The Block Editor-A Fireside Chat

It was enlightening to learn from posts in the community forum feedback thread on the Block Editor that many WordPress.com users didn’t know how we got here. If you count yourself in that group, grab your favorite beverage, settle in, and let’s review. This may get a bit lengthy and I’ll try not to put you to sleep.

For those who legitimately didn’t know, hadn’t followed or weren’t interested in the development of the Block Editor (AKA Gutenberg) in the WordPress.org open source project, after a little less than 2 years, the Block Editor became the default editor when WordPress 5.0 was released in December 2018. That was a year and a half ago. Anyone downloading or installing the standalone WP software since then uses the Block Editor as the default editor. Those WP users wanting to edit with the Classic Editor need to install a separate “Classic Editor” plugin. As of today, about 5+ million WP sites have installed that plugin.

According to W3Techs, as of 19 June 2020, WordPress currently runs 37.5% of all websites.

WordPress is used by 63.5% of all the websites whose content management system we know. This is 37.5% of all websites.

There are an estimated 1.2 billion websites in total*, which, if correct, means WP powers 420,000,000 websites. Of those sites, 78.2% run the aforementioned WP 5.0 and up. That’s 328,440,000 websites. Subtract the approximately 5 million sites that have the Classic Editor plugin installed and you have roughly 323 Million WP sites where the Block Editor is the default editor. So, by the numbers the Classic Editor is in use on a small percentage, around 1.53%, of WP sites running at least WP 5.0.**

What’s driving the adoption of the Block Editor in WordPress? To answer that you need to look at WordPress’ competition, as well as the popularity of site and page builder plugins for the WP software itself. In order to stay relevant today and in the future CMS market, WordPress took this bold decision, which was not without controversy.

However, WordPress.com is not the open source WordPress software out of the box. It is a modified version of that same software that Matt Mullenweg, the co-founding developer of WordPress, launched as a commercial platform in November 2005 through his company Automattic. Here, too, I’m not going to delve into the full history of WordPress.com since its beginning, but only relate to the relatively recent history concerning the Editor.

Well, almost. History by itself can be a bit dry. Let’s have some visuals!

Here’s a 2-minute video of what our WordPress.com dashboard looked like in January 2009 when WP 2.7 was introduced to the world. And, yes, that’s the WP Admin dashboard you’re looking at.

Introduction to the WordPress.com dashboard-narrated by Michael Pick via wp.tv

WordPress.com continued to use the WP Admin dashboard and Editor with several intervening iterations of the MySite dashboard pretty much right up to November 2015 when the full Calypso/MySite dashboard brought both managing and writing on WordPress.com from the WP Admin dashboard to the shiny new Calypso/MySite interface and heralded the arrival of the new “High-Speed Editor.” Here’s what that looked like in November 2015.

The editor as it looked with the launch of the WordPress.com redesign, late 2015. (Reference)

It was only in November 2018 that WordPress.com introduced the “new WordPress Editor” (AKA Gutenberg, AKA the Block Editor) in that same editing interface and users at that time could choose between the Block or the newly renamed Classic editor.

(Wait! What? The block editor was introduced on WordPress.com before it was released in the WordPress core software? Yes, as early as September 2018 in the WP Admin dashboard, because WordPress.com serves as a testing ground for new features being introduced in the WP open source software. More on that another time.) Any new site registered on WordPress.com after December 2018, had the new WordPress Editor as default, but could still switch to the Classic Editor in their editing interface. Sites or accounts registered on WordPress.com after December 2019 currently are only able to use the new WordPress Editor and require Staff assistance to switch.

So, until the recent announcement regarding prioritizing the Block Editor in the MySite dashboard, WordPress.com had to maintain 3 different Editors (Block, Classic in MySite and WP Admin) and their related documentation. If you didn’t know about the existence of the WP Admin dashboard or used it, and no one could blame you if you didn’t, it probably came as a real shock to learn that once the Block Editor becomes the default editor for the entire WordPress.com platform, you’d need to access the WP Admin dashboard to write in the full Classic Editor. This is the same editing interface that WordPress.com replaced in 2015 with a speedier and more powerful editing experience that, in my opinion, still comes with better editing options even using the Classic Editor, though I know there are those reading this that would heartily disagree. (I can hear you!)

So while we’re still waiting to say Hello to the Block Editor, if you decide to open a test site to try it out and you find yourself overwhelmed by the number of block options available in the Block Editor, remember you can control what blocks appear there by customizing your workspace to make it more manageable.

*Not an exact number. It’s likely higher.
**Not a mathematician, so if you come up with different numbers, please leave a note in the comments. Thanks. (It also means that there are around 21.8% of WP sites running an outdated version of WP. Oy vey!)

Featured Photo by Taryn Elliott on Pexels.com

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4 thoughts on “The Block Editor-A Fireside Chat

  1. When we all eventually ‘Say Hello to the WordPress Block Editor’ – I wonder – is WP-admin going to disappear for those of us who have had sites since before the Flood?

    1. I’d have to say no, for now. There’s still too many admin activities that rely on WP Admin that haven’t yet transferred or been redirected to the MySite interface. Many of those are mentioned the first paragraph of my 2017 post Remembering WP Admin

      And after we do finally say Hello to the Block Editor, unless The Powers That Be change the manner of accessing the Classic Editor for those that want to use it, that WP Admin link is still very relevant.

  2. Jen, How do I start a test site? Do I need to register and pick a domain name? Is it free? Thanks for all of the great information.
    Susan

    1. Hi Susan, you should be able to add a new free site to this account by going here https://wordpress.com/start/ when you are signed in. Just make sure to keep clicking on the free option. Having said that, there have been a number of people posting to the community forums that they don’t see how to make a free website when going through that process, so ping support if you run into trouble as I think you have an upgrade. And you’re welcome. 🙂

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