Improvements to WordPress.org

If you visit WordPress.org regularly you might have noticed some changes around the place. If you don’t, now’s the time to check them out! We’ve been working hard to improve the site to make it more useful to everyone, both developers and users, and we hope you like what we’ve done.

New Theme and Plugin Directories

Since WordPress 3.8, you’ve been enjoying improved theme management in your WordPress admin, and in WordPress 4.0 plugin management was refined. We’ve brought these experiences from your admin and re-created them right here on WordPress.org.

Theme Directory

The Theme Directory has a better browsing experience, with handy tabs where you can view featured, popular, and the latest themes. As with the theme experience in your admin, you can use the feature filter to browse for just the right theme for your WordPress website.

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Click on a theme to get more information about it, including shiny screenshots, ratings, and statistics.

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Konstantin Obenland posted a good overview of everything involved with the theme directory overhaul and followed up with a post on improved statistics.

Plugin Directory

The Plugin Directory has a brand new theme that mirrors the experience in your WordPress admin, with a more visual experience, and better search and statistics.

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As well as a facelift, there are some great new features for you to play around with:

  • Favorites – when you’re logged in to you WordPress.org account, this page gives you direct access to the plugins that you have favorited.
  • Beta Testing – try out plugins where developers are experimenting with new features for WordPress.
  • Search by plugin author – you can search for a plugin author using their username.
  • Better statistics – listings now display the number of active installs so you can see how many people are actually using a plugin.

An overview of the new theme was posted by Scott Reilly.

Better Statistics

We’ve made huge improvements to our statistics. This gives us more useful information about the WordPress versions people are using, their PHP version, and their MySQL version.

Already these new statistics have provided us with useful insights into WordPress usage.

  • More than 43% of all sites are running the latest version of WordPress. Previously, we thought only 10% of sites were up-to-date. By excluding sites that are no longer online we were able to improve these statistics.
  • We were able to clear up the data around WordPress 3.0, bringing it more in line with expectations. This anomaly was a by-product of spammers.
  • Only 15.9% of sites are using PHP 5.2, which is better than we thought.

Over the coming months we’ll be able to use these statistics to bring you new tools and improvements, and to make more informed decisions across the board. Read Andrew Nacin’s post about these changes for more background.

Thanks!

Thanks to everyone who contributed to the theme directory redesign, the plugin directory refresh, and improved statistics: Alin MarcuDamon Cook, Dion Hulse, Dominik Schilling, Jan Cavan Boulas, Konstantin Obenland, Kyle Maurer, Matías Ventura, Mel Choyce, Natalie MacLees, Paul de Wouters, Samuel Sidler, Samuel Wood (Otto), Scott Reilly, Siobhan McKeown.

If you want to help out or follow along with future WordPress.org projects, check out Make WordPress and our meta development blog.

Ten Good Years

It’s been ten years since we started this thing, and what a long way we’ve come. From a discussion between myself and Mike Little about forking our favorite blogging software, to powering 18% of the web. It’s been a crazy, exciting, journey, and one that won’t stop any time soon.

At ten years, it’s fun to reflect on our beginnings. We launched WordPress on 27th May 2003, but that wasn’t inception. Go back far enough, and you can read a post by Michel Valdrighi who, frustrated by the self-hosted blogging platforms available, decided to write his own software; “b2, a PHP+MySQL alternative to Blogger and GreyMatter.” b2 was easy to install, easy to configure, and easy for developers to extend. Of all the blogging platforms out there, b2 was the right one for me: I could write my content and get it on the web quickly and painlessly.

Sometimes, however, life gets in the way. In 2002, Michel stopped maintaining b2. Over time, security flaws became apparent and updates were needed and, while the b2 community could write patches and fixes, no one was driving the software forward. We were lucky that Michel decided to release b2 under the GPL; the software may have been abandoned, but we weren’t without options. A fork was always a possibility. That was where it stood in January 2003, when I posted about forking b2 and Mike responded. The rest, as they say, is history.

From the very beginning to the present day, I’ve been impressed by the thought, care, and dedication that WordPress’ developers have demonstrated. Each one has brought his or her unique perspective, each individual has strengthened the whole. It would be impossible to thank each of them here individually, but their achievements speak for themselves. In WordPress 1.2 the new Plugin API made it easy for developers to extend WordPress. In the same release gettext() internationalization opened WordPress up to every language (hat tip: Ryan Boren for spending hours wrapping strings with gettext). In WordPress 1.5 our Theme system made it possible for WordPress users to quickly change their site’s design: there was huge resistance to the theme system from the wider community at the time, but can you imagine WordPress without it? Versions 2.7, 2.8, and 2.9 saw improvements that let users install and update their plugins and themes with one click. WordPress has seen a redesign by happycog (2.3) and gone under extensive user testing and redesign (Crazyhorse, Liz Danzico and Jen Mylo, WordPress 2.5). In WordPress 3.0 we merged WordPress MU with WordPress — a huge job but 100% worth it. And in WordPress 3.5 we revamped the media uploader to make it easier for people to get their images, video, and media online.

In sticking to our commitment to user experience, we’ve done a few things that have made us unpopular. The WYSIWYG editor was hated by many, especially those who felt that if you have a blog you should know HTML. Some developers hated that we stuck with our code, refusing to rewrite, but it’s always been the users that matter: better a developer lose sleep than a site break for a user. Our code isn’t always beautiful, after all, when WordPress was created most of us were still learning PHP, but we try to make a flawless experience for users.

It’s not all about developers. WordPress’ strength lies in the diversity of its community. From the start, we wanted a low barrier to entry and we came up with our “famous 5 minute install”. This brought on board users from varied technical background: people who didn’t write code wanted to help make WordPress better. If you couldn’t write code, it didn’t matter: you could answer a question in the support forums, write documentation, translate WordPress, or build your friends and family a WordPress website. There is space in the community for anyone with a passion for WordPress.

It’s been wonderful to see all of the people who have used WordPress to build their home on the internet. Early on we got excited by switchers. From a community of tinkerers we grew, as writers such as Om Malik, Mark Pilgrim, and Molly Holzschlag made the switch to WordPress. Our commitment to effortless publishing quickly paid off and has continued to do so: the WordPress 1.2 release saw 822 downloads per day, our latest release, WordPress 3.5, has seen 145,692 per day.

I’m continually amazed by what people have built with WordPress. I’ve seen musicians and photographers, magazines such as Life, BoingBoing, and the New York Observer, government websites, a filesystem, mobile applications, and even seen WordPress guide missiles.

As the web evolves, WordPress evolves. Factors outside of our control will always influence WordPress’ development: today it’s mobile devices and retina display, tomorrow it could be Google Glass or technology not yet conceived. A lot can happen in ten years! As technology changes and advances, WordPress has to change with it while remaining true to its core values: making publishing online easy for everyone. How we rise to these challenges will be what defines WordPress over the coming ten years.

To celebrate ten years of WordPress, we’re working on a book about our history. We’re carrying out interviews with people who have involved with the community from the very beginning, those who are still around, and those who have left. It’s a huge project, but we wanted to have something to share with you on the 10th anniversary. To learn about the very early days of WordPress, just after Mike and I forked b2 you can download Chapter 3 right here. We’ll be releasing the rest of the book serially, so watch out as the story of the last ten years emerges.

In the meantime, I penned my own letter to WordPress and other community members have been sharing their thoughts:

You can see how WordPress’ 10th Anniversary was celebrated all over the world by visiting the wp10 website, according to Meetup we had 4,999 celebrators.

To finish, I just want to say thank you to everyone: to the developers who write the code, to the designers who make WordPress sing, to the worldwide community translating WordPress into so many languages, to volunteers who answer support questions, to those who make WordPress accessible, to the systems team and the plugin and theme reviewers, to documentation writers, event organisers, evangelists, detractors, supporters and friends. Thanks to the jazzers whose music inspired us and whose names are at the heart of WordPress. Thanks to everyone who uses WordPress to power their blog or website, and to everyone who will in the future. Thanks to WordPress and its community that I’m proud to be part of.

Thank you. I can’t wait to see what the next ten years bring.

Final thanks to Siobhan McKeown for help with this post.

Plugin Directory Refreshed

Been hanging out with a few WordPress.org hackers — Scott, Nacin, and Otto — the last few days in a BBQ-fueled haze of hacking to make plugin directory better. There are over 19,000 plugins listed and they’re really the heart and soul of WordPress for many people, so they deserve a little tender loving care. Here’s a quick before and after snapshot you can zoom in on to see a visual overview of some of the changes:

Our first focus was around improving the discussion and support around plugins.

You’ll now notice that threads about a plugin are pulled directly into a “support” tab on the plugin page — each plugin has its own forum. We’ve made authors much more prominent and with bigger Gravatars and better placement, so you can get a sense of who made the plugin you’re using. And finally to show how active and well-supported a plugin is, you can see  ”16 of 75 support threads in the last two weeks have been resolved.” Finally, if you’re logged in you get access to the new “favorites” feature that lets you mark the plugins you use the most so you can share them on your profile page and find them quickly later. We soft-launched favorites a few days ago and there have already been 2,000 saved!

If you’re a plugin author, we’ve started with a short threshold (2 weeks) for the resolved stats so it’s easy to catch up and stay on top of it. (It’ll eventually go to two months.) You also now have the ability to set stickies on your plugin forum to put FAQs or important information at the top, and of course any person you put as a committer on the plugin will have moderation access. People on the forum tag will see your custom header and links to the other resources attached to your plugin.

We’ve tightened up the styling a bit on the forums and plugin pages, though still some cleanups to do there. Some older improvements you might have missed, but are still useful for users and developers alike:

  • “Plugin headers” or those cool graphics you see at the top of plugin pages have really taken off, there are over 1,600 active now.
  • You can now subscribe to get an email whenever a commit is made to a plugin repository even if it isn’t yours. There is no better way to follow the development of your favorite plugins. There’s nothing like the smell of fresh changesets in the morning.
  • Behind the scenes, we’ve dramatically ramped up proactive scanning of the entire repository to help authors fix security and other problems they might not even know about yet. The quality level of the repo has gone way, way up.

All of this will continue to evolve as we get feedback and see usage, but we’re happy to have been able to make some key improvements in just a few days while hanging out in Memphis. (This is why WordCamps usually have BBQ — it imparts magical coding powers.)