For the first time this year, WordPress will release a major update with verison 4.8 early next month.
By now, the content management system is typically well into development of its second major release of the year. But before launching 4.7 last December, Matt Mullenweg, who co-founded WordPress in 2003, announced a new cycle for development — one that didn’t have a set time deadline like previous updates.
The news, as expected, was met with a mixed bag of positive and negative reactions. Some worried about the direction Mullenweg would take WordPress. Others thought this was a good way to make sure the CMS stayed ahead of the curve.
So, with us well into this new timeframe for WordPress and the next major release about to drop, I figured I’d give my thoughts on the direction the CMS is headed.
Allows time for WordPress to figure out what’s next
Normally, the typical development cycle for a major release takes about four months, meaning there’s three big updates every year. With this new release cycle, however, there is no time frame for these major releases.
That has it pros and cons. The negative is that there isn’t a time frame for theme and plugin developers to figure out when the next major release of WordPress will be. That’s kind of a slight issue, and maybe its more of an issue for me since I like to release new versions of my plugin and themes with the next major update.
But the pros outweigh the cons. The lack of a hard timeline means that the development team can tackle long-term project. The old schedule meant that some big projects could be worked on, such as the Customizer, but not ground-breaking ones. The WP REST API took almost an entire year to be fully implemented in core. It’s just not doable for big, meaningful change.
Instead, the development team can make those big changes to core to take it to knew heights. While it won’t quite be in 4.8, the team is working on a new editor to make creating and editing posts much easier for the user. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Now there’s more time to work on the REST API and potentially building a backend with NodeJS should the developers decide to take it down that road.
Also, some argue that it will make the CMS slow to respond to needed, last-second changes, especially with security; however, they’ve rolled out five minor releases for 4.7 since its release in the December. But more on that later.
No super pressing needs
Another advantage to this new cycle is that there aren’t any really pressing needs for WordPress at this time. The REST API was the last really pressing need that I saw that had to be implemented into core.
Now? Well there’s nothing that absolutely has to be in core at this moment. There are some items that would be nice to included in core, such as the new editor as well as media widgets, which will be included in June’s release. But those weren’t exactly pressing matters, though the latter will be really nice to novice users.
That means it’s the perfect time to slow down the pace a bit and make sure WordPress is set up for the future. It’s the right time to settle down and figure out the future road map for the CMS, both in the short term and long term. Doing is nice, but planning is where success happens. And as I mentioned above, security releases to fix patches are still a thing.
So with nothing pressing at the moment, it’s time to plan the future of WordPress.
Still the best out there — at the moment
It’s worth remembering in this discussion that WordPress is still the top dog in the CMS world. WordPress still powers about a quarter of the blogs and websites out there on the internet. And while change is always likely, that’s not going to go away all in an instant.
Still, you can stop changing and adapting once you’ve hit the top. You have to keep up with the changing landscape in order to remain the top dog.
These are questions that have to be asked and that take time to be answered. I personally don’t have the answers; I just don’t have the knowledge to come up with a credible answer. But there are those who do, and they need to get together and figure out where WordPress is going to go. And I trust that they will do a good job.
But as for this slower development cycle, as long as the new versions are better than the previous ones, I’m perfectly fine with waiting for each update. Slow and steady wins the race after all.