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State of the Word (Recap and Timestamp Links)

As mentioned in the preview post, State of the Word, this annual address normally falls at the end of WordCamp US and includes an overview of the past year, the current state of WordPress affairs, and a look into the future of what is to come from WordPress co-founder, Matt Mullenweg. How fitting that we get this “Christmas carol” trio in December this year 🙂

Although I wasn’t chosen to attend in-person (not many were, though our team was still represented by Adam Warner), I still watched it in its entirety and took some notes. If you missed it, you can watch the replay or use these timestamp links to jump to a specific part.

Spirit of WordPress Past

Looks like I’m going to run with this A Christmas Carol theme because… why not? When it comes to the story of what was 2021, Matt shared some WordPress.org news, reminded us all about the Openverse project, and provided a bit of insight into the efforts being made to translate many parts of the WordPress project.

2021 in Review

The past year came with only two updates to WordPress core – 5.7 and 5.8 – but there were still plenty of new features to be seen in just these—namely surrounding Gutenberg and block editing. We’ll get to the future of WordPress in a bit, but it was teased that we might see four releases in 2022, which makes sense given that 5.9 was delayed from 2021 to January 2022.

This part of the presentation also featured a demo of the Pattern Directory and a few slides showing progress in translations and diversity. I’ll leave those here for you to see yourself.

The Polyglots (stats)

The Polyglots (cont)

Diversity in WordPress


Openverse, formerly the Creative Commons, was purchased by Automattic earlier this year. If you’re not familiar, the hope is that this will be the largest library of open-source images, videos, art, typography, and any other media on the web. While still in its infancy, you can learn more about it here.


This branch of the Make collaborative was essentially re-launched this year and needs your help to fill it with content. Here are some of the numbers, though, from this year’s rebirth.

Learn.WordPress.org numbers

As you can see, the library is growing—albeit at a snail’s pace. Many people (myself included) often forget that contributing to the WordPress project is more than just writing code. You don’t have to be a developer to give back. This may be a space to contribute to this year whether you’re a developer or not!

State of WordPress Present

Moving from past to present, Matt turned to growth and where WordPress stands in comparison to the rest of the web. Spoiler: solid numbers both in terms of growth and overall market share.


I’m not going to touch each and every one of the slides that Matt presented, but I did find this one to be particularly interesting. It’s good to see that the WordPress market share is growing (good for my career anyway!). This year also showed signs of growth for other competitors as well, though with more modest numbers.

WordPress now powers more than 43% of all websites
WordPress market share compared to other top platforms

It’s interesting to see competitor platforms (mostly) succeeding as well, which means that the share is being pulled from non-CMS sites. Nevertheless, the percentage of non-CMS sites in existence is dwindling, so it’s only a matter of time before WordPress is competing more directly with the likes of Shopify and Squarespace.

WordPress 5.9

The elephant in the room was the delay of WordPress version 5.9, but that didn’t stop the demos from coming. (There were a few great demos from Anne McCarthy surrounding improvements in 5.8, so make sure to check those out, too!)

An Apple-like grid of features coming to WordPress 5.9

Version 5.9 will release with new block themes, improved style editing, and updated patterns. In addition, it will be the first official release with FSE, or full site editing. Definitely worth the update when it comes out in January.


There was a small bit of discussion around the acquisitions of the year—acknowledging that there were quite a few while comparing it to the rest of the tech world. By comparison, the WordPress M&A cycle was mild at best. In any case, it was an interesting year and I’m sure there will be more in 2022.

Logos for ~42 acquisitions from 2021. Hello Pagely!

The Future of WordPress

I guess there’s only so much you can say about the way things are at present, so things moved quickly to the future of WordPress. First, to clear up a much-anticipated topic.

Web3 and the Decentralized Web

A shockingly little amount of time was spent on this topic! For someone who likes to stretch out a topic quite long, it was surprising to hear very little about the blockchain and NFTs.

To be honest, it was also a bit refreshing. I’ll admit that I’m a bit intimidated by the whole thing. I know that it will be a critical part of the future of the web, but I think that future is a bit off in the distance still. Matt seemed to imply the same—that WordPress will be skeptically monitoring what transpires and taking action when necessary. 😌

Five for the Future

Matt reiterated that this program would continue to be the cornerstone for moving the WordPress project forward. Recent times have seen a decrease in contribution, both individually and corporately. For WordPress to succeed, however, contributions need to be made to ensure the long-term stability for all.

Slide from SOTW2021 presentation about 5FTF.

Ideally, having a larger market share should lead to additional contributors, but that hasn’t yet been the case. We’ll see how that pans out in 2022 as more hosting companies go all-in on WordPress.

Four Phases of Gutenberg

We’re well into the first two phases of Gutenberg’s planned development. With phase 3 planned for 2023, this coming year will include a push for more block patterns, blocks, and block themes.

One of the questions in the Q&A also addressed the “collaboration” phase, asking what we might expect, so make sure to hear what Matt had to say about it!

Openverse, the Future

This project was mentioned quite a few times. It seemed as though a strong push will be made for this to succeed in 2022 as well. In fact, it was mentioned alongside the efforts requested for blocks, block patterns, and block themes.

It certainly has the potential to be a huge value to WordPress and the entire open web. There were mentions of the inclusion of this library within WordPress core (access to choosing media from it within WordPress editing) and also the potential ability to share your own media back to the library right from your site!

One thing we don’t yet know for sure is the level at which safety will be addressed, as asked by Adam Warner of GoDaddy Pro in the Q&A. Will EXIF data be stripped? Will the sharing of this data be opt-in or opt-out? We’ll have to wait and see.

WordCamp US 2022

Maybe one of the most surprising and exciting announcements of the night was the unveiling of the location for next year’s WordCamp US: San Diego, CA! Barring and weirdness with Covid or anything else, it’s likely that I’ll be there in September-ish of 2022 to meet up with the rest of the WordPress community! 🎉


With that, the presentation came to a close and the floor was opened for questions. Most of the questions came from those in attendance, though a couple made it through from the YouTube chat. I’m not going to recap those here, but you can use the timestamp links below to hear the questions and Matt’s thoughts.

What was missing?

Notably, I feel like very little time was spent on the two parts of the ecosystem that interest me the most: community and commerce. Bob even had to pry for some Woo insight.

I would have liked to have heard a bit more about what is coming within the WooCommerce project. I know that this is a WordPress event, but WooCommerce is a big part of what makes WordPress work—especially when the major competitors in the space are Shopify and Squarespace. Matt said that there would be more work done to incorporate Gutenberg into WooCommerce, but left it mostly there. Would have been nice to learn a little bit more about Matt’s thoughts on the WordPress commerce plans, including WooCommerce and WooCommerce payments.

Additionally, my concern leaving 2021 and entering 2022 is the WordPress community. The Gutenberg project has splintered the community a bit and others are leaving entirely. Part of what drew me to WordPress in the first place was the enormous community of like-minded, generous designers, developers, and site builders. Committing to unifying the community is a must for WordPress the software to continue strong adoption.

This year was quite the ride, but here’s to 2022, Openverse, more Gutenberg, and in-person events!

State of the Word 2021 Timestamp Links

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Today I was joined by Tabitha Turton from GoDaddy (and also formerly SkyVerge) to share a bit about the exclusive, native features that we've been able to add to GoDaddy's Managed WooCommerce hosting.