State of the Word 2021: Three Pillars for WordPress3 min read


While in-person events are rare these days, State of the Word 2021 was held in New York City for a small group of WordPress beginners and dignitaries. Even more surprising was that this was held in the new Automattic office. Automattic has not had office space for some years now – but it acquired the remaining lease of the Tumblr space in the NOHO area of the city.

The entire State of the Word is available on, and I highly recommend viewing the whole presentation. Matt Mullenweg, CEO of Automattic and WordPress co-founder, spoke for approximately one hour on the existing scale of WordPress, the vision for 2022, and the greater future. While I think those three aspects are fairly pedestrian in scope, they are all actually tied to three greater pillars of WordPress.

Technology Moves Forward

The first pillar of the State of the Word is technology. Today’s technology wasn’t here yesterday and tomorrow’s will be different. The emphasis here is on Gutenberg and block editing. While block editing is not something brand new in the grand scheme of the content management universe, it has significantly changed the WordPress experience since 2018. The block editor is the default experience in WordPress and has been of especial benefit to new users. Blocks can handle a number of experiences that can recede from the editing experience, and let folks work in the best way possible.

The editing experience grows with block themes, patterns, and more. As Matt quite simply states, “Gutenberg is bigger than WordPress.” The goal of moving Gutenberg beyond WordPress is admirable and compelling. Mobile and other content platforms have already begun utilizing the platform, and a consistent experience will enable people to be more productive across more interfaces than ever before. It’s an exciting time for Gutenberg. It will also be a lot of work for the ecosystem to continue the adoption. But that’s ok – technology moves forward.

Business Moves Forward

My second pillar is the economy of WordPress. Over the last two years, a lot of money has churned throughout the ecosystem, primarily financed by private equity and hosting companies. While there has been significant investment in all technology sectors over the last two years, the sheer value put into the WordPress community has been enormous. 

And the community has responded at times with consternation. The angst appears to stem from the concern that independent plugin and theme developers will never be able to create and support ongoing businesses. Many of the most well-known independents have been acquired recently. How can the “small shop” make a go of it with budgets a fraction of the size? Matt implied that this is just an economic cycle, and at the end of the day will help the entire ecosystem. So that’s ok – business moves forward.

Open Source Moves Forward

If there is a final pillar, it is Matt’s passion for open source. WordPress and Automattic are putting the time and resources into an incredibly large and confusing space. Openverse is a search engine for openly-licensed media. The actual search engine which currently only supports images is available at

This is the truest sense of democratizing content. People will have access to expand their creativity either by submitting copyright safe images or utilizing them within their own WordPress experiences. Images are only the beginning, with audio and video on the horizon. While this will directly benefit WordPress by actually having a deep integration in 2022, what is even more compelling and open is that Openverse will be available and accessible to all.

This is how you build and expand open source to folks who don’t know or even understand the hubbub. 

This is the grand moment and movement that expands beyond technologists to educate and benefit more of humanity.

The 2021 State of the Word let us know where WordPress is today and where open source will take it tomorrow.


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