas of course (and you’re welcome to post them in the comments) … but what you do today and tomorrow is what matters for the future of WordPress.

Now, go do it!

Long live WordPress!

Comments

  1. Thanks for the inspiring talk Cory.

    Great summary of the ‘big picture’ and how it connects to each of us individually.

    I appreciate the last bit about giving back to the WP community. I can’t even begin to count the number of times my own business and efforts building WP sites has benefited directly from the generosity of the community.

  2. You mentioned everything in a single article…Yep,WordPress is evolving fast but the reason for its success is its simplicity,Thats why most people now learn about WordPress before thinking to start a blog.

  3. Thank you for reminding me how unique the WordPress community and platform is. I have honestly never thought about contributing to the community in ways you have suggested.

    I believe I am a WordPress evangelist but your post has given me reasons to think about ways I can be more supportive. Thanks Cory:)

  4. Great stuff, Cory. I’ve been a WordPress user for about 5 years, and I love the WordPress community! But I did not realize I could contribute to it until you listed those 10 simple ideas. Some of these I have actually done already, but now I will be more intentional about doing more. Thanks for the nudge!

  5. Thanks for this, Cory. I signed up at EFF, and I just on-boarded a client today who will be blogging for the first time. We recommended WordPress to her for all the reasons you cite here. We love WordPress!

  6. I feel that WP is ever evolving into much more than a blogging platform and into an over complicated, cluttered yet feature packed CMS.

    The intention of developing Ghost which goes back to the basic’s of blogging proves this. But at the end of the day, there is no denying that WP is still one of the best CMS / Blogging platforms available today.

  7. You do answer yourself, even before you ask the question:

    “But here lies another challenge for WordPress … What is it?”

    “Blogging is the heart and soul of WordPress and what it does (and has done) for the world.”

    As far as I can tell, your story is still the route taken by the majority of people who take part in the WordPress journey. Which means they have strong roots in the wordpress.org theme repository (as users, if nothing else). As the standards and requirements currently are, all themes must (at least) be blogging themes.

    I think that if that doesn’t change, then WordPress will remain “blogging software” at heart forever.

  8. “WordPress is a VERY secure and stable platform.”

    That’s why they break it each time new version is out LOL

  9. Wow, great post. What am I doing this year?
    I’ve given up the boardroom and begun a full time WordPress Web Design business – I love WordPress and the community that surrounds it. I have 20 years of design experience, but no web dev experience – so learning a new craft – hopefully to master someday, as I have another 20 good years left in me. I’m enjoying it all and above all sticking with the platform.
    Thanks again, Keith

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