JavaScript Arriving in WordPress Stealthily

With Calypso and Gutenberg, clearly JavaScript is arriving onto WordPress in a big way. Here are seven reasons why:

  1. Gutenberg is not just the new Visual Editor but is the “official” WordPress PageBuilder;
  2. But Gutenberg goes beyond page building and is a complete Web canvas builder – header, content, footer, sidebar plus any popups and special banners are to be designed and placed by Gutenberg. This is already a trend among WordPress Theme + PageBuilder combos like Beaver Builder Agency, Xtheme, Themify Builder, etc
  3. If Gutenberg succeeds in the very competitive PageBuilder market,  this will have an enormous effect on WordPress development. Watch for themes to be absorbed into complete  Sitebuilders like Gutenberg or Beaver Builder Agency;
  4. Calypso, also JavaScript based, will take over all of the WordPress admin interface; it already powers WordPress.com admin plus the WordPress App which is billed as “A control panel for all your WordPress sites”;
  5. If Gutenblocks support a broad range of JavaScript Frameworks beyond the currently used React.js, this will assure a broader range of  plugins and add-ons in the new WordPress marketplace;
  6. Already there are server-side developments such as NodeJs and GraphQL that make for future, stronger remote access capabilities for WordPress sites;
  7. The performance of WordPress will be improved because JavaScript engines outperform both PHP on the  server and Perl/Ruby on the client;
  8. But it will be hard to predict the already high security vulnerability of WordPress in its new JavaScript coding.

So considering the above it is clear that WordPress is undergoing a revolution in how it will be coded and used in the next 2-3 years. But looking at the upcoming schedule of sessions at WordCamp US  [Nashville Tennessee, Dec 1-3 2017]you could hardly tell a coding revolution is taking place.

WordCamp US 2017 Only Whispers Change

Now consider that it is two years ago that Matt Mullenweg said “learn JavaScript Deeply”. Also consider that it has been nearly a year that Calypso has taken over all of the WordPress.com user interface for both visual editing and admin. Also consider that the WordPress app for linking together WordPress websites is written in Calypso. In short the WordPress coding revolution is under way – Gutenberg is just the Sitebuilding icing on the cake.  So how many of the 52 sessions at WordCamp US 2017 cover the nature of the coding revolution – 4, and here they are:This presentation is about the primary code consolidation tool used by all the major JavaScript Frameworks including React.js plus all the CSS extensions like Less and SCSS. And Webpack is used for media movements, code resource validations, connection checks plus otther vital operational tasks. users of IBM’s JCL will appreciate the role of Webpack in build and maintenance operations.


GraphQL is a communication library that will compete with the RESTAPI, Open Data Protocol and XMLRPC for handling WordPress interprocess communications. Readers familiar with SOAP will appreciate the complexities that GrapQL tries to simplify. Most of the major JavaScript  Frameworks including React.js support GraphQL.

This along with  GraphQL could potentially be the most interesting presentation at WordCamp US.

I must admit I am leery of React.js/JS Framework  evangelists for three reasons. First, JavaScript is just as brittle and fragile as PHP because if you make 2 or more small syntax errors discovering what has gone wrong can be a devil. Learn and  use Git Compare. Second, because the underlying frameworks and support tools are changing rapidly, it is easy to run into “does not compute” conflicts. Third, because the browser vendors are not keeping up with EcmaScript changes [now occurring once every year], transpiling  with Babel and Webpack is an onerous fact of Gutenberg and Calypso life for years to come.

Now part of the reason that there is not more to say about Gutenberg and Calypso is the status of React.js. Facebook took React.js off complete Open Source. Matt Mullenweg then said React.js would not be the standard for Gutenberg and Calypso. Then Facebook put React.js back on Open Source. So far Matt has not budged and has said GutenBlocks will be generalized so they can accept any JavaScript Framework. Stay tuned for more on this situation.

Summary

WordPress is undergoing a quiet, almost stealthy, but certainly massive change. Now one can say that is also true of the past 2-3 years as MultiPurpose Themes plus PageBuilders have dramatically changed how WordPress websites are built. Likewise there have been major changes in media display plugins and support for overall WordPress website performance. But all of these changes were done with the same basic WordPress core and PHP as the driving server-side language for WordPress.

A number of legitimate questions are raised by the move to JavaScript:
1)What is the role of PHP in the WordPress Core – what functionality will it continue to support?
2)Will there be bridge code to allow the 45,000 WordPress PHP  plugins to work effectively well into the future of WordPress
3)What is the status of Gutenblocks support for other JavaScript frameworks like Vue.js, Aurelia.js, Angular.js, etc
4)How will server side JavaScript like Node.js and GraphQL be integrated into the emerging WordPress Development system.
Clearly the WordPress community will need clarity on the fast evolving JavaSCript-based Core future.

The new JavaScript powered Gutenberg Site Builder and Calypso Operational Engine change all that has come before in WordPress – PHP in effect becomes deprecated over 2-3 years in many WordPress coding contexts. Literally thousands of theme and plugin builders will see their markets and development jobs shifting away from them unless they adopt the new WordPress JavaScript Development Tools. WordPress Site developers will be caught in the middle – deciding when and how to make the transition to the new JavaScript based tools. And WordPress users will be least directly effected other than having more performance and features to call upon from their  developers.