Each year, Automattic’s CEO and WordPress founder Matt Mullenweg delivers an annual keynote address called State of the Word. The speech highlights what the WordPress community accomplished in the previous year and shares what they can look forward to in the coming year.
State of the Word 2021 was held on December 14, 2021, at Automattic’s office in New York City. 2021’s hybrid event marked the return of the live event after State of the Word 2020 was held virtually due to the pandemic.
Only a handful of attendees were present, and each one was fully vaccinated. Those who couldn’t join the live event watched the livestream on YouTube.
It was an exciting time for the WordPress community as many meetup organizers hosted watch parties worldwide. There were 26 watch parties held across 11 countries, with more than 300 attendees.
Missed State of Word 2021? Below, we share the following highlights:
Mullenweg started by providing a walkthrough of 2021.
In 2021, WordPress only had two major releases — WordPress 5.7 in March and WordPress 5.8 in July — because WordPress 5.9, initially planned for a December 2021 release, was moved to January 2022. Traditionally, WordPress aims to provide four major updates per year.
While looking back on 2021, Mullenweg also highlighted the following Make projects that improved accessibility and functionality:
The Openverse project catalogs all openly-licensed content — from images to audio and other media assets.
During his talk, Mullenweg also introduced the new WordPress.org Photo Directory, which hosts open imagery that can be used commercially and non-commercially. Mullenweg shared that he envisions WordPress users being able to insert works from the Openverse into their content with a click.
WordPress expanded its Diverse Speaker Training program, gaining 135 participants in 66 cities across 16 countries.
Polyglots is a project that made WordPress available in non-English speaking countries.
In 2021, translators increased access to WordPress by installing 13,659 language packs in the core and doing 15,900 active translations (+76 and +28%, respectively, from the previous year).
These translation efforts are also in preparation for the fourth and last phase of the Gutenberg project — multilingual support — wherein WordPress will offer official support for website translations and multilingual websites.
Another 2021 WordPress highlight is Learn WordPress, which was created to lower WordPress’s entry barrier. WordPress is fairly easy to use, but it can still get tricky for beginners.
In 2021, Learn WordPress saw growth with:
- 186 social learning spaces
- 75 workshops
- 70 lesson plans
There are two courses available which include collections of lesson plans. The courses are available in 21 languages.
Moving forward, Mullenweg said Learn WordPress would be featured more prominently on the WordPress website.
These projects contributed to an increase in WordPress distribution, which was up 43.1% from 39.1% in the previous year.
In addition to these featured projects, Mullenweg also highlighted:
- Improvements to WordPress Security: Mullenweg shared that 30 people contributed to security patches, and one third of them were first-timers.
- Automattic acquisitions: Automattic had 42 acquisitions in 2021. Mullenweg shared these numbers were common in the tech industry.
- Five for the Future: Mullenweg took five minutes to talk about how the program has protected WordPress from the Tragedy of the Commons. He dispelled the myth that a company’s impact on the future of WordPress was dependent on its size.
He called for more contributors to maintain the project, saying, “WordPress cannot be written by one person or even one person. The quality and the robustness is all due to contributors. Not just this year, but ever. The core thing that makes WordPress [is that it] belongs just as much to you as any other developer.”
After looking back on an impressive 2021, Mullenweg discussed what to watch out for in 2022.
Mullenweg highlighted the following WordPress 5.9 features:
- Block themes
- Template editing in the block editor
- Global Styles
- Pattern improvements
Mullenweg closed his one-hour talk by briefly touching on how WordPress adapts to Web3. He focused on decentralization and individual ownership, both of which WordPress was already doing.
2021 was a fruitful year for WordPress.
The WordPress community can expect exciting things to look forward to next year, starting with the WordPress 5.9 release in January 2022.
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