Over the past 19 years, WordPress has evolved from a simple blogging tool into a powerful enterprise-grade CMS. But how do we ensure that WordPress continues to prosper?
To find out, we sat down with Matt Mullenweg, Co-Creator of the WordPress project and CEO of Automattic to chat about Five for the Future: His vision for sustainable WordPress contributions that would enable its progression and growth for years to come.
Learn More About our Work Supporting WordPress:
Matt, it’s a pleasure to speak with you today.
Thanks for having me.
Can you please describe your vision for Five for the Future?
The deal with five for the future, is basically that WordPress has had the success it’s had so far because of community participation. It’s not one person or one company driving it—and so, I’ve given a lot of thought over the years to what would allow WordPress, as it grows, to continue to thrive.
Because a lot of times when open source projects grow, they kind of collapse under their own weight, or people take from it and don’t put anything in, which obviously, is not sustainable.
We saw trends, actually, even throughout nature, of 20:1 receiving and giving. And so, we thought if we were able to have something like that ratio inside the WordPress community, where people could give 5%—however that worked for them.Matt Mullenweg, Co-Founder of WordPress & CEO of Automattic
Maybe that’s four hours a week— or two hours a week in a 40 hour work week, a day a month, or whatever it is, to participate, It seems like that could actually make WordPress really thrive over the long term and represent all the voices of the community.
So it’s a volunteer programme, just like everything in WordPress. But we’ve seen that companies that do it, I think actually get a lot more out of it. Not just in WordPress being better and influencing the direction of WordPress, but actually participating in the WordPress project.
It makes you better whatever you’re doing, because you get to learn from people all over the world, working on something that affects the whole web.Matt Mullenweg, Co-Founder of WordPress & CEO of Automattic
So when you go back to your normal day job, people are more engaged, more informed, and just better connected to what’s happening in core WordPress, which of course drives a lot of the ecosystem.
I think there’s both selfish reasons and altruistic reasons to do Five for the Future.
The path that we’re trying to work out is how do we inspire them? You know, there’s so many organisations that are working in WordPress these days, it’s really expanded—which is wonderful.
But we’re always looking to see how do we inspire them to contribute, to come to WordCamps, like we are here today, and to be part of five for the future? How do you think we can build that inspiration to get people involved?
Contribute is a good one. Actually here at WordCamp Europe, we had vastly over attended a contributor day—like the biggest one ever. And I heard a story of a company that has done zero Core contributions had 20 People contributor day, making their first contributions.
The other thing I like to tell people is, whatever you’re passionate about, or whatever your skill is—or even if you have no skills, there’s someplace to help.
It’s gonna take a little work to figure out where. But there’s forums, there’s translations, there’s tutorials, there’s meetups, there’s so many things that people can contribute to be part of the WordPress community—besides just code. Which code gets a lot of recognition, but of course, what’s made WordPress successful it’s far more than a code. We are far greater than the sum of our PHP lines.
And so getting involved, asking someone who’s already a contributor to kind of help guide you, or for tips where you need!
There’s something to be said for what we call “scratching your own itch”. So if there’s a part of WordPress experience which frustrates you, or that you think could be better and you have an idea for make that happen—that’s awesome! That’s a big part of why WordPress has has thrived over the years.Matt Mullenweg, Co-Founder of WordPress & CEO of Automattic
And as the community gets bigger, how software keeps getting better and better, kind of a flywheel effect.
For us as an agency where we’re always trying to improve performance for our publisher clients. We know that there’s been great benefits in performance and what we thought we’d do is we want to contribute to WordPress. So let’s focus on that.
So we’ve been really proud of the team that have contributed to the overall performance of WordPress, like Johnny and others who have really had quite a great impact. The lovely return for us is that it’s recognised. People see that and they are well this is obviously an agency that is has gotten that an expectation of high performance, so we should speak with them.
I’m really glad to hear that
So there is that return for putting the focus on that for your organisation—
—and it feels good!
So that’s another great thing about it.
Yeah, I was very lucky. In Houston, I grew up where my mom set a lot of examples, and put me in programmes where we were volunteering, whether that was Boy Scouts, or church or making packs for folks who were unsheltered or whatever it was.
And so that’s part of why I got involved with open source. As I was, like, I just started using some of the software—B2 at the time, and I was like, “Hey, here’s someone asking a question on the forum that—I went to ask a question, but I saw another thread that was I knew the answer to, even though it’s a very beginner user.
So i thought “let me just answer this while I’m here”. And that kind of snowballed. Now we’re here with 1000s of people at WordCamp Europe, but it started with a very, very small contribution.
It is almost the secret to happiness. The X of our company is about gratitude. It’s about recognising that, you know, we have something to thanks for.
And you’re right, it is a little addictive sometimes, like when you start to give and you want to figure out other ways to give, it’s a wonderful way to be a part of that.
I feel that we’re most connected as humans when we contribute to something larger than ourselves.Matt Mullenweg, Co-Founder of WordPress & CEO of Automattic
And even just personally, I found if I’m ever in a funk, you would think that doing something for yourself would make you feel better. But I’ve actually found more consistently, that doing something for someone else, even making a donation online or something, is great at getting me out if I’m stuck in kind of a negative loop in my head.
It gives you perspective.
On another note: We we work with a lot of enterprise organisations and very interested in your view. We’re always wanting to impress upon them about the benefit of going to WordPress about seeing that WordPress, it’s not, you know, something, it’s not blogging it it is used—
—but so much more.
Right! How would you recommend that we speak to them about building trust in WordPress?
It’s a good question. I honestly these questions a lot less than we used to. When WordPress was early. I mean, we just turned 19 years old, it’s the 6.0 release, we’re running, you know, more than 40% of the websites in the world—including some really high profile ones and high target ones like the white house.gov, the site of the White House in the United States.
We also power countless media organisations, I mean, y’all have created some really amazing examples of WordPress.Matt Mullenweg, Co-Founder of WordPress & CEO of Automattic
I just find showing examples really compelling. It’s almost like a testimonial. If you don’t have a case study or testimonial, that’s great, too. But just you know, sending 20 year rails of sites that are beautiful, fast, performant.
And obviously have chosen WordPress sometimes for many, many years or decades.
That’s, you know, it’s better show than tell.
Yeah, there’s something that I speak about in the company about the barbecue brands. And it’s a term I coined in that. If you’re at a barbecue with friends, and you say, we work with News Corp, we work with Rolling Stone. We work with Google, they recognise that, so that trust like you say, letting them see that their peers are using WordPress, their peers, trust it, give them confidence to use it as well.
Matt, thank you so much for your time. It’s been a real pleasure. It’s such an honour for us now in season three to close it off with you’re on the XWP Tonight Show.
Thank you and keep up the great work. Thank you.