Developers and business owners are waiting anxiously in the wings, as Gutenberg is 11 days away from its debut in WordPress 5.0. There is still a chance that the release could be delayed to the secondary date (January 22, 2019), but the decision has not yet been announced.
“I am lukewarm on the 19th, but not because of the number of open issues (which isn’t a good measure or target) — more that we’ve been a day or two behind a few times now,” 5.0 release lead Matt Mullenweg said during yesterday’s dev chat. He said that reports “from the field” continue to be good and companies that have already installed and activated the plugin haven’t reported a higher than normal support burden.
“My concern can be summed up as this,” Aaron Jorbin said. “There are approximately 400 issues that need either code or a decision to punt. Assuming five minutes per issue, that means there are about 33 hours worth of bug scrubs that need to take place between now and RC.”
“I don’t think we can make a decision on moving the date in the next 45 minutes,” Gary Pendergast said in response to concerns raised at the meeting. “I do think it’s fair to say that the Gutenberg and 5.0 leadership teams are hearing all the feedback, and are actively looking whether the timeline is still correct.”
Mullenweg said open issues are not a good measure of whether the release is on target but the numerous bugs the community is encountering has precipitated a flurry of posts advocating for the release to be delayed.
In a post titled “WordPress 5.0 needs a different timeline,” Joost de Valk, author of Yoast SEO, cites accessibility concerns and the stability of the project as reasons for a delay. de Valk identifies himself a strong supporter of Gutenberg and his team has already built compatibility and Gutenberg-first features into their plugin, which has more than 5 million active installs.
“It’s arguably one of the biggest leaps forward in WordPress’ editing experience and its developer experience in this decade,” de Valk said. “It’s also not done yet, and if we keep striving for its planned November 19th release date, we are setting ourselves up for failure.”
de Valk gave two reasons for why he believes the November 19th timeline to be untenable:
There are some severe accessibility concerns. While these aren’t new and a few people are working hard on them, I actually think we can get a better handle on fixing them if we push the release back. Right now it looks to me as though keyboard accessibility has regressed in the last few releases of Gutenberg.
The most important reason: the overall stability of the project isn’t where it needs to be yet. There are so many open issues for the 5.0 milestone that even fixing all the blockers before we’d get to Release Candidate stage next week is going to prove impossible. We have, at time of writing 212 untriaged bugs and 165 issues on the WordPress 5.0 milestone.
WordPress developer Mark Root-Wiley published a post the same day titled “WordPress 5.0 is Not Ready.” He outlined why he believes the release needs to be delayed and suggested the project pursue more auditing and quality assurance testing before shipping it out.
“WordPress 5.0 can and should be a positive change to WordPress, but if it is released in late November as planned, it won’t be,” Root-Wiley said. “There are simply too many bugs in the editor, and the experience is not polished enough. This is because the rate of development has prevented systematic quality assurance (QA) and user testing. Both types of testing are required to ensure the editor is ready and to increase the community’s confidence in the update.”
“I’m doing my best to give feedback, but it’s exhausting and there are so many little bugs that I struggle to isolate and replicate the one I’m reporting without running into another,” Root-Wiley said. “How is it possible for me to find so many bugs without trying from just writing 1.5 blog posts?”
Root-Wiley also suggested removing what he deemed to be unnecessary features in order to streamline the editing experience and focus on the fundamentals. These features include the tables block, paragraph background colors, spotlight and fullscreen mode, dropcaps, verse block, among others.
“The pace of development has been blistering,” Root-Wiley said. “That speed has been great for developing a lot of features and iterating on those features quickly, but it hasn’t allowed for sufficient testing. What’s needed now is more time for people to find and report bugs with the editor features in their proposed final state.”
Gutenberg criticism is often characterized as coming from people who are resistant to change, but these strong messages about delaying the release come from developers who believe the new editor is the future and have heavily invested in contributing to its success.
Both de Valk and Root-Wiley’s posts seem to have resonated with many who have had similar experiences with the editor. Other core developers and committers have also publicly lent their voices to the call to delay the release.
My thoughts are very much aligned here. I’m super excited for the release — I think it’s crucial for WordPress’ success. But I don’t think it, nor the ecosystem, are quite ready following the shortened release cycle. https://t.co/R0nZt0mk41
— Mike Schroder (@GetSource) November 7, 2018
This: https://t.co/wpcQ02qcTw They are missing almost every milestone on their release schedule, leaving me 1 week to test with RC before Thanksgiving, and plugin/theme authors no time to develop/test with stabler code. It should just come out with their backup January date.
— Lisa Woodruff (@lisa_m_woodruff) November 8, 2018
Opinions on Gutenberg’s readiness vary wildly depending on the person’s perspective and involvement in the project. Those who are working on it full-time have not publicly offered opinions indicating that it might not be ready for the November 19 timeline.
“The 5.0 milestone is in a very manageable place, but if the volume becomes more worrying in the next couple days or it becomes clear milestones won’t be made, we’ll revise as needed,” Gutenberg technical lead Matias Ventura Ventura said during yesterday’s dev chat. He confirmed that the fast pace of development will continue.
Regardless of when 5.0 is released, users can count on getting minor releases every two weeks to address bugs and issues that pop up after Gutenberg is in the hands of millions more users.
“Hopefully as people get used to the more regular cadence they can plan around it, much like they used to complain a ton about, but then got used to, 3 major releases a year,” Mullenweg said during the dev chat.
In 2016, Mullenweg began describing how WordPress could become “the operating system of the web,” with open APIs that others can build on. While that idea encompasses a lot more than just release schedules, WordPress seems to be moving in the direction of shipping updates that come more frequently and eventually more invisibly in the background, similar to how users update their browsers. Releasing Gutenberg in its current state, with frequent updates following, could prove to be a major testing ground to see if greater world of WordPress users are ready to embrace this new era of rapid iteration.