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Yes, WordPress is going to have a new editor called "Gutenberg".

Up until now, the Gutenberg developers made slow and steady progress. Every two weeks, they released a new version. Each Gutenberg update had more features, more polish, and fewers bugs.

But, we knew almost nothing about when Gutenberg would become WordPress.

Now we know. Last week, we got more Gutenberg news than we did in the rest of 2018 combined. We got timetables, roadmaps, and technical breakdowns. We even got tantilizing glimpses into Phases 2, 3 and 4 of the Gutenberg project.

I'm going to give you a short summary of everything Matt and the WordPress team announced.


Gutenberg has a history

Matt Mullenweg announced the Gutenberg project at WordCamp US in late 2016. His reasons for tackling this challenge are neatly summed up in his post, "We Called it Gutenberg for a Reason".

Matt initially announced 3 main focuses for WordPress: the REST API, the Customizer and Gutenberg. Within a few months, that narrowed to only 1 focus: Gutenberg. Both the REST API and the Customizer became part of the larger Gutenberg project.

Gutenberg's development has been quite a saga. We saw a debate about using React that involved Facebook, and much of the open source community. This year, Gutenberg arrived in the WordPress core as a suggested plugin. The initial reviews were brutal. People launched at least two WordPress forks, plus a whole variety of plugins that are designed to tame or remove Gutenberg. There are Twitter feeds and newsletters with nothing but Gutenberg news. 60% to 70% of the posts on sites like WPTavern are Gutenberg-related. Gutenberg even spread to Drupal.

For WordPress professionals, Gutenberg takes up most of the air in the room and has done since it was announced.


Gutenberg has a timetable

Here's the headline news from last week. There is a proposed release schedule for WordPress 5.0, which will contain Gutenberg as the default editor:

  • Release Candidate: October 30, 2018
  • Release: November 19, 2018

However, those dates are only provisional. If Gutenberg isn't ready, these dates can slip by up to 8 days if needed. And, if still more time is required, Gutenberg will get pushed back to 2019:

  • Release Candidate: January 8, 2019
  • Release: January 22, 2019

I advise you to plan for a January release. The November dates are very close to Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and the US Thanksgiving holiday. The Gutenberg release will be a big technical and support challenge for everyone in the WordPress ecosystem - it's hard to combine that with the busiest sales period of the year, and one of the most popular US vacation weeks.


Gutenberg has a launch team

Matt announced a team of 12 would help push Gutenberg to the finish line. Take a look at the team and everything they're responsible for: design, accessibility, media, issue triage, Javascript packages, and even a new default theme called Twenty Nineteen.

There's a lot of work to be done before Gutenberg can launch. And some of these issues are significant. For example, Gutenberg isn't fully a11y accessible yet, and there's pressue to do an independent audit.


Gutenberg has a technical overview

Riad Benguella wrote a helpful introduction to Gutenberg's technical side. Earlier in this post, we talked about how the REST API focus became part of the larger focus on Gutenberg. Riad does a good job of explaining how that works:

Once the editor’s page [is] rendered, all the communication with WordPress happens using REST API calls. In addition to the regular REST API endpoints to fetch, update and delete taxonomies, posts, etc., Gutenberg adds new REST API endpoints."

For more details, check out the Gutenberg Handbook.


Gutenberg is already starting the next phase

Yes, this is only the start of the Gutenberg journey. Matt appointed two leads for Phase 2 of Gutenberg:

Phase 2 is about thinking outside the box, namely the post and page box, to allow Gutenberg to handle entire-site layouts. We will replace widgets with blocks, so any block will be able to be used in any registered “sidebar” for legacy themes, and we will upgrade “menus” to a navigation block.

What can we expect from Phase 2? For one thing, a lot more Javascript. Here's how Riad, the technical lead for Phase 2, describes his background:

For those who don’t know me yet, I’m a JavaScript engineer at Automattic. I’ve been fortunate to have contributed to the Gutenberg project since its beginning, including a lot of work on Gutenberg APIs, JavaScript in Core, Accessibility… I look forward to bringing my humble expertise to achieve the second phase of this project, as we look into things like widgets, menus, templates, and site-building in general.

Matt also started dropping hints about Phases 3 and 4 that he'll announce in December at WordCamp US.  Phase 4 may involve multilingual features in the WordPress core.


Summary

WordPress is climbing the Gutenberg mountain and there's a long way to go until we reach the summit.

In all likelihood, early in 2019, Gutenberg will become the default editor. Then the focus will shift to merging Gutenberg and the Customizer. After Phase 2 is complete, you'll be writing WordPress posts inside a screen that looks more like the Customizer than the current editing screen. After that, it will be onto Phases 3 and 4!

Strap in for the ride. WordPress is planning some very ambitious changes, and is about to start taking big steps towards those goals.


About the author

Steve is the founder of OSTraining. Originally from the UK, he now lives in Sarasota in the USA. Steve's work straddles the line between teaching and web development.