Four expert panelists tackle the future of WordPress at #WCBTN

How is Gutenberg affecting everything WordPress? What will its impact be on businesses? How does the other hot topic – REST API – promise to revolutionize WordPress development? What do all these changes mean for WordPress developers, users, and the community? That’s why four savvy developers were keen to solve and answer these questions in our panel: “The future of WordPress” at WordCampBrighton 2018.

The first – Alain Schlesser, freelance software engineer, part of the Core (Bootstrap/Load Component Maintainer) and CLI (WP-CLI Co-maintainer) Teams. He’s passionate about open source in general. Next is Mika Epstein, full stack WordPress developer at DreamPress and DreamHost. She’s also into open practices and mindful approaches to code.

Then there’s David Lockie, Pragmatic director and founder, wanting to deliver clients the best in the form of valuable business sites. And last but not least – Tammie Lister, WordPress designer from Automattic. She’s also connected to the community via a love of open source.

REST API usage since 2016

In the last 18 months, there’s been a drastic uptake in REST API use for plugins. It allows new ways to call back to other sites without having to reinvent the wheel. It opens WordPress up to a new generation.

The good thing is that Gutenberg pushed a lot of the REST API development work forward. Without it, a lot of plugins and opportunities may still be blocked and we wouldn’t have heard of them until today. The actual abstraction that REST API represents is becoming more and more complete.

What about AI and machine learning on WordPress?

AI can not help us establish more than effective communication. But there’s also fascinating stuff like reusable libraries, Saas, and automated tagging. What’s great about these expert systems is that they’re domain specific. So if you teach them right, they’ll provide reliable results. Exciting!

However, there are some mixed opinions. We heard some say “AI is nothing more than us teaching a machine to help us to learn more about ourselves”. While other voices said we may create something we won’t understand anymore.

In the end, many of these technologies are predictable and increase accessibility. So we can have wild dreams about AI, or we can go smaller and see how AI makes technology work for people.

What problems will Gutenberg solve?

Users should be able to create content for the right instance. There shouldn’t be a “WordPress way” where you need to work around six different plugins first. We need a simple way to express ourselves from anywhere by means of rich content.

Today, companies still try to convince their clients to move away from WordPress because it’s unintuitive. And maybe Gutenberg won’t be the single fix. But it might work as a catalyst in making WordPress the CMS we need.

Gutenberg risks and challenges for companies

Despite its obvious benefits, Gutenberg will be a disruptive change. The risk might be similar to the one Microsoft took years ago when everyone had to eat the cost of migration. Now WordPress is going to put itself into a position where people have to decide if it’s still the right platform for them.

But is that actually a bad thing? Even Drupal is excited about Gutenberg. So should we be afraid of loss? Probably, the biggest risk is not doing this. A CMS market share doesn’t always equal value. We might drop a percentage point, but at least we won’t end up with a rubbish product that costs us everything.

We do want a different future of WordPress. And any upcoming challenges are always opportunities to make every voice heard. In the end, everyone contributing to WordPress needs to find out how Gutenberg works for them.

With WordPress 5.0 release on the horizon, Gutenberg has definitely been the hot topic on and off the panel. We’re aware of both the benefits and risks thanks to the insights of these four experts at WordCamp Brighton. Exciting times ahead!

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