Matt Mullenweg talks to Kara Swisher about why Automattic acquired Longreads and Atavist, and where he plans to take them, and other important big-picture issues it's good for the WP community to know about.
“We want to make the best tools in the world, and we want to do it for decades to come. I’ve been doing WordPress for 15 years, I want to do it the rest of my life.” The last time I chatted with Kara was in 2013 in the back of a pedicab in Austin. This time I got to sit in the red chair at Vox headquarters in San Francisco, and per usual Kara was thoughtful, thorough and to the point: we talked about WordPress and the future of the open web, the moral imperative of user privacy, and how it all relates to what’s going on at Facebook.
(As it turns out, Facebook also is turning off the ability for WordPress sites — and all websites — to post directly to users’ profile pages. The decision to shut down the API is ostensibly to fight propaganda and misinformation on the platform, but I think it’s a big step back for their embrace of the open web. I hope they change their minds.)
Kara and I also talked about distributed work, Automattic’s acquisition of Atavist and Longreads, and why every tech company should have an editorial team. Thanks again to Kara and the Recode team for having me.
Matt Mullenweg announces that they are dropping development with React.
Big companies like to bury unpleasant news on Fridays: A few weeks ago, Facebook announced they have decided to dig in on their patent clause addition to the React license, even after Apache had said it’s no longer allowed for Apache.org projects. In their words, removing the patent clause would "increase the amount of time and money we have to spend fighting meritless lawsuits." I'm not judging Facebook or saying they're wrong, it's not my place. They have decided it's right for them — it's their work and they can decide to license it however they wish. I appreciate that they've made their intentions going forward clear.
A few years ago, Automattic used React as the basis for the ground-up rewrite of WordPress.com we called Calypso, I believe it's one of the larger React-based open source projects. As our general counsel wrote, we made the decision that we'd never run into the patent issue. That is still true today as it was then, and overall, we’ve been really happy with React. More recently, the WordPress community started to use React for Gutenberg, the largest core project we've taken on in many years. People's experience with React and the size of the
Matt speaks out on his personal blog about motivations behind Gutenberg and how it is supposed to push WordPress forward. It's quite a lengthy post for Matt. Dig in.
Movable type was about books, but it wasn’t just about books. Ideas spread. Literacy spiked. The elite monopoly on education and government started to crack. Luther’s 95 Theses were printed and circulated on a press, rocking Europe and he issued "broadsheets." Broadsheets became newspapers; newspapers enabled democracy. The printing press ushered in social, political, economic sea changes. Gutenberg changed everything. WordPress has always been about websites, but it’s not just about websites. It’s about freedom, about possibility, about carving out your own livelihood, whether it’s by making a living through your site, or by working in the WordPress ecosystem itself. We’re democratizing publishing — and democratizing work — for everyone, regardless of language, ability, or economic wherewithal.
WordPress’s growth is impressive (28.5% and counting) but it’s not limitless — at least not in its current state. We have challenges (user frustrations with publishing and customizing, competition from site builders like Squarespace and Wix) and opportunities (the 157 million small businesses without sites, aka the next
Today is WordPress's 14 anniversary. First release occurred May 27th, 2003. Matt Mullenweg takes a brief look back and notes the progress for the future.
Today is 14 years from the very first release of WordPress. The interface I’m using to write this (Calypso) is completely indistinguishable from what WordPress looked and worked like even a few years ago. Fourteen years in, I’m waking up every day excited about what’s coming next for us. The progress of the editor and CLI so far this year is awesome, and I’m looking forward to that flowing into improvements for customization and the REST API. Thanks as always to Mike for kicking off this crazy journey, all the people chipping in to make WordPress better, and Konstantin and Erick for surprising me with the cool cake above.
2017 edition, always interesting to see what Matt is carrying around... sometimes sparks me to upgrade or buy my own new gear.
I am a road warrior who has racked up several million miles over the past decade, and since I’m also working more-than-full-time running Automattic (a totally distributed company) and leading WordPress I need the ability to be productive wherever I can find a comfortable place to sit. I carry a backpack with me almost all the time and obsessively tweak and iterate what’s in it, which lead to posts in 2014 and 2016. This is the latest edition, and I hope you enjoy it. This is a grey wool buff, which works as a scarf, a hat, or an eye cover if I’m trying to sleep. I tried this out because of one of Tynan’s also-great gear posts.
Theraband resistance band, which I aspirationally carry around to help stretch in the morning. Hat tip: Jesse Schwartzman of this blog post fame.
Some generic Maui Jim polarized sunglasses with rubber nose pads, which I like for running or hiking because they don’t move around or slip even when you’re hot.
Tzukuri “Ford” + charger, a super-cool Audrey company that is like a combination of a Tile and cool sunglasses. They connect via bluetooth to your phone and can notify you when you leave them behind, or use the
Matt shares some new and recent insights on the short and medium-term path of WordPress, what the focuses are. Worth a read.
Last week we released version 4.8 “Evans” of WordPress, as I write this it has had about 4.8 million downloads already. The release was stable and has been received well, and we were able do the merge and beta a bit faster than we have before. When I originally wrote about the three focuses for the year (and in the State of the Word) I said releases would be driven by improvements in those three areas, and people in particular are anticipating the new Gutenberg editor, so I wanted to talk a bit about what’s changed and what I’ve learned in the past few months that caused us to course correct and do an intermediate 4.8 release, and why there will likely be a 4.9 before Gutenberg comes in.
Right now the vast majority of effort is going into the new editing experience, and the progress has been great, but because we’re going to use the new editor as the basis for our new customization experience it means that the leads for the customization focus have to wait for Gutenberg to get a bit further along before we can build on that foundation. Mel and Weston took this as an opportunity to think about not just the “Customizer”, which is a screen and
Matt's official State of the Word 2017 post. Need I say more? Wish if there were slides included.
That moment when one of your biggest proprietary competitors uses your Open Source code...
Anyone who knows me knows that I like to try new things — phones, gadgets, apps. Last week I downloaded the new Wix (closed, proprietary, non-open-sourced, non-GPL) mobile app. I’m always interested to see how others tackle the challenge of building and editing websites from a mobile device. I started playing around with the editor, and felt… déjà vu. It was familiar. Like I had used it before.
Turns out I had. Because it’s WordPress.
If I were being charitable, I’d say, “The app’s editor is based on the WordPress mobile app’s editor.” If I were being honest, I’d say that Wix copied WordPress without attribution, credit, or following the license. The custom icons, the class names, even the bugs. You can see the forked repositories on GitHub complete with original commits from Alex and Maxime, two developers on Automattic’s mobile team. Wix has always borrowed liberally from WordPress — including their company name, which used to be Wixpress Ltd. — but this blatant rip-off and code theft is beyond anything I’ve seen before from a competitor.
This explicitly contravenes the GPL,
Matt happy that Facebook took notice and action after Matt said WP wouldn't use React.
I am surprised and excited to see the news that Facebook is going to drop the patent clause that I wrote about last week. They’ve announced that with React 16 the license will just be regular MIT with no patent addition. I applaud Facebook for making this move, and I hope that patent clause use is re-examined across all their open source projects. Our decision to move away from React, based on their previous stance, has sparked a lot of interesting discussions in the WordPress world. Particularly with Gutenberg there may be an approach that allows developers to write Gutenberg blocks (Gutenblocks) in the library of their choice including Preact, Polymer, or Vue, and now React could be an officially-supported option as well.
I want to say thank you to everyone who participated in the discussion thus far, I really appreciate it. The vigorous debate and discussion in the comments here and on Hacker News and Reddit was great for the passion people brought and the opportunity to learn about so many different points of view; it was even better that Facebook was listening.
Some brief thoughts from Matt on the new Google Docs integration that just launched.
I’m really excited about the new Google Docs integration that just launched — basically it builds a beautiful bridge between what is probably the best collaborative document editor on the planet right now, Google’s, and let’s you one-click bring a document there into a WordPress draft with all the formatting, links, and everything brought over. There’s even a clever feature that if you are copying and pasting from Docs it’ll tell you about the integration. I think this is highly complementary to the work we’re doing with the new Editor in core WordPress. Why? Google Docs represents the web pinnacle of the WordPerfect / Word legacy of editing “pages”, what I’ll call a document editor. It runs on the web, but it’s not native to the web in that its fundamental paradigm is still about the document itself. With the new WordPress Editor the blocks will be all about bringing together building blocks from all over — maps, videos, galleries, forms, images — and making them like Legos you can use to build a rich, web-native post or page.
We’re going to look into some collaborative features, but Google’s
Matt's thoughts (and slides/links) to the State of the Word. Nice that Matt gets input and suggestions and credits some in the post.
The full video and Q&A from 2016’s State of the Word last week in Philadelphia is now online. This year was especially exciting because it wasnt’ just a look back at the previous year, but sets out a new direction for where WordPress will be in 2017 and beyond. If you want just the slides, here they are:
Like every year, there was a ton of help bringing this together. Mark Uraine led the slides, and at various points these folks pitched in as well: Mel Choyce, Tammie Lister, Michael Arestad, Ashleigh Axios, Ian Dunn, Corey McKrill, Martin Remy, Josepha Haden, Alex Kirk, Marina Pape, Alx Block, Cami Kaos, Matias Ventura, Donncha O Caoimh, John Maeda, Barry Abrahamson, Nikolay Bachiyski, Sam Sidler, Boris Gorelik, Dion Hulse, Brooke Dukes, Sarah Blackstock. I also got input and suggestions from Petya Raykovska, Tony Perez, Joe Casabona, Helen Hou-Sandi, Jon Bossenger, Jason Cohen, Daniel Bachhuber, Drew Butler, Ryan Boren, Andrew Roberts, Joost de Valk, Stephane Daury, Dion Hulse, Gary Pendergast, David Bisset, Ryan McCue, Alex Shiels, Brian Krogsgard, Joe Hoyle, Sean Blakeley, Andrew Nacin, Mark Jaquith, John Blackbourn, and thank you to Rose Kuo for inspiring the poetry
Alex was a synonym for WordPress to me in the early years. RIP.
Alex speaking at WordCamp SF 2009 One of the original WordPress developers, Alex King, has passed from cancer at far too young an age. Alex actually got involved with b2 in 2002 and was active in the forums and the “hacks” community there.
Alex had a background as a designer before he learned development, and I think that really came through as he was one of those rare people who thought about the design and usability of his code, the opposite of most development that drifts toward entropy and complexity. One of my favorite things about Alex was how darn tasteful he was. He would think about every aspect of something he built, every place someone could click, every path they could go down, and gave a thoughtfulness to these paths that I still admire and envy today.
As an example look at his project page (essentially a category archive) for the Post Formats Admin UI, isn’t that clever and intuitive how the posts connect together, and when more time passes in the thread it’s shown as a break. It’s classic Alex: something simple and thoughtful that in hindsight is so gobsmackingly obvious you wonder why everything doesn’t work that way, but you never would have imagined it beforehand.
One of the hardest things to do in technology is disrupt yourself. But we’re trying our darndest, and have some cool news to introduce today. When I took on the responsibility of CEO of Automattic January of last year, we faced two huge problems: our growth was constrained by lack of capital, and the technological foundations of the past decade weren’t strong enough for the demands of next one.
The first has a relatively straightforward answer. We found some fantastic partners, agreed on a fair price, issued new equity in the company to raise $160M, and started investing in areas we felt were high potential, like this year’s WooCommerce acquisition. This “war chest” gives us a huge array of options, especially given our fairly flat burn rate — we don’t need to raise money again to keep the company going, and any capital we raise in the future will be purely discretionary. (Since last May when the round happened we’ve only spent $3M of the investment on opex.)
The second is much harder to address. The WordPress codebase is actually incredible in many ways — the result of many thousands of people collaborating over 13 years — but some of WordPress’ greatest strengths were also holding
WordPress officially hits 25% - will be a solid 25% by WordCamp US.
People are abuzz because it looks like the W3Techs survey of the web now has WordPress at 25% market share. Sometimes it goes up and down through the course of a month, but it’s still a pretty fun milestone that we can now say about one in four websites are now powered by the scrappy open source underdog with its roots stretching all the way back to a single person in Corsica, France. We should be comfortably past 25% by the end of the year.
The big opportunity is still the 57% of websites that don’t use any identifiable CMS yet, and that’s where I think there is still a ton of growth for us (and I’m also rooting for all the other open source CMSes).
If you want to celebrate with us come to the first-ever WordCamp US event next month in Philadelphia (tickets still available) — it’s shaping up to be an amazing event. We just published the schedule and there are some amazing speakers and sessions.
Matt shows off three videos involving businesses in Detroit. WordPress.com has these TV ads up in six markets to test.
As I mentioned in the State of the Word this is the year we’re ramping up marketing. There is lots to learn and much to follow, but we have our first TV ads up in six markets to test. Each shares a story of a business in Detroit, and I actually got the chance to visit one of the businesses earlier today.
Matt himself gives some provocative opinions on how he thinks bigger companies should be contributing to core.
On Sunday at WordCamp Europe I got a question about how companies contribute back to WordPress, how they’re doing, and what companies should do more of. First on the state of things: there are more companies genuinely and altruistically contributing to growing WordPress than ever before. In our ecosystem web hosts definitely make the most revenue and profits, and it’s been great to see them stepping up their game, but also the consultancies and agencies around WordPress have been pretty amazing about their people contributions, as demonstrated most recently by the fact the 4.0 and 4.1 release leads both hail from WP agencies (10up and Code for the People, respectively).
I think a good rule of thumb that will scale with the community as it continues to grow is that organizations that want to grow the WordPress pie (and not just their piece of it) should dedicate 5% of their people to working on something to do with core — be it development, documentation, security, support forums, theme reviews, training, testing, translation or whatever it might be that helps move WordPress mission forward.
Five percent doesn’t sound like much, but it adds up quickly. As of today Automattic is 277 people,
Matt's announcement really drives home how big this news is. The video production, the data. Automattic is taking Shopify head-on and with gusto.
For years, we’ve been working on democratizing publishing, and today more people have independent sites built on open source software than ever before in the history of the web. Now, we want to make it easy for anyone to sell online independently, without being locked into closed, centralized services — to enable freedom of livelihood along with freedom of expression. It’s not a new idea: at a WordCamp a few years ago, someone stood up and asked me when we were going to make it as easy to create an online store as we’d made it to create a blog. Everyone applauded; there’s long been demand for better ecommerce functionality, but it’s been outside the scope of what Automattic could do well.
That changes today — drum roll — as WooCommerce joins the Automattic team to make it easier for people to sell online. Along with Woo’s announcement, here’s a short video explaining more:
In the past few years, WooCommerce really distinguished itself in its field. Just like WordPress as a whole, it developed a robust community around its software, and its products meet the needs of hundreds of thousands of people around the world.
Woo is also a team after Automattic’s own distributed heart: WooCommerce
From Matt Mullenweg: "We'd like to bring together a a small group or organization that would like to contribute to growing WordPress."
In the WordPress world, when we look back an 2016 I think we’ll remember it as the year that we awoke to the importance of marketing. WordPress has always grown organically through word of mouth and its passionate community, but the hundreds of millions being spent advertising against WP has started to have an impact, especially for folks only lightly familiar with us. I’ve started to hear about a number of folks across many WordPress companies and industries working on this from different angles, some approaching it from an enterprise point of view and some from a consumer point of view. There’s an opportunity for learning from each other, almost like a mastermind group. As the survey says:
Never have there been more threats to the open web and WordPress. Over three hundred million dollars has been spent in 2016 advertising proprietary systems, and even more is happening in investment. No one company in the WP world is large enough to fight this, nor should anyone need to do it on their own. We’d like to bring together organizations that would like to contribute to growing WordPress. It will be a small group, and if you or your organization are interested in
Full video of Matt Mullenweg's State of the Word at WordCamp US this weekend.
Here is the State of the Word presentation I delivered on Saturday, and the following Q&A. If you just want to check out the slides, here they are on Slideshare:
The New Yorker alters its online strategy, including moving to WordPress.
The New York Times writes about how The New Yorker is overhauling its design and online presence, including experimenting with paywalls and this wonderful nugget: The new site, designed to be cleaner, with new typefaces, will be based on the WordPress publishing system. It is expected to be easier to navigate for mobile users — among the fastest-growing segments of the readership.
The New Yorker is one of my top 3 favorite publications in the world, and I’m very excited they’ll be using WP for their next chapter.
Matt Mullenweg talks about the difference between GPL licences and “split license". Or round 3 vs Chris Pearson!
There’s a term that pops in the WordPress community, “split license”, that we should put to rest. It’s sloppy at best, misleading at worst. First, some background. WordPress is under a license called the GPL, which basically says you can do whatever you like with the software, but if you distribute changes or create derivative works they also need to be under the GPL. Think of it like a Creative Commons Sharealike license.
In the past people weren’t sure if themes for WordPress were derivative works and needed to be GPL. In 2009 we got an outside legal opinion that cleared up the matter saying that the PHP in themes definitely had to be GPL, and for CSS and images it was optional. Basically everyone in the WP community went fully GPL, sometimes called 100% GPL, for all the files required to run their theme (PHP, JS, CSS, artwork). The predicted theme apocalypse and death of WordPress didn’t happen and in fact both theme shops and WordPress flourished, and best of all users had all the same freedoms from their themes as they got from WordPress. It was controversial at the time, but I think history has reflected well on the approach the WP community took.
As I said the PHP has to be GPL,
WordPress Co-Founder Matt Mullenweg wrote an article celebrating 10 years of Automattic, the company behind WordPress.com and many other project. Worth a read!
Ten years ago the first official Automattician was Donncha O Caoimh, and he had no idea what he was in for. Neither did I, honestly. And it’s been amazing. I’ll remember the days before I knew everything.
— The Automattic Creed
When you think about it, Donncha was incredibly brave. WordPress had far less than 1% market share. I hadn’t joined Automattic yet — I was still working for CNET, paying Donncha with my salary, savings, and credit cards. He was leaving a Real Job for a Barely a Job; I hardly knew how to wire money to an international account to pay him. I’d just made a giant screw-up (probably my biggest ever), taking money to have spam advertising on WordPress.org, so I wasn’t the most confidence-inspiring leader.
It also seemed like the decks were stacked against us. We were going to try and build an open source business model different from what we had seen before, a hybrid of a downloadable open source project combined with a web service that ran the exact same software. Up to that point companies built on open source projects had usually suffocated the communities that spawned them.
Sign me up, right? But we had one important thing going for us: at our cores, we shared a
Matt M is looking for “cool” uses of the WP-API for the WordCamp US State of the Word.
This is admittedly self-serving as my wife and I wrote it, but the NarraFirma software we wrote for “Participatory Narrative Inquiry” runs as a “decoupled” WordPress application that uses WordPress as an application server platform. The architecture reflects some of your past suggestions that the JSON API for WordPress is an important part of WordPress’ future. You can try the NarraFirma app either by getting it directly from WordPress.org or by trying a version loaded with demo data here: https://narrafirma.com/ === More details
Conceptually, NarraFirma uses JSON to communicate between the client app in the browser and a backend which stores and retrieves requested data. This data is in the form of stored messages with one table per project. The messages usually specify small RDF-like triples that are used on the client side to define most application state (and to support multi-user editing). However, some other messages specify large JSON objects that define the results of people answering surveys involving telling real-life experiential stories on topics of concern. That data storage and communications layer is called “Pointrel” and is potentially reusable in a variety of projects
So, its Philly after all. WordCamp US, in the year 2015 & 2016 will be in Philadelphia. It will be cold, but not snowing during first week on December as Matt describes. I am all up for it, I have my buddies there. What about you?
There were amazing applications for teams and cities to host the inaugural WordCamp US, a concept originally floated at the State of the Word last year. It was very hard to make a choice, but can now announce that the birthplace of the United States, Philadelphia, will host the first WCUS on December 4th–6th. They will also host it in 2016, but no dates have been chosen yet. Having it the same place two years in a row allows us to keep logistics a set variable and really focus on the rest of the event in the second year. I also want to use it to facilitate experience transfer: We’ll choose the 2017 + 2018 host city in between the first and second event, so that team can volunteer on the ground the second year Philadelphia hosts it to learn from their experience. Hat tip: Cool graphic by Andrew Bergeron.