WordPress has been rebuilt from the bottom up

24 Nov 2015

WordPress has rebuilt the WorldPress interface from scratch using open source languages. Pictured are members of the 'Project Calypso' team that took on the ambitious project

WordPress, one of the world’s biggest publishing platforms, has just revealed its biggest overhaul yet, moving to open source and away from PHP. It has also launched a new desktop app for Macs.

Under a project code-named Calypso, WordPress owner Automattic basically rewrote WordPress from scratch and WordPress.com is now fully separated from the WordPress core.

The WordPress admin interface interacts with the WordPress core as a third-party app using a REST API to publish posts and upload material.

WordPress has also gone fully open source and has moved away from PHP and MySQL and the new stack has been built using JavaScript and leveraging libraries like Node and React.

Automattic has also created a new Mac app to allow users to manage all WordPress.com and Jetpack-enabled sites in one place.

Automattic for the people

Matt Mullenweg explained that since he became the CEO of Automattic “we faced two huge problems: our growth was constrained by lack of capital, and the technological foundations of the past decade weren’t strong enough for the demands of the next one”.

The company raised $160m in equity, acquired WooCommerce and is using the war chest to have more options. Since raising the finance, Mullenweg said that so far only $3m has been spent on operational expenditure.

‘WordPress just passed a huge milestone, and now powers 25pc of the web. You can run it on a $5-a-month web host, or scale it up to serve billions of pageviews on one of the largest sites on the web, WordPress.com’

Mullenweg pointed out that the WordPress platform has served the web well over the last decade. The real challenge, he said, was right-sizing WordPress for the next decade.

“The WordPress codebase is actually incredible in many ways — the result of many thousands of people collaborating over 13 years — but some of WordPress’ greatest strengths were also holding it back.

“The WordPress codebase contains a sea of institutional knowledge and countless bug fixes. It handles hundreds of edge cases, integrates constant security improvements and is coded to scale. Development moves at a fast clip, with six major releases over the past two years and more around the corner. Its power and flexibility is undeniable: WordPress just passed a huge milestone and now powers 25pc of the web. You can run it on a $5-a-month web host, or scale it up to serve billions of pageviews on one of the largest sites on the web, WordPress.com.

“The interface, however, has been a struggle. Many of us attempted to give it a reboot with the MP6 project and the version 3.8 release, but what that release made clear to me is that an incremental approach wouldn’t give us the improvements we needed, and that two of the things that helped make WordPress the strong, stable, powerful tool it is — backward compatibility and working without JavaScript — were actually holding it back.”

A 20-fold improvement on WorldPress

Mullenweg pointed out that while most open source projects fade away rather than making evolutionary jumps, the new WordPress paradigm represents a 20-fold improvement, not a twofold.

“Today we’re announcing something brand new, a new approach to WordPress, and open sourcing the code behind it. The project, codenamed Calypso, is the culmination of more than 20 months of work by dozens of the most talented engineers and designers I’ve had the pleasure of working with (127 contributors with over 26,000 commits).”

The result is an interface that is 100pc API-powered that is open to every developer in the world and social stats and notifications are baked in.

The interface has been designed to be responsive and can be collapsed easily and advanced users can manage hundreds of WordPress sites from one place.

“A lot of people thought we should keep this proprietary, but throughout my life I’ve learned that the more you give away, the more you get back. We still have a ton to figure out around plugins, extensibility, contributions, Windows and Linux releases, API speed, localisation, and harmonizing the WordPress.com API and WP-API so it can work with core WordPress.

“Thousands more PHP developers will need to become fluent with JavaScript to recreate their admin interfaces in this fashion. I’m also really excited to revisit and redesign many more screens now that we have this first version out the door,” Mullenweg said.


John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years