Once again, members of the TinyMCE team—Joakim Lindkvist, Spocke Sörlin, and Anna Harrison—attended WordCamp Europe. This year in Paris, France. At the event, Matt Mullenweg spoke with Om Malik about some of the exciting things happening at WordPress. He demoed the Gutenberg editor, and gave everyone a sneak peek into the future of WordPress. You can view the full interview on WordCamp.tv and read the unedited transcript below.
Matt: Bonjour. (laughs)
Om: You didn’t greet people in Bulgaria and in Sofia, so …
Om: Just to be clear. Good afternoon and thank you for making time to listen to us talk about everything except WordPress. Because you can ask him all the questions directly in the Q and A session.
Matt: Though we do have a little WordPress to get started with.
Om: Yes. You know you took my lead into that but it’s okay.
Om: That’s what friends do, right?
Om: So, again. I just wanted to give you one second of my WordPress involvement. I was I think maybe one of the first five or ten people to download the original WordPress and then install it on my server and since then Matt has been my private sysadmin. And so … (laughs)
Om: That’s his claim to fame …
Om: But it’s great to see what started as such a small project with six people become so big and so huge that we have a packed audience. So take a minute and give yourself a round of applause because you guys are what make WordPress so awesome. So thank you.
Matt demos the Gutenberg Editor
Om: So Matt, you are amongst your people and I believe you have a little gift for them.
Matt: We do, we do. So, who here has heard of the Gutenberg Editor so far? Okay, a couple. Who’s seen it? Fewer. Who’s installed it on their sites? Couple. This is pretty good. Well I think we have a little video we can roll, right? For those watching at home and for those who are, perhaps seeing it for the first time, I want to give a little bit of a preview of what is coming with the Gutenberg Editor. Which is the fruits of our first main focus, for the year. So here, you see it replaces the entire right screen.
Look. What just happened was there was an insert, you can click, or choosing two images or creating a gallery. You see the little arrows next to things? Those are blocks. So, the blocks can be moved up and down. See we’ve got dynamic blocks. So things that are currently widgets can be turned into blocks. We’re about to insert our block of the latest post. You can see below that a HR block, a button block, it’s being moved around. It’s being populated dynamically. The button block is, I think, is actually gonna be a really popular one. It’s the simplest thing in the world but very challenging, especially if you don’t have HTML or, or want to tweak with CSS to be able to add that sort of thing. Turning this into quotes with a citation.
This is going by pretty quickly ’cause there’s a lot to show. And with this kind of block based editor, we still retain the flexibility and ease of editing of before. So if you’re in a text block, you just press enter twice and you’re in a new paragraph. Or new block. You can select multiple blocks, which we’re doing here. And actually more all of those around. So, this is the very, very first thing we’re sort of ready to show to the world, of the blocks. Of course it works on mobile. So this is a little preview of the mobile version of it. ‘Cause of course, can’t have anything that doesn’t work on mobile anymore. But you’ll see the exact same UI patterns, the exact same kind of ideas of what’s going on, working perfectly on a mobile context as well. The cool thing about this is that for those of you all watching it at home or admin-ing system editing your blog on your phone, this is now available in the WordPress plugin directory.
Matt: It’s just looping now, you can stop it. (laughs) So, as of before I got on stage it had fewer than 10 active sites in the world. So we’ll see how many it has the end of the talk. I think that value is cached for like 24 hours but by tomorrow or the next day hopefully we can get that up there. The purpose is that we built this in a way that we can have it gestate and be used as a as a plugin. We want as many people trying this out as possible. And we’re gonna build a lot more types of blocks. And this is the basis for, of course, what’s gonna be the future of customization. So, blocks will replace widgets, blocks will replace kind of all the other fundamentals and primitives inside WordPress. Until everything’s a block.
Om: Oh, well done. So, couple of comments. Are those my images you guys are using?
Matt: (laughs) Sorry.
Om: It looked very familiar.
Matt: They might be some of your photos.
Om: Okay. Just want to make sure who to send the bill to.
Om:Not everything in life is open source.
Matt: Well then, (laughs). Hold the mic a little closer.
— John Maeda (@johnmaeda) June 17, 2017
Om: So, I’m sure I’m gonna be politically incorrect for a minute, but Medium should just close shop right now. Shouldn’t they?
Matt: Well, Medium started five or six years ago. Browser technology, what you can do, has advanced quite a bit. I think that this actually allows us to leap from past some of the really great visual editors that, because we’re able to build on the shoulders of things like Medium, Wix, Squarespace, the other people that have come before us. And say, okay, building this today in 2017, what’s the very best experience that you can have. I’m also just so, so, so proud of the team, led by Johan and Matias but with many others contributing. And how far this has come. So we’re about six months in on here. The previous attempts that we made, or I made, to replace TinyMCE went about two years and we ended up not shipping it. (laughs) So this happening in six months and being available to you all to run on your blogs today. It’ll add a menu to your sidebar so they’ll be a Gutenberg menu item. I’m just so, so proud of the team and so excited about what we’ll be able to do over the coming months.
Om: Jokes aside, I have like no problems with Medium and, but I do like the idea of having a very clean interface for editing, writing and creating a website. When will this become standard interface for WordPress going forward?
Matt: That’s a good question. I posted a little bit about this on both the Make WordPress Core blogand on my own blog, MA.TT. We should say our Twitter handles too. You’re @om. Which is like the coolest twitter handle, probably in the room. Maybe in the world. I’m @photomatt. You can visit those and see the latest posts. But I think that, you know we did a 4.8 release just last week.
Matt: Woo. (laughs)
Matt: That went pretty well and we were able to get some nice customization related improvements into core. And I think it’s significantly helping the users. And also with the events widget, which is the idea that when you load your dashboard in the news widget, it’s been replaced so it’s shows some news but it also shows nearby, meetups and event. I think this could totally blow up the community events side of WordPress.
Matt: Cool. (laughs) As you all know, the community and kind of where we are is, is many ways a secret sauce. It’s the magic ingredient of WordPress. And so, but many people aren’t aware of it. It’s the most common thing we hear from new people in meetups is, “I didn’t even know this was happening. I just kind of stumbled across it.” So making those a lot more prominent I think is gonna really help the community all over the world.
I think that we’ll be able to do a 4.9 before we merge Gutenberg, but I want in the meantime to get the Gutenberg plugin used by a lot of sites. Ideally over 100,000 – before we do the merge and the core and replace the edit screen. A lot of people have a lot of things built into the edit screen. So part of the reason we’re putting out there as a plugin first and also gonna be pushing it so hard, is to try and get as many people to install it as possible so that everyone who has posting and editing screen adjustments can rethink them to be beautiful within this new framework. I think that some things that people did like in the TinyMCE toolbar are things that aren’t really needed anymore. Stuff that people did in the past with custom post types might be better as blocks. There’s a lot, it gives us the opportunity to reimagine a lot of those user interactions and flows that today we’ve taken for granted. Actually on the edit screen for about like five or six years.
WordPress UI through the Beginner’s Mindset
Om: What was the impetus behind redesigning this? Was it because the blogging itself has changed or it, has WordPress itself changed from being a blogging platform to a like a web platform?
Matt: Well, I do tech support for this guy called Om who’s been asking for this for like five years. (laughs)
Om: I still haven’t used it. And I didn’t get to see it, just to be clear.
Matt: It was a surprise to him too. I think that, we’ve taken stabs at this before. if you imagine our previous efforts with post formats, like to make it easier to do certain types of media or quote posts or things like that. That whole concept can now flatten to just being a block. So if you had a post with just a quote block, all of a sudden that’s a quos post format–Quote post format. (laughs) Quos post …
Matt: I almost worked Yoast in there too. Like that was …
Om: Yeah, do it fast.
Matt: Like it was all arriving.
Om: Do it fast. Do it fast.
Matt: (laughs) Quote post format! So working all that in, I think it’s bringing things that we’ve been thinking about for a very, very long time in WordPress. And also that there have been some cool plugins around. Tailor was a plugin that’s done some interesting things. There was another one whose name is escaping me. Had a name like Canvas or something. Someone will probably remember. People have built some things like this before, and not building on any of that code directly, but building on those concepts is what has allowed us to get to this point and move as quickly as we have.
But, a lot of it’s just looking around WordPress and seeing how much we’re doing the same thing in different place because we built it at different times. So for example, you are all familiar with Short Codes. Short codes don’t work everywhere. (laughs) You’re all familiar with widgets. Why can’t I put widgets into my post? Why can’t I put widgets into my footer? Like, how, why do we have these different concepts of like little blocks of content all over that can be used different ways, but aren’t very discoverable, have the equivalent of an HTML UI in the case of short codes. Or maybe a, like a gallery image widget if we’re lucky.
And then over on the widgets side, where it’s really one of the most legacy things in WordPress, ’cause widgets go back almost 10 years at this point. And a lot of those UI’s haven’t been re-thought. And that was one of the things in 4.8. We had a text widget that never had WYSIWYG. (laughs) Even though we’ve had WYSIWYG in WordPress for the better part of a decade. So, or maybe a decade at this point. So just looking around WordPress with kind of a Beginner’s Mindset and saying, what are the screens that we’ve looked at 1,000 times that we take for granted, but that might not make sense anymore?And this allows us a framework to completely redo all that.
Om: So just to be clear, at some point in the future will people come to WordPress after they’ve downloaded it and all they will see is this interface and then get going?
Matt: I guess the way to think about it is that right now WordPress makes you learn a lot of concepts. Shortcodes, widgets, kind of the stuff that a distance I had TinyMCE’s as blocks today, and people rightly wonder why they can’t use those things everywhere. So what we’re trying to do is shift it so that you only have to learn about blocks once. And once you learn about the image block that can be in a post, that can be in a sidebar, it can be in a page, it can be wherever you want to put it, in a custom post type. And it’ll work exactly the same way. And whatever is integrated with it, like let’s say there’s a plugin that brings in your Google photos or your Dropbox. That’ll now work everywhere too.
Om: Okay. So, is it because people do think of blogging differently now that this is becoming more relevant, and what I mean by that is people blog on Facebook and people blog on Twitter and elsewhere, even on Instagram. So, and blogging isn’t what used to be blogging when I started doing it, I don’t know, it feels like almost 17 years ago?
Om: So, now you guys are more involved in being the CMS for you know, stores and restaurants and hotels and stuff, is that why you guys are going in this direction?
Matt: Well certainly the way plugins have been pushing WordPress is a big part of it. So, imagine how much easier putting WooCommerce items on a page, or embedding a gravity for or a rich contact for will be when you can move these things all around. Or, maybe starting to put those in side bars, with conditional views so it only shows up on one page but not another. Like these things, the concepts just become a lot easier. The, but the w- the web has moved quickly over the past few years. And I would say that right now is maybe the point since, for those of you who have been around a while, you remember when Six Apart was like utterly dominate? And kind of the arch nemesis of WordPress in a lot of ways.
We’re probably at the point when we have more competition than we ever had in the past. From the proprietary side, from the Wix’s and SquareSpace’s of the world. Weebly as well, on the open source side, we [inaudible] eights, which as been doing some really neat things and some other open source platforms as well. And then finally just on the, like, general like web content building. Whether, or mobile content building. Your investor, was it called Story House?
Om: Mm-hmm (affirmative)
Matt: A really beautiful, like, especially on the iPad app that allowed you to drag and drop elements and rearrange things to create like a, a rich story experience. We have magazines, whether they’re online ones like Voxx or Recode or, The Verge. Or like, what the New York Times pioneered with their Snowfall story. Like, showing, like, really rich interactive stories you can do that now with this editor.
You’re not gonna do that out of the box with Gutenberg. But you can completely imagine Gutenberg plus a cool plugin allowing you to build something like that. And then posts and pages evolve. And I think that’s where the independent web really has the opportunity to distinguish itself from kind of the cookie cutter, what social media platforms allow you to do. Be it Facebook or Tumblr, or Twitter or Instagram. You can’t even have links in Instagram. Doesn’t mean that they’re not cool, but I think that as these platforms on board people, and as billions of people come online, they’ll be like the training wheels. They’ll get people to understand the power of publishing online and sharing. But also their limitations will be things that the, the best people on these platforms will run into pretty quickly.
Social networking, and other integrations with WordPress
Om: Well I think one of the people I’ve been talking to recently described the, Facebook and Google and others like the McDonald’s, basically, one menu for everyone. And you can pick and choose what you want from that menu, but that’s about it. But there’s still many more people eat at McDonald’s we may scoff at it but they do. And, and from that standpoint I think shouldn’t Facebook, as the WordPress as a community be looking at how do we figure out a way to work with things like Facebook to bring in what is the crucial part of Facebook, which is the, the social graph, the network. Because at the end of the day, the blogging today are creating websites for business is a different thing. But from a blogging standpoint, which maybe a decreasing segment, what really makes the difference, especially in the independent vibe is that people should be able to discover your content more easily and read it more easily. So is there a way for you guys to work with somebody like Facebook to kind of push that idea?
Matt: So I think the integrations with social networks are really important. And WordPress being Swiss, meaning we can work with everything, is, is a key advantage that we have there. Versus some of the, the guys that are fighting each other, the big, giant companies that are fighting each other. That with the philosophical sort of rails that we’ve chosen for WordPress currently, that wouldn’t be something that happens in core. It’ll be something that happens in plugins. Jetpack being an obvious and popular example. But many others as well that do deeper integrations or targeting things with social networks, social media and the big ones that are supporting things like Jetpack, but also all around the world. You know, have a very international crew here. There’s lots of other social networks and things that maybe aren’t to the threshold where they’re built into one of the more popular plugins. But in a given country that might be a very popular integration.
Om: Right. Are you thinking about figuring out a way to publish from WordPress into let’s say We Chat or Whatsapp or Telegram? And if yes, when?
Matt: I’ve been really fascinated by the messaging platforms. Telegram is my personal favorite. But of course I recognize the utter dominance of things like We Chat and other markets. I think it’s pretty cool. Telegram has a new sort of groups broadcast feature that I think is a really cool way to follow blogs. And we’re doing some experiments with that inside Automattic. So, there’s definitely some stuff that could that could come down the line there.
Om: Can we do that earlier than Gutenberg?
Matt: (laughs) I guess that gets back to when Gutenberg’s coming in.
Om: Yeah, exactly, okay. When is that.
Matt: The question I dodged.
Om: No because I think the, the, the world of information is now, the consumption is happening not just inside the traditional web browser. That’s what I mean is that, so the, the, the great way to think about WordPress is, WordPress becomes the information router. It takes information from my head and publishes into all these different platforms. And it, it stays my homestead. But it can still go other places. The content I mean or information I create, that’s what I mean, it’s like all, you know like it, the difference between what blogging was 17 years ago and what it is today is that people don’t go to a place to read a blog. They just need to be send the information to get that blog, you know so, this is why I’m thinking is that part of the long-term thinking at WordPress just now?
Matt: Absolutely. And I think that part of it is if we look at one, some of the cool things that made blogs such a rich interaction, on early days feed readers and RSS, a way to openly follow and get notified of everything out there, was blog roles. Unfortunately of which the code is still in core, but, (laughs) this idea that you can link to your favorite sites and so there’s discover mechanisms. Think of it like related blogs. Like, I think there’s a ton we can do there.
But I think that we have to make the user experience of following and reading and using these sites as smooth and as fast as it is when you’re in the closed garden of the social network. I think we can actually do it a little bit better. I think that some technologies that I embrace hesitantly, like say Amp, from Google Accelerated Mobile pages. Actually do provide a really cool framework to create a more distributed Facebook, a more distributed take on, or more independent take on what we want to read and choose and follow, and I think that is something we’ve all woken up to. Especially in the past year or two with the political cycle, the social networks, as a means of distribution do influence how people think, how people react, what the information that we put in, just like the food you eat influences your health, the information that we eat and choose influences our mindsets. And our happiness. And what we want to do and the actions we take. So I think that we’re gonna be, want to be much more thoughtful.
The McDonald’s Facebook analogy actually works on a whole different level than I think we even intended it when we started. But to stretch it just a little bit further, McDonald’s is what’s called the largest restaurant in the world. I’m just making this up ’cause I don’t know the food stats. And a lot of people eat there. But I bet if you added up all the other restaurants in the world, it would dwarf all the other food consumed everyday, McDonald’s would be less than one percent. And I think that’s what the web can create, is we have this ability to create something that is highly distributed but an advocate, becomes a real driving force of humanity’s interaction with each other.
The future of WordPress and the open web
Om: So, I’m gonna go back to what one thing you just said earlier during our conversation that if you look at a screen 1,000 times in a year, you kinda become very familiar with it and can’t see if from a user’s, new beginner’s standpoint and that’s why Gutenberg is such, such an influential thing. Similarly, when you look at the internet today, you have all these people who keep talking about the open web, the independent web. But they don’t see things from the average user’s perspective. How do you make an average person care for the open web or, or the independent web as we all it, mostly because they just think about the web as Facebook and say, “Well we go there, all our friends are there and all our enemies are there so we can just hang out in one place.” And so the- it, it just, actually when I think about the open web and I want open web to flourish but when you think about it from like, you know the, the new internet users, do they really care?
Matt: Well, I think something that goes back to the very early days of WordPress, is that we strongly believed, and I personally believed in the morality of open source, and the GPL. And that it’s a better thing for humanity, it’s a better thing for the world. I want everything I do to be open source. But also there was the recognition from the very beginning that we weren’t going to, make the web run by open source software. By going out there saying how superior open source is. Right, we actually had to make a better experience. And we had to beat the proprietary systems at their own game. We had to actually be better than them. Not just in license, and in morality, but in like the day to day functioning of how you interact with the software.
That’s, I believe, how WordPress [inaudible 00:25:02]. Which was a far better funded, larger, more institutionally supported, everything competitor, we beat it not just by being open, but by being better. And being open is part of being better.But it is a necessary but not sufficient condition to what we ultimately, the web that we want to create, the web that we want our children to grow up with. Which, I don’t think looks like, I don’t have any children yet, so I got a little extra time, but I don’t think it looks like the currently sort of, large company dominated, Facebook et al. version of what we’re seeing today.
Om: So, what does it look like to you? Five years from now? Or ten years from now?
Matt: I think if you can take the best of the user experience of some of these platforms, but have it bring together things from all over the web so that if there was an algorithm determining what you see or what’s most popular, that you can see how the algorithm works. That you know the data going into it. We’re in kind of a very strange spot right now. Where we’re gonna have cars driving themselves that we don’t know how it works. That the algorithms and the code driving that car is not gonna be public. And more importantly, for machine learning systems, the data behind it is proprietary.
So it’s gonna be a black box, perhaps even to the developers of those systems, to why it makes certain decisions, why it works the way it does. Cars are easy. They’re obvious because you can see them moving around, inevitably, by the way I’m a fan of self driving cars, they’ll be vastly safer than hans, inevitably they’ll be in accidents, people will die, just, it’s part of the, the large of law numbers. But, I think that sort of more physical instantiation of this machine learning algorithm driven world, will help wake us up to how much our minds are being driven by the algorithms that determine what news we see every day.
Matt: So I wanna see how that works.
Om: Yup. So, I just want to take, give you an example. Okay?
Om: So, if somebody was five years old in 2000 when I started blogging, and they would be, what, 22 now. Right? And their idea of a blog is very different from what is my idea of a blog 17 years ago. So, somebody who’s, maybe five or 10 years old now, in 10 years from now they will be 20, 21. And, and they are the kids who are growing up using iPad’s or Android pads and, and they’re talking to Alexa and Siri and things like that. What does a platform like WordPress evolve into 10 years from now when kids who are going to grow up and them not really touch and voice and gestures are their primary way of interacting with the information and not text. Which is what the open web is all about, it’s very textual, it’s very like link-centric. How does it evolve into that? How do we overcome the limitations of user experience?
Matt: It’s a good question. And it’s a interesting thought experiment. So if we were to, fast forward 10 or 15 years, I’ll say one assumption, which might be a place we disagree. That I think text will, text and things on a screen, even if that screen is on our glasses or something else will still be a key, or visually condensed information will still be a key part of it. So I do not believe that voice driven interfaces are going to be able to have the density to do what we condense so much. So let’s assess these screens. I might wake up, in the future you know, today five year old in the future 20 year old, and I have a beautiful device. Maybe with a bendable LED. I launch an open source application. Maybe WordPress, maybe something else, that can then go out to all of the people I follow.
Celebrities are now using WordPress because it’s easy enough for them to use. ‘Cause the Gutenberg version 10 is so easy that even the most challenged celebrity, (laughs), could use it to post music or embarrassing pictures of themselves or selfies and they’re doing it because, as opposed to some other social networks, because they control the follower list, they can take it with them, they not behold them, they’ve been burnt when Instagram version 23 decided that you had to pay to reach your followers. And so the Kardashians of the world or their children have now moved onto other things. (laughs)
Then I have a choice in my sort of app, whether I want to see ads. Let’s say I have more time than money. Or if I have more money than time, I filled up like a blockchain based, let’s call it BitCoin for the sake of argument, wallet, that gives like a little micro transaction to everything I consume or like or share with my friends. And so there’s a business model for everyone out there that doesn’t have to be driven by users being sold to companies to sell more things.
I think that then I message, using open protocols with all my friends, so I’m not tied into something that only works on iPhone like iMessage. Or something that’s tied to one particular, or that’s sort of mined, like a GML or a Facebook messenger. I think that that is a instance distributed and fully encrypted transaction. My phone is also fully secure. It’s locked with several biometrics and, it’s so encrypted that like even if a state actor had it in their physical possession it would be hard for them to get data out of it.
I mean, we can imagine this current trends playing out to that and then you know, WordPress version 14, (laughs), is technology behind all this. If I buy something from the Kardashians grandchild that’s selling something on their a distributed network, maybe that goes through open source software as well. Instead of going through Amazon it can go through WooCommerce or whatever other plugins take it. You can imagine these things playing out. But if and only if we make the user experience better.
Om: Well, I’m glad you’re more optimistic about the future and the open web.
Om: Because you know, it will need a lot of hope and optimism and you know, wild imagination to, to do that because the open web is competing with very deep pocketed, players with very short arms. You know, they don’t, they don’t like to share, they like to take all the time. So, I’m gonna stop asking you questions, otherwise I just eat into everybody else’s time and I would rather have the audience ask questions from and for you and, then if they don’t I’ll come back again.
Matt: Sounds good.
— Aaron D. Campbell (@aaroncampbell) June 17, 2017
Om: I have a lot of questions for you by the way.
Matt: (laughs) Cool, well thank you so far.
Matt: I think we have some mics up front that people can go to. If you go, there’s one over there and one over there. I’ll point and then we’ll kind of rotate between them. Or, or go. I guess. Just say your name and also ’cause we’re working up here, where you’re from. ‘Cause that’s pretty interesting. And we’ll start right over here since you got there first. Oop. We might need to turn the mic on. Maybe on that side too. Make sure it’s on. (laughs)
Live Q&A from the audience
Matt: 25 years in the future we’ll still have problems with mics, though.
Matt: (laughs) All right, there we go.
Norbert: I’m Norbert. I’m coming from Germany now. In my opinion, every website is a search engine. WordPress.com, for example, if I want to discover a new blog post, I can go to discover, WordPress. If I want to discover tags I can go to WordPress.com/tags. It’s a search engine. Every website is a search engine. In my opinion, search engine optimization should be something the WordPress community develops. Is this on, on the map and if it is can it go higher on the map so that proprietary algorithms and secret algorithms no longer guide users on the web?
Matt: Whew. That’s a tough one. So, and to make sure I’m understanding correctly, you don’t mean like the equivalent of Yoast and Core, but you mean like building a Google …
Norbert: WordPress is-
Matt: … us building like a Google?
Norbert: WordPress is the search engine.
Matt: Oh, yeah. (laughs) So, I do think that we can, I mean one thing about WordPress is we’ve always had a foot in the idealism. And a foot in the pragmatism of what’s possible in today’s technology. That’s why things like Jetpack exist, to kind of bridge us between what’s allowable today like a distributed web post that costs five or 10 bucks a month. And what we think is gonna be required in the future. So for example, every Jetpack site has a access to Elasticsearch API, which gives them a much richer form of querying and ranking and related posts and everything for all of the content on our site that you can’t really do with [inaudible 00:34:27] or my sequel today.
So, on a per site basis, that is there today. And kind of like a, an in between way. Right? You need a plugin, it’s a hosted service. But in the future, as you know, Moore’s Law continues, that’ll be something you can run on the five dollar a month web host. And of course with Jetpack we open source everything, so that’ll be available. Elasticsearch itself is open source. Now in terms of going cross site though, meaning that you, you sort of map through things I’m not aware of technology that makes that really easy today. But I wonder if you take sort of the conclusion or the logical conclusion of our open API’s, the next versions of things like Graph QL and some sort of federation. Where, be it DNS based or other ways that you could kind of go out there, you could have sites that tie together better than they do today.
But at the end of the day, if you’re gonna do a search of everything out there, you need to store that someplace. (laughs) For it to complete in a reasonable amount of time.
Norbert: It wouldn’t have to be a one size fits all engine. Discover works differently than tags do. And I think maybe people could also develop their own algorithms and have different, different algorithms available.
Matt: And references, yeah. Cool. And thank you for the question. You’re very forward thinking. Hi, let’s go over to the right here.
Alec: Hi Matt, it’s Alec Kaneer from Foliovision and Radoslav, Slovakia. I hate long questions.
Alec: So, I’ll try and keep this short. It’s about ethics of open source. So it’s gonna just take a second. You guys bought WooCommerce, and have done amazing things with it. I mean, it’s the marketing and the support and all the systems that you’ve put into place with the team working on WooCommerce are amazing even from what was a plugin that was running well commercially before, you bought it. The one thing, which worries me in the WooCommerce acquisition was not your acquisition of WooCommerce from Woo, you paid them 26 million dollars to take their crown jewel and do something much bigger with it, which is easier for a company like Automattic with such huge reach.
But what bothers me is, the original creators. They moved with the product that the coders moved with the product but the people who spent five years developing it, I think it was Jigoshop ended up with nothing from the Woo deal. And I’m wondering how you feel about that process of sort of open source being subverted in that s- people put a lot of time and money into something and basically had their developers nipped and ended up in a way taking a huge loss. And so, it’s your reaction to that, an alternative reaction would be, when you paid 26 million dollars to Woo, why not give 2 million dollars to the Jigoshop people and say, “Thank you, you guys did amazing work supporting these guys.” Mike Jolly or think I think is his name. And the other developer to get where they are. And just thank you so much and that would seem to me somehow more equitable arrangement. And so it’s a really deep, open source dilemma and I’d love to hear your thoughts on it.
Matt: That’s a good and interesting question. So thank you for bringing it up. I must admit that I’m not intimately familiar with this, because it was many, many years before the acquisition of kind of the Jigoshop to WooCommerce, the subtleties there. I know that some of the developers who worked on Jigoshop then moved over to what at the time was WooThemes. But I do think in general that when when you buy something in open source, obviously when we did that acquisition for an unconfirmed amount. (laughs) …
Matt: You’re not buying the code. If Automattic just wanted the code we could have downloaded WooCommerce and had it all. (laughs) It’s all open source. I mean, that’s one of the beauties. They could also sell it. But that wasn’t the thing that we were trying to bring into the, into the core of Automattic’s DNA. It was the people. You know, 53 people joined the company joined Automattic. It was the brands. You know, the brand of WooCommerce. It was the integrations and the meetups and everything that they had built since then. Which, from what I know, did accrue largely to when it was in it’s WooCommerce days. It didn’t have as much of that, the extensions and everything else when it was in the Jigoshop days. To be honest, I found out about Jigoshop before the acquisition but a little bit later. I had heard about WooCommerce for awhile. And I think I had seen the controversy originally when it had happened. But, it was more like in diligence and I was learning about everything and I read through the WooCommerce blog going back to like the first post. I was like, oh, this thing happened.
But I guess you could make the same argent of WordPress itself being a four could be two. At some point, if you build enough on the code, and I’m not saying what is the right answer there, ’cause I would need to dig into more to what actually happened. But at some point, the beauty of open source is you can take the code, build onto it enough that it becomes something that is wholly different. I guess you have sort of a Theseus’s ship question there. And we don’t yet have an equity model that reflects contributions to code over time. You know, when a web host gets bought. Like let’s say Media Temple, and half or more of the revenue is coming from WordPress powered sites. But all the people who worked on WordPress don’t receive any of that acquisition.
I think that’s, that’s just something that’s gonna happen. And something you have to be comfortable with when you put your code out there as open source. In the future there might be something around, like, block chains or initial coin offerings or something like that, which allows people to sort of actually have an equity in what moves with code. But I don’t think that we would even have the technical underpinnings for that really widely available today.
Alec: Th- the one thing that worries me is-
Matt: I’m gonna open it up for other questions. Just because we have a long line here.
Alec: Thanks for the answer.
Matt: But thank you for asking a, a cool one. (laughs) All right, we’ll bounce over here.
Sarah: Hello Matt.
Sarah Gooding:I’m Sarah Gooding from WP Tavern. And-
Matt: That’s not a country.
Matt: Okay. So there’s some pluses and minuses. The things I like about AMP are that it removes a lot of cruft and it’s ultra fast. Like now, in search results, if I see an AMP link, I’m more likely to click on that than other things ’cause I notis go- I know it’s gonna load really fast. I know I’m not gonna get some sort of weird pop up that redirects my browser to the app store or anything like that. So that I think is good and necessary. It is kind of amazing that Google is driving this. I don’t know if y’all saw the news that Google’s gonna build an ad blocker into Chrome next year? (laughs) it’s almost like we’re in a bizarre world. For actually so many reasons, but Google doing ad blocking is definitely an bizarro world thing. Like I feel like I’m maybe not in the correct parallel universe. Like something’s forked.
What I dislike about it are the things you mentioned. So AMP itself, the specification doesn’t require it to be loaded from Google servers. But that’s currently how a lot of [inaudible] work. And, I don’t like how the share URL then becomes Google dot something. I think it’s bad for fishing, as we’ve seen some pretty, a very smart attack on Gmail or Google Drive recently. So those have some downsides. I think that those can be worked out. So, something WordPress is very early in adapting is responsive pages. And also some plugins, including built into Jetpack itself, that do a mobile version of the site, do create a better experience. And I think a big reason of why people have adopted WordPress in the past.
AMP is the next version of that. It is more open and standard than what we’ve done in the past. And I could see it becoming a much more inclusive thing than it is. And given that that is Automattic’s, one of Automattic’s core principles as well, we’re gonna work with Google to try to push it that direction. And try to bring a lot of the web along with it, because the alternatives out there, like say Facebook’s proprietary instant articles format, are not necessarily better. Especially if they tie you in to say one form of modulation, like Facebook’s ads. So I do believe that AMP has the potential to be a much more open and in line with WordPress’s ideals, version of that. But it is imperfect as it stands today.
Om: Can I just ask …
Sarah: Thank you.
Om: … a follow up on that …
Matt: Sure. You have a mic, so.
Om: Yeah. I think the AMP you as a, as a group WordPress as an, as a big, massive entity on the internet, basically should force Google to give people their own servers to do AMP on their own servers as part of implementation. I think when you are roughly 26% of the web’s traffic, they have way more control on how they behave. And you could be the user b- you know, a cop on the behalf of users and privacy and independence, in my opinion. I mean, you know …
Om: … thank you, Sarah, for asking that question, because I’m in your camp on little skepticism around AMP.
Matt: I hope that we, that’s a very good idea and I hope that we can always be an advocate on behalf of users.
Matt: In everything we do.
Matt: Over here to the right.
Matt: No, yeah.
Kevin: Oh, oh, hi Matt. I’m Kevin, and I’m from Bristol, England. I like what I saw at Gutenberg. Yeah. But is it heavily influenced by Wix and Divvy? Because I don’t have any problems editing on, in WordPress, but some of my friends who are not familiar with it do. And they like Divvy and, and Wix well because they can edit so easily.
Matt: I think it’s definitely informed by things that have come before, but we’re trying to leap from them. We’re not trying to catch up to what these people have now or did a few years ago. We’re trying to go to where the puck is skate to where the puck is going, to use a hockey metaphor. Even though I’ve only seen one hockey game in my life.
Matt: So that is, is the main idea. And the hope is not just that it’s easier and more intuitive for the users, but it actually allows power users to do things faster.
Matt: And so, that’s really, with WordPress, and it’s history, we, th- the balance we’ve tried to talk where our being intuitive and accessible for new people. Where allowing folks, like many of y’all here in this room, to maybe do the things that you used to do but much faster than before. So, yeah, definitely informed.
Kevin: Okay. Thank you.
Matt: Thank you for the question. Over here on the left.
Jonathan: Hi. I’m Jonathan, from Los Angeles. Work at DreamHost. Thank you so much Om, for asking the question about the open web. It’s something that really resonates with me personally. I spent a lot of time, like a lot of people in the room, begrudgingly on social media and in these silos, right? Mainly because of convenience and interaction. I believe, as well that with the leadership position that WordPress has and the ideals that the WordPress community has, is a real opportunity to kind of flip social networking on it’s head. Right? I’ve seen a lot of really cool work going on lately around the micro dot blog project if you’re familiar …
Matt: Mm-hmm (affirmative)
Jonathan: … and some of the stuff that the W3C is doing with things like web mention, which allows you to have your sites actually interact with each other and it’s starting to build out like I can see this future and I’m really excited about it, but I haven’t really seen WordPress take a leadership position. I’ve seen it kind of watching and observing. So I just wanted to see if you’ve been tracking those things and if you think the community should embrace it as well?
Matt: I have been tracking those things. I do think that there’s other things we need to embrace and figure out beforehand. It doesn’t matter if you’re one, 28% of the web if we can only get 1/3 of that to upgrade to the latest version.
Matt: You know? It doesn’t matter. A lot of these things happen. It doesn’t matter if we could create a distributive reader that spiders everything out, if that’s gonna be shut down by web post for using too many resources. So, I think that it’s more of, I raise it as something for the community to keep in mind. We have something magical. Which is a business model, which is not advertising driven. I say the we globally. Like as people building on WordPress services, Automattic certainly, so think that is the thing that will allow us to, first we need to build a better user experience. If you want people to use something instead of a news feed it has to be as engaging as their newsfeed. But two, because you’re not advertising driven, then can you open that up in some interesting way? Yes. And so, but if you don’t do that first thing it doesn’t matter. [Jonathon] talked about, the perfect software that no one uses.
Matt: It doesn’t matter if something supports every single, possible web standard and format and everything if no one’s using it, then it’s it’s a standard falling in a forest. So.
Jonathan: Yeah, yeah. I agree with you. I’m, I’m excited about seeing WordPress help drive these things though so, but, great answer. Thank you so much.
Om: So we can only take two more questions.
Matt: Is that the, all right.
Om: I got the hand wave.
Matt: We got the hand wave. Okay, I’ll try to do lightning round. So if you can ask a quick question, I will give you a quick answer. And maybe we’ll get through four of them. But we’ll see. I, I’ll keep an eye on the watch.
Jackie: Hello, my name is Jackie, I’m from San Francisco, and I’m concerned about freedom of speech, Theresa May promised to clamp down on, on the web and, FCC chair is looking to get rid of net neutrality. And, I’m optimistic about our community leading, efforts in the open web and so I’m curious to see what you had to say about WordPress maintaining an open web. And, specifically about Automattic, perhaps revisiting a freedom of speech page, that you have up that is, to me personally a little vague on how hate speech is treated. So, curious about that.
Matt: Oh. That’s a tough one. Because at the same time we’re dealing with fake news and other misleading, deliberately misleading or harmful to society things happening out there. I’ll have to look at our freedom of speech page. I probably haven’t read it in a little while. But I would say that constitutionally, myself and Automattic and a lot of people in this room are very, very much attached to that concept. As a company based in the US, which I guess used to be more of a good thing, but like the first amendment and all these sort of things that allow for this we’ll fight for that. And we have gone to court before to fight for, I think it was a user in the UK. We’ve spend money on legal resources where we submits opinions to supreme court cases. Like we’re definitely trying to stay as active as possible there. I’m gonna end there only ’cause I want to get to as many of these. So, but thank you.
Jackie: Thank you.
Hendrick: Hi. My name is Hendrick, I’m from Munich, Germany. And last year in Vienna, I believe you talked about the possibility of WordPress being the operating system of the web. How far do you think we’ve got in the last 12 years to that becoming reality. Because 28% is 28%, and in a mobile market we have operating system operating far under that threshold. So, how are we on the operating system on the web?
Matt: I think we are doing well. But I’ll go back to upgrades, like I talked about earlier. Like, a key thing of being an operating system is having a, a way to have people on the latest and greatest. Security becomes a huge issue. And for us I think that something I’m very excited about now that Gutenberg is in such a good place customization is gonna kick of relatively soon. One of the areas that I’m gonna shift my attention to a little bit, and that we talked about in the community smit, is looking at plugins and themes and how we can ensure that those are as up to date and also as, have something closer to the standards and attention that we pay to core in terms of the code quality, the code style, the scalability and the security of them. So. Keep an eye out.
Om: All right.
Matt: Got one, oh, no, it’s 55. All right.
Matt: Thank you so much.
Om: We should do a pop-up chat with people afterwards.
Matt: Yeah. And if we didn’t get to your question I apologize, we had a few people in line. If you Tweet it to me, I will do my best to answer it, or link to an answer if it takes more than 140 characters. So.
Om: Thank you.
Matt: Thank you very much. I really appreciate you all. Thank you so much.
Om: Thank you.
Speaker 12: Ladies and gentlemen, Om Malik, Matt Mullenweg! (laughs)
— David Bisset (@dimensionmedia) June 17, 2017