Due to dropping interest in self-hosted (usually PHP based) CMS, the company behind WordPress outlined a strategy to stay in the game. Of course, this is going to be a cloudy strategy, as offering cloud services is an ever growing market with no end in sight. Question is, what does that mean to the average WP user?
It's actually a big deal.
By introducing Calypso, currently labelled a "[WordPress] Control Panel for your Desktop", people will slowly get used to a new approach in managing good old WP blogs. The Calypso code base connects from the desktop or mobile to your blog and you may control it from there. The new administration interface at WordPress.com is also available already.
So far so good, but that thing has a catch: you can't control none of your 3rd party plugins, themes or other core features but it's planned to "laying an entirely new foundation for a generation of apps and services built on WordPress".
This is a clear statement: since Calypso is entirely written in Node.js + React.js, there will be a total break in technology regarding themes and plugins.
In the past, everything was built up on the classic PHP based LAMP/WAMP stack. But in order to deliver the same awesomeness that WordPress served in the past, there won't be no other choice than ditching PHP and focusing people on creating new themes and plugins (called apps, of course) using the new Node.js stack. Otherwise both strategies would stand in each other's way. In the end, one has to go and be sure that after a grace time, the old WP version will be ditched.
It's for sure not the intention of WordPress to alienate its fans but people should already look for self-hosted alternatives because there are clear indications that WordPress is going to be a de-facto cloud-only service.
Here is why:
Due to the nature of the open source license of Calypso, in theory, everybody will be able to self-host their own Calypso instances but these will be far from the 1-click installs that you got used to in the past.
Currently, Node.js based solutions are still sort of exotic. In the last 20 years, hosting companies built an entire ecosystem around PHP, Apache and MySQL. It will take many more years for them to offer similar services to their Node.js users. The current lack of Node.js support will for sure frustrate users and force them to use WordPress' sure-to-come Calypso cloud service.
So we can ditch PHP now, too?
The most important issue beside the hosting problem is: Do we really want to forget all of our knowledge that made us strong for the sake of managing a blogging system? We all want to keep on learning new things in our professional life, but do we really want to get forced to a technology that we probably aren't interested in? It really depends on where you want to go. For the sake of freedom and to keep control over codes and processes it's recommended not give too much out of your hands.
Why the sudden change in technology?
The company behind WordPress (Automattic) recently received a new funding of about 160mln. and now Automattic has to deliver. One of the first actions after the funding was acquiring woocommerce, the leading ecommerce system for WordPress.
If you do the maths and take the new cloud approach into account, then it's obvious: Calypso + woocommerce = Wix.com, but WP branded.
WordPress is about to start to compete with cloud services such as Shopify, Wix and others, aiming the end-user and by that also going into direct competition with self-employed website builders and classic web companies. It might appear weird that WP is going to compete with the people who made it strong, but that's how things can go these days.
WordPress PHP is already marked legacy. You should do, too.
If a company puts so much effort into a product like with Calypso, things are getting very dynamic. Employees are excited about the new product, marketing managers are spreading the word and the CEO wants to push things forward, too. Older products suffer the lack of attention and will be treated accordingly. In the end, older products will cease to exist.
Be prepared for this and look for alternatives. Not in a few weeks or months but now. If a company receives a fund of 160mln. and is about to implement something new, it won't for sure be in a few years but happening within a few months.
Since things are serious if you see the bigger picture (I hope I could help with that), it's time to be prepared for this. The implications of Automattic's decision are far reaching. From the little freelancer up to big businesses like Themeforest, everybody will be affected by the current developments.
Here are some advises that might help you to get prepared:
- If you are creating WP themes or plugins for fun, don't care and keep doing so. Automattic will for sure support WordPress PHP for quite a while with updates.
- If you are creating themes or plugins and make your living from them, finish your current projects and DON'T start new ones.
- If you are creating websites for your customers, already look for alternatives. There are extremely popular and more modern CMS than WordPress PHP out there (Joomla!, Drupal, Typo3. Just to name a few).
- Carefully read WordPress.com, Matt's and Automattic's blog posts, the one from WordPress.org won't help you as it's separated from business as much as possible.
- If it's clear how the new services and theme/app systems at WordPress.com will look like, learn how to use them and re-write your products from scratch. Also re-visit your old wp-php plugins then to connect with the new API.
- Once everything is clear, start new wp-php plugins and themes only if that matters to your business. In the long run, you will be offering apps/plugins and themes for 2 different platforms. If it's too costly to maintain 2 different platforms, finally decide for one.
- If you feel none of the above applies, look for alternatives but be prepared to change your business model drastically.
I hope I was able to shed some light on the new situation around Calypso and what it means. Many bloggers in the WP-sphere are still struggling to understand what will be the implications, often still seeing things from within the era of growth of WordPress PHP.
That era is over, WordPress is officially a business. Not more, not less.
Matt answered on the technical impact for the old WP PHP. While he thinks PHP will still make sense for the server side, there will we implications for plugins to be API driven.
So the picture gets even clearer now: transition period to connect existing plugins to the (new) API. If Calypso is going to be successful, adjustment of the core wp-admin to the same technology.
This means, extended functionality and new business opportunities for 3rd parties at WordPress.com and the above interim solution for WordPress.org. As expected, no immediate interruption but one at the closer horizon.