WordPress has been crafted by and for its community. It was born out of a desire for an elegant, handcrafted means to publish on the Internet. It has grown into a tool that serves over one quarter of the data that is shared on the Web. It powers the giants, such as the New York Times, and at the same time enables individual writers to be heard.
WordPress has forged forward since 2003 as a community-driven and community-led project. Our roots are in democracy and freedom at Automattic we believe that software tools should be made by, as well as for, the people they serve. We believe this leads to a special kind of openness and transparency that achieves a quality we see increasingly missing today: trust in technology.
How did we lose trust in technology? Was it by knowing that our every word typed into the computer can be monitored, and can be used in ways that we do not fully know? Or was it the recognition that each bit of knowledge that the computer has learned about us can be used to modify how we experience information, in ways that we’ll never be allowed to understand. The software all lives in an opaque, black box that we cannot see into. But it can see us.
That’s why WordPress occupies an important place. It’s “Open Source”: which means that anyone can examine each line of code to learn exactly what it’s doing. There is no guessing as to what it is doing with your data. And if you don’t like what it is doing, you can modify it and run it exactly in the way that you want. It is a completely open box that you can trust, because nothing is hidden.
Open Source is a philosophy that drove the early years of computing. We know it as the radical idea that by coming together as a community and sharing how software code is written, we can build better products. People could learn new skills from each other by working on an Open Source project, and they could improve their core skills by contributing whatever they could. Nothing creates community better than building something together ― and the WordPress community was literally built by making WordPress.
But WordPress has been around for over a decade. It was designed and built during a time when desktop computing was dominant. It was created before social media systems such as Facebook began to emerge that could wrap users within a self-contained media bubble. It was imagined before the smartphone brought us self-facing cameras and way before machine intelligence advanced to the point of literally holding a conversation with you by voice. So WordPress needs to change. And its community, by definition, needs to change.
How? We need to consider the millions of users coming online today who have different needs than we designed for five and ten years ago. They’re different kind of people than the original WordPress community members. They primarily use their smart phones instead of laptops, they would rather take a picture instead of write five hundred words, and the number of choices they have within which to live on the Internet keep growing each day. They’re also increasingly different than the average college-educated men who dominated and defined the early years of computing ― so they bring new sensibilities to what they want their software tools to do. And let’s not forget the millions of people in developing countries who are just now experiencing the internet for the first time from their feature phones ― a number that grows each year, and a demographic with very different needs and use cases.
We are the platform on which they will all want to live and work. Because we are the one platform that can be fully adaptive to and inclusive of their needs. We are the one platform that they can fully trust. But we need them to make it together with us.
How do we need to work differently? By inclusively growing our community of developers, designers, and businesses, we can renew WordPress for the mobile and multi-device era. We can do this by bringing new sensibilities to our community and through taking on the task of reimagining WordPress with millions of newer computing users who never think to use a desktop machine or laptop. We started this work at WordCamp US in 2016 with a small group of designer/technologists. And we have a lot more work to do together in 2017. We’ll need to build new on-ramps for participation in the WordPress community by designers who are crossing over into tech.
It’s an especially exciting time because through the WordPress Foundation, Automattic’s CEO Matt Mullenweg is investing in the future of young women and people of color who are learning to code; and as Automattic we are actively doing the same to advance diversity and inclusion as a leading technology company. We are a company that is community-led and driven. Our products exist by the strength of our community, and that strength will only be multiplied as we build on the people from the many countries that already participate in WordPress.
And this year at Matt’s annual State of the Word address, he put design at the center of how we will improve WordPress to fit the lives of the millions of people who seek technologies that are open, transparent, and made for their lives by people like themselves. That means starting with the problems that bloggers, site builders, and store owners need to solve so that they can achieve financial success and financial freedom, and so that their voices can be heard. It means expanding the kinds of communities that we serve and partner with to include any and all people who have been marginalized by the digital divide or other excluding forces. It means freedom for the every person using technologies that they can fully trust because it represents their interests, their dreams, their needs.
So as we look to the new year 2017 and beyond, we have the opportunity to develop, design, and evolve WordPress inclusively each step of the way by the community, and for the community. It’s how we built the first, second, third, and fourth versions of WordPress and with this approach, we now power 27% of the Internet. And it’s how we will power the rest of the Internet, too.
I’m so pleased to get to partner with all of you, and to follow Matt with you into what is clearly going to be an exciting year for Automattic! And design!
If you’re interested in joining Automattic Design, please visit our Work With Us page. Because we operate completely remote, you can work from anywhere in the world and don’t need to relocate to Silicon Valley to be in tech:wink:.
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