So I’ve seen quite a number of reviews on the new Calypso application from the WordPress.com/Automattic team floating around twitter and the Post Status Club Slack channel (if you’re not a member, you should be, it is 1,000% worth it). Many of the opinions centered on the fact that Calypso is a vote of no-confidence in the current WP admin architecture. While I agree with that, I also write this very post from that admin, which is used by millions of sites around the world. I’ve been waiting to hear some reactions from inside and outside the WordPress community before I offer my own thoughts on the matter.
John O’Nolan, founder of Ghost, a CMS built on top of Node.js, wrote a lengthy blog post with his thoughts on the matter. Now, O’Nolan isn’t exactly the most objective person to offer an opinion on Calypso, considering it is perhaps the greatest threat to Ghost yet.
“… the lack of leadership and transparency around the long term roadmap for WordPress is consistently detrimental to its macro-economy. This is something that really needs to be addressed.”
While I do believe there has been some stagnation in innovation within WordPress Core, I don’t think it is a lack of vision that is the culprit. The primary goal of WordPress from the beginning was to offer an open-source CMS to make content publishing open and free (as in speech) to anyone who wants it. These goals have been and continue to be met. Any additional goals might be considered icing on the cake or perhaps even a subtle pivot in the direction of the platform.
You might say that happened with the introduction of post types and now with the introduction of the official WordPress API. For each of these major pivot points, WordPress not only still achieved its original goal of open publishing but also added a new facet, whether that was opening up more doors for different types of content publishers or new ways of interacting with the data stored in WordPress’ database. Every major step taken has legitimized WordPress as a publishing platform for larger and larger organizations every day.
Now, as Chris Lema eloquently noted:
When enterprises, companies like banks for example, think about WordPress, they still think about it as blog software. I know we don’t like that characterization, but it’s true. Because, like with most things in the enterprise space, old narratives are hard to unseat.
In my experience with companies who have approached us asking about using WordPress for more than just a blog, they always have the same concerns.
- Security. Since it’s open-source and used by millions, it’s easy to exploit.
- Workflow. The WP admin is clunky and can be cumbersome for media orgs with lots of users.
- Speed. Once you add thousands of posts and have millions of sessions per month, saving to the database slows to a crawl.
- Compliance. Big organizations need paper trails. They need to know who did what and when.
These issues have solutions but many decision-makers at large corporations just aren’t willing to investigate them because their reputation and job are on the line if a $250,000+ project fails to produce the necessary results.
OK, so that’s enough about WordPress and enterprise, what does Calypso have to do with all this?
John O’Nolan was right. Calypso is a vote of no-confidence in WP admin, but not for everyone. Mainly for the enterprise level customer. Calypso is going to be a starting point of custom admins for large organizations who have the coin and the business need to create a bespoke solution for their publishing workflows. Instead of hooking into the admin to add form fields or information, developers will now be able to achieve completely unique, customized interfaces to meet the exact needs of clients. No need to un-hook menu items or remove random buttons or text, Calypso makes all this easier than writing your own or trying to hack the WP admin.
Now, on to the million-dollar question: Will Calypso replace WP admin?
But it won’t happen for a long time. The plugin and theme community have a lot of catching up to do before Calypso will become necessary and more desirable for small site owners, which represent a lopsided number of WordPress.org blogs and websites. WP admin isn’t “broken” for the majority of these sites and it doesn’t need a successor. People use it because it is familiar and they log in, write a post, publish it, and go about their business.
Bottom line, I think everyone needs to look at Calypso and the WP API as a huge advancement for the way companies utilize WordPress as a storage center for their data. These advancements destroy the idea that WordPress innovation is going to stagnate. Once you have an API, anything is possible, and once Calypso is viewed as a major case study for a custom WordPress application, we’ll start to see things that go way beyond what it offers today.