WordPress—the leading blogging and content management system across the web—is releasing version 5.0 on Thursday. This marks the first major update in a year, and the most substantive update to the platform in several years, bringing with it a variety of speed optimizations and new features intended to make it more flexible to fit an increasing number of use cases.
The largest change coming to WordPress 5.0 is the Gutenberg editor, which completely reimagines the way writers and other content creators interact with their website. In contrast to increasingly popular markup editors used in other blogging software, the Gutenberg editor is fundamentally WYSIWYG, though with a design flexibility that allows content to be easily reformatted across screen sizes and devices.
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Gutenberg is centered around editing in blocks, allowing users to "insert, rearrange, and style multimedia content with very little technical knowledge." The intent is that blocks can be used to simplify the content creation process, and take the place of shortcodes and custom HTML or pasting in URLs to embed media such as YouTube videos, providing a predictable, single workflow for inserting content.
Fundamentally, the paradigm shift being attempted in 5.0 is transitioning WordPress from being a text builder to being a multimedia builder. Content creators were already using WordPress for this purpose, but the decade-old editor had not scaled well to fit the needs of those users. For the same reason, plugins designed to ease the pain points of the classic editor (such as making image galleries, embedding self-hosted or externally-hosted video, and adding widgets for additional page content) may be rendered irrelevant with the adoption of the Gutenberg editor.
For those resistant to change, the Gutenberg editor does have a "Classic" block, which allows content to be inserted in the same way as in the classic editor, but in block form. A Classic Editor plugin does exist and can be installed in 5.0, and will be supported by the WordPress Core team through December 2021. The default themes published by WordPress for prior versions of the platform have been updated to support blocks, though custom themes will need upgrades to take advantage of the feature.
For organizations with a current WordPress deployment that makes extensive use of plugins and uses custom themes, check with your vendors to ensure they offer compatibility with WordPress 5.0 before making the move. For the best migration experience, upgrading plugins and themes before upgrading the core WordPress software will largely prevent issues from occurring, assuming the plugins used in your installation are compatible.
As with any software update, be sure to make a backup before updating, and consider deploying that backup on a test machine to run the update privately to identify any potential issues before wide deployment.
For those new to WordPress, downloads of 5.0 will be available from WordPress.org starting at noon (Eastern Standard Time) on Thursday, though cloud hosting services such as DigitalOcean, Vultr, and Scaleway will offer one-click deployment of WordPress 5.0 in the coming days. As WordPress is open source software, it can be used and extended without payment.
The big takeaways for tech leaders:
- WordPress 5.0 adopts the new Gutenberg post and page editor as default, making embedding outside content and building multimedia experiences easier, without relying on third-party plugins.
- The new version includes support for PHP 7.3 and includes a new default theme.
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James Sanders is a technology writer for TechRepublic. He covers future technology, including quantum computing, AI, and 5G, in addition to security, cloud computing, open source, mobile and satellite communications, and the impact of globalization on the tech industry, with a focus on Asia.