Calypso: New WordPress Music

At a recent WordPress Meetup, convener Brent Kobayashi went around the table and greeted everyone. And for the new attendees coming to learn more about WordPress Social Marketing, Brent warned them that things were moving fast in this area of WordPress and WordPress in general.. Well Matt Mullenweg, the creator and curator of all things WordPress, just rocked the community with some new music – and its shaking the WordPress World to the Core. This is the new WordPress.com interface seen by millions of users of the free WordPress.com service:
wpcalview

If you have a website or blog on WordPress.com, you have seen a slowly evolving interface change over the past 6 months. But as of November 23rd  of this year the changes are fully revealed. And a JavaScript not PHP-driven interface has taken over most of the WordPress admin operations. Here is what editing a Post or Page looks like in Calypso:
wpcaledithtmml
The Visual Edit looks very similar to the old version, but the HTML edit tab as shown above is much diminished – none of the b, i, Link, b-quote and other text/html editing commands are available. However, the Visual edit is really quite similar to the classic version Also the right sidebar of Post/Page settings has moved to left. And the changes are pervasive extending to many WordPress admin and editing operations. For example, here is the new Menu command interface in Calypso:
wpcalmenu
Now Menus in Calypso works differently when adding a new menuitem. You click on the existing menuitem’s + icon and Calypso expands the screen above and below the selected menuitem with new to-be-filled in new menu commands. Then the to-be-filled menuitems not used are removed as soon as you select which place you want to add a menuitem to. Otherwise, the drag and drop movement and sorting of menu items works just like the old menu interface.

Now in the screenshot above I have opened the Chrome browser’s Inspect Elements command so you can see what drives the Calypso Menu interface [and the other Calypso-powered pages]. if you do this yourself in one of your  WordPress.com websites,  when you pull down the Chrome Inspector slider, you will find lots of metas, linkfields and JavaScript code. The interface is  totally JavaScript, HTML and CSS driven. So  Calypso can run offline and as an app[currently available for Mac only] allowing users to manage any site WordPress.com or WordPress.org hosted website for which they have the legitmate name and user password plus the JetPack powered connection..

Here is a sample of that multisite administration in action:
wpcaladmin
In this example I am editing a Post on my PicsofCanada.com website from WordPress.com[but also note that five or six plugin icons and their services which I use quite often on the PicsofCanada website are not available]. I can go to any other WordPress website where I have admin privilege and have setup a connection to WordPress.com through JetPack to do limited edits and website management. The connection to WordPress.com is usually established by installing Automatic’s JetPack plugin.

Now this is important to Automatic, the owners of WordPress, because it helps to bring the millions of WordPress.org hosted websites into the influence of WordPress.  Another way to  bring more users into the Automatic WordPress direct influence is to manage not just WordPress Core updates but also updates for themes and plugins which appears to be an a Automatic goal. Finally, Automatic is offering another sugar plum with their improvement in  Notifications which helps manage social messaging in WordPress as shown below:
wpcalstatsThe right Notifications sidebar in the above screenshot is invoked by clicking on the Notifications icon [white bell in upper right corner]. Filling the sidebar is all the comments and messages sent to my various websites classified by age and status [unread, follows, comments, likes]. WordPress already sees over 1 million messages per day being captured and anticipates that the release of WordPress 4.4  with better messaging enabled  plus deals with other social media providers will significantly increase that presence.  This two-way notification is vital, because more organizations are trying to tap into user responses to their social media site messaging. Notifications in Calypso is proving a start on two-way messaging mechanism. Watch for callback widgets in WordPress for contacting and receiving replies from social media like Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Tumblr, etc.

The other way Automatic is trying to insure greater WordPress loyalty is to make its JetPack plugin a feature part of Calypso. Thus both Notifications and Site Stats which are plugins in Jetpack are also featured in the Calypso interface. Also major change appears in the Calypso Media tools:
wpcalgalleryThere are now 7 gallery of image layouts[much like Nextgen Gallery Pro plugin] but still missing any configuration control of the different layouts and still no way to manage galleries standalone like posts and pages, However, Matt has said there is more work to be done here.

But perhaps the crucial feature of Calypso is that it is easy to revert to classic WordPress admin interface:
wpcalclassic
So users who have learned classic WordPress have easy access to the familiar interface which continues to deliver a host of features not yet in Calypso..

Implications of Calypso

Matt Mullenweg has been relatively  cautious in his introduction of Calypso. But the ambition is clearly large:

So we asked ourselves a big question. What would we build if we were starting from scratch today, knowing all we’ve learned over the past 13 years of building WordPress? At the beginning of last year, we decided to start experimenting and see.

Today we’re announcing something brand new, a new approach to WordPress, and open sourcing the code behind it. The project, code named Calypso, is the culmination of more than 20 months of work by dozens of the most talented engineers and designers I’ve had the pleasure of working with (127 contributors with over 26,000 commits!). So if you’re going to break backward compatibility, it needs to be for a really good reason. A 20x improvement, not a 2x. Most open source projects fade away rather than make evolutionary jumps.

Here are the key characteristics of Calypso as described on the WordPress.com website:

Calypso is…

  • Incredibly fast. It’ll charm you.
  • Written purely in JavaScript, leveraging libraries like Node and React.
  • 100% API-powered. Those APIs are open, and now available to every developer in the world.
  • A great place to read, allowing you to follow sites across the web (even if they’re not using WordPress).
  • Social, with stats, likes, and notifications baked in.
  • Fully responsive. Make it small and put it in your sidebar, or go full-screen.
  • Really fun to write in, especially the drag-and-drop image uploads.
  • Fully multi-site for advanced users, so you can manage hundreds of WordPresses from one place.
  • Able to manage plugins and themes on Jetpack sites, including auto-upgrading them!
  • 100% open source, with all future development happening in the open.
  • Available for anyone to adapt to make their own, including building custom interfaces, distributions, or working with web services besides WordPress.com.

The decoupling of the WordPress UI/Client Interface from the PHP-driven core is as innovative as the resulting security, features and performance of WordPress.com turns out to be. However, this leaves a lot of PHP based WordPress API knowledge in jeopardy of replacement by JavaScript routines. Matt has promised to look at PHP new version 7; however currently JavaScript has an expanded role on the client side and in the broader WordPress codebase.

Also it is interesting to note that the CMS competition is reacting to this direction. Drupal’s lead developer, Dries Buytaert, is now publicly debating use of a Calypso-like JavaScript interface. But WordPress Matt Mullenweg is actually committed to a much bigger role for JavaScript in the client and more broadly the WordPress Core first through the REST API and then in the Calypso client interface. Here is what Matt said about JavaScript in WordPress at WordCamp US on December 6th in Philadelphia:

Here is the bottom line on Calypso. WordPress Designers will get most of what they have now  with some exciting prospects with Notifications, Multi-server interactions and some enhanced Design futures, WordPress Developers have  more demanding tasks ahead. For Multisite Administration including automatic theme and plugin updates along with hefty site statistics, developers must learn JavaScript deeply. This means mastering  a whole new array of JavaScript  libraries while maintaining their knowledge of PHP as long as it is used in the core. Already being a full stack WordPress Developer has been challenging – it just got even more so.