There are four phases to the “long term” Gutenberg project. Each one has a focus or theme:
- Easier Editing — Already available in WordPress, with ongoing improvements
- Customization — Full site editing, block patterns, block directory, block themes
- Collaboration — A more intuitive way to co-author content
- Multi-lingual — Core implementation for Multi-lingual sites
Recently I posted a poll on Twitter and Mastodon that asked if you had to a fifth phase to Gutenberg, what would you make the single overall theme (note the wording – not “what would you like to see in Gutenberg next”, but the overall theme). I wanted to see what WordPress users (admittingly those mostly on top of WordPress news, Gutenberg, etc.) would like to see beyond the four announced phases of Gutenberg now that we are entering Phase 3. I’m here to summarize the responses, and include some comments made in Slack and privately.
Of course, when you ask anything of Gutenberg people can’t help to voice their overall opinions about the project as a whole. While I will read whatever people have to say about it – good or critical – a handful of comments were just out of context (referring to maybe starting over with Gutenberg or in attempt to be clever their comments were too broad) those weren’t particularly helpful for the question… so I appreciate time it takes to respond to my question, I’ll be setting these aside… The rest fell into some main categories and some “runner ups” worth mentioning.
I put this in the poll (although people were encouraged to add comments, and we’ll get to those) and it “won” the poll in terms of the choices I provided. “Media Library will get some well needed attention during this [imaginary] phase.” Jason Cosper remarked.
Some people said all they wanted was “folders in media”. I think because there isn’t a standard “good” media enhancement plugin, either people have their own enhanced plugin of choice or simply “suffer” with the current WordPress media system. And media doesn’t just mean storing photos or the “media” menu in the admin… it seemed to extend to how WordPress treats and stores media, photos, and videos. In fact, Hendrik Luehrsen commented that the “media” choice should be rephrased as “asset management” in general… and I would tend to agree with that.
So media was the most popular vote. But not the only one.
Mobile was in the poll and overall scored second place. Not too many commented in the polls about mobile, but I’ve seen complaints during the entire Gutenberg project about the pains of trying to assemble something in mobile. Mobile rarely (if ever) appears featured in Matt’s State of the Word or major updates as far as I remember (correct me if I’m wrong). I can’t imagine experiencing even a striped down version of Gutenberg on a phone but a very lite experience should be possible – almost as if I’m entering something into Apple Notes even to update later.
Alex Staniford: “I think it is the single biggest thing that’s stopping WordPress from seeing wider adoption in arenas like social media. The app is not extensible at the moment, and I think that should change… I would love to see the new admin experience tie nicely into the future app, including extensions. If we’re all using a standard set of components, I think it’s do-able.”
Remember if there was a Gutenberg Phase Five it would be at least TWO YEARS from now – something I don’t think occurred honestly to many of those who responded… but with the recent boom to AI I felt the addition of AI to the poll was a wildcard but valid. It got a decent third-place response (12%-19% of the poll votes). Not much commenting on this, so not much to tell. But considering what Matt Mullenweg said recently in Post Status Slack I’m wondering if he would have picked this personally:
To this slice of the WP community, the ~1,300 people here, I want you to really internalize this message as deeply as possible. Open source and AI are the two mega-trends of the next 30 years. They complement each other, and you should think deeply about how. ChatGPT can’t ready Shopify’s code.”Matt Mullenweg, Post Status Slack April 2023
There were lots more suggestions – and while I think almost all are completely valid for a focus in WordPress, I honestly don’t think they fit the “Gutenberg Phase Five” title. That’s not to be exclusive but again if you look at the other four phases, they were in logical order and were effectively new areas where especially Gutenberg was going to change WordPress. The phases didn’t mean nothing else was being worked on – to various degrees of attention to some’s frustration – there were other areas that gained attention and that were included in the WordPress releases that included Gutenberg so far… but while I personally don’t feel they fit the “Gutenberg Phase Five” at least on the surface… these are worth a mention:
There was also mentions of “in browser block development”, “user experience”, “admin redesign”, and “community growth”.
Remember, i’m not saying these are less important than anything previously mentioned. The context was Gutenberg Phase 5 though and for me that is a meaningful context to the Gutenberg project and long-term strategy.
How about me? I’m not a Gutenberg developer – I’ve built small sites entirely with blocks but still can ignore the block editor for certain projects. My feelings about it’s past and present are mixed although I’m excited to see it move forward.
I believe that although I don’t feel they should be the “theme” of a “Gutenberg Phase” I think having a “pause, clean, and polish” release is a GREAT idea. Focus on the three bullets of “runner ups” I listed above. I don’t think even a release will resolve majority of the items to catch up on… nor will it likely satisfy the harshest critics, but it’s a start. And this could be between a Phase 4 and the imaginary Phase 5.
But to actually answer my own original question of “Phase Five” of Gutenberg… for the sake of keeping WordPress competitive I would say “mobile” – what experience can we provide on smaller devices (that outnumber desktop devices around the globe) would be benefit content creators? Media rework is a very close second… But I’m putting some side money on AI honestly. It might be a little early, but as my experience with it grows week by week I can’t help but feel that it will work itself into the editor and other areas of WordPress… i’m sure page builders and Wix and SquareSpace and [insert anyone in the space you think worthy of consideration here] are already working on their integrations (for better or for worse).
All in all this was a good survey… and I thank everyone who responded on Twitter and Mastodon.
I’m not expecting another phase added to Gutenberg officially and even if there was, it would be years away, with enough time for the landscape of WordPress to change so that new priorities are in place. It wouldn’t surprise me that if by Phase 4 there are new things to consider to keep WordPress relevant that might redesign that Phase as it’s currently understood.