What is WordPress? My takeaway from WordCamp US 2015

Audience at the State of the Word 2015

The inaugural WordCamp US has been quite an experience.

The Sessions

There’ve been the sessions, of course: some technical, some business; some abstract, some comedic. The sessions I was most keenly interested in were those that dealt with the question, “Where is WordPress headed?” This was the underlying current of many talks, which is befitting of this inaugural, record-setting conference.

Zack Tollman and Aaron Jorbin shared the future stack on which WordPress can/will run.
Matías Ventura and Gregory Cornelius vouched for the use of React in Calypso, and foreshadowed what could/is to come with Calyspo/.com/.org.
And more: David Bisset on next-gen BuddyPress; RC Lations on WP + IoT; Rachel Baker on API-driven themes.

One of my favorite sessions (for a number of reasons) was Rami Abraham’s “WordPress: The Next Generation – A Look Into WordPress Sites 5, 20, and 50 Years into the Future”.

Rami has quite the talent for making comical video productions, cracking dry jokes, and putting together engaging slides. Rami helped us imagine what WordPress could look like in years to come–some ideas far-fetched, some immediately imaginable.

My biggest takeaway was the most basic part of his session–the subject: What is WordPress in the next decade, or few? Putting specific numbers on WordPress’s future begs for the question to be seriously considered. This was the question I wanted answered at WCUS’15; only at the post-conference events of this evening were my thoughts shepherded into cohesion.

After the Conference

First, I joined several (15 or so) coworkers of mine for dinner. I sat across from our CEO, John Eckman; he, I, and those sitting adjacent entertained conversations about WordPress in the enterprise, Calypso, Automattic, and so on. Highlight: WordPress has plenty of room to mature and expand in the enterprise space.

Afterwards, some of us made our way to the official after-party held on 2 floors of Lucky Strike, a bowling alley nearby. There, I had two unique experiences:

I observed the sizable crowd attending the after-party, sometimes meandering around; sometimes sitting; sometimes just pausing to observe.

Of course, many conversed about WordPress–designers, developers, project managers, sales reps, CEOs, owners, freelancers, bloggers, photographers, et al. Not every conversation was thrilling or had some miraculous, world-changing conclusion. However, the constant hum of ideas and jokes and chuckles and cheers and introductions and goodbyes gave me a new appreciation, understanding, and love for the community that is WordPress.

Second, I got to meet Matt, and ask him an question that had come to mind this weekend: “Is the WordPress community decoupled enough from the WordPress as a technology to separate the two–and make the latter arbitrary and replaceable?” Matt’s reply: “Isn’t that what we’ve done with Calypso?”

This gives me hope that Matt isn’t blindly trying out cool, new technologies for the sake of doing so; he is considering the impact on the community.  He considers the community mature and stable enough that such a large change could be generally well received. The community is an entity of its own, one which I’m confident will thrive no matter what relationship Calypso and .org end up having.

So: What is WordPress?

Had I been asked that a couple weeks ago, I would have said something along the lines of it being the #1 software for content management.

In light of recent events (Calypso’s release, WCUS’15, my conversation with Matt), I now have a significantly different answer: WordPress is a community of individuals who care deeply about creating the best possible means for people to hear and be heard, and who care deeply about each other.

I’m convinced that WordPress transcends any particular technology, place, language, or demographic. It transcends even any particular software philosophy. What really matters is that the vision of providing a means for powerful communication is upheld, and that we continue to care deeply about each other.

I look forward to seeing WordPress do just that in 5, 10, 25, and 50 years from now.