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Mullenweg Delivers State of the Word Address

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At WordCamp San Francisco held in early August, WordPress co-founder Matt Mullenweg provided his annual State of the Word presentation to let WordPress groupies know where the company has been and where it’s headed. Overall, there has been great progress made with tremendous focus and collaboration, and it appears that the company will continue these trends into the next year with its sights set on seamless upgrades and a focus on its user interface and mobile versions. The entire talk can be found online here on Matt’s page, but for those who don’t have 45 minutes to spare, here’s a synopsis:

To highlight the tremendous growth and popularity not only of WordPress but also WordCamps, Mullenweg noted that last year there were 52 WordCamps all over the world. As of Mullenweg’s talk, 75 were either scheduled or planned for 2012.

In addition, there were 44 million downloads last year, which makes up a third of total downloads. That’s huge growth in in a very short amount of time! Mullenweg went on to detail who is actually using WordPress and for what purpose by summarizing the results of the first WordPress Survey. Of note were the revelations that two-thirds of respondents were outside of the U.S. and a full 20,000 users making a full living or earning the majority of their income off their WordPress site (up from 13,000 last year). The majority of WordPress users are small businesses and individuals, followed by non-profit, government and educational clients and large businesses and enterprises.

Sixty-six percent of respondents indicated they were using WordPress solely as a CMS, not as a blog. This statistic is a testament to WordPress’s flexibility as a communications and service platform – there are infinite numbers of ways sites can be designed and arranged to achieve individual objectives. Mullenweg showed examples of a few different individuals and organizations using the platform in unique ways. Most compelling was the University of Washington, whose main campus was laid out like a Google map on its homepage, with each building or location set up as a unique post type.

Of the things making the difference for WordPress users, Mullenweg noted it was not the big releases like Jetpack or Mobile that made users most happy; rather, it was the smaller things that made the most impact. In case you missed them, here’s what he cited the following actions as the most popular:

  • Ability to place header images on plugin pages.
  • Ability to flag Favorites so that all can be downloaded and installed at once.
  • Forum threads on Plugin pages that list number of threads,and number of issues resolved. Mullenweg noted that there have been more resolutions in the first half of 2012 via this function than last year in its entirety.
  • Generous unit testing that dramatically reduces interruption of service or functionality.
  • WordPress’s involvement in SOPA legislation, specifically the voluntary blackout of hundreds of WordPress sites in protest to the censorship inherent in the defeated bill.

Mullenweg highlighted three main areas of development for the coming year. First are enhancements to plugin ratings; specifically, Mullenweg wants it to be more obvious what makes a plugin a 4-star versus a 5-star rated plugin, and he wants to make it easier for authors to respond to ratings comments so that any misconception about the coding can be cleared up or corrected in real time. Secondly, there is a focus on expanding WordPress’s functions and discussions to the international community. Lastly, there is renewed focus on NUX, or the new user experience, including more testing and rearranging of items to make it easier for a novice user to navigate WordPress admin. The crux of this will be available December 5 of this year in the form of WordPress 3.5, which will also offer full retina support and other key enhancements like drag and drop images, multi-image upload (even if not associate with a post) and more customization options. WordPress 3.5 will also employ the 2012 theme as its default theme.

Cursory to those main development tasks but equally urgent are making it possible to do more with media (tagging, galleries, zooming, etc.), deploying smarter iterations of core functions, making WordPress updates seamless across browsers and devices and automatic so that there’s compatibility in all places at all times. Mullenweg wants more user interface testing, more people involved in Community Summit and more engagement across the board, especially from international players.

Above all, Mullenweg expects WordPress to keep stable and secure, and deliver on time. That December 5 date for version 3.5 is firm, he says. Meanwhile there’s plenty of work to do even for a company as successful as WordPress to stay on top of its game.

Give us your feedback. Are you happy with WordPress’s performance as a platform and a company over the last year? What are your thoughts about where things are going for the coming year? Share your thoughts with us below.

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