WordPress recently decided that the third major version release for 2021 will be delayed to January 25, 2022. The project had fallen significantly behind to such an extent that core contributors as recently as last week voiced concerns about the feasibility of meeting the 2021 deadline.
What played out behind the scenes was a rush to meet a deadline with a growing awareness that failure to halt the release could result in “regrettable decisions” as “large red flags” signaled there was no way version 5.9 could be released on time.
High Hopes For WordPress 5.9
WordPress version 5.9 represents a major milestone for the WordPress community because it includes important upgrades to the full site block editing capabilities.
Full Site Editing is a fundamental feature that allows a publisher to edit every aspect of a website using the Gutenberg block interface.
The purpose of the Gutenberg blocked-based interface is to make WordPress easier to use through a visual interface.
Key Components of Version 5.9 Not Ready
Many key components for an easy to use block-based editor were nowhere near ready for release.
The block-based editor represents the future of WordPress but without these important components the future of WordPress remain stuck in the future.
According to the time line published by WordPress, they were faced with two decisions:
- Meet the deadline by rolling out a significantly diminished version of WordPress
- Push back the deadline and release the full and intended version of WordPress 5.9
According to WordPress, issues arose that proved insurmountable and subsequently forced the delay in releasing version 5.9:
“Near the end of the original alpha release cycle, issues arose that related to multiple major features planned for the 5.9 release, including:
Full Site Editing (FSE), which is a collection of features, such as global styles interface, Navigation Block, block themes, template editors, and site editing flows.
The Twenty Twenty-Two (TT2) theme, which depends on these FSE features.”
WordPress instituted a freeze on the introduction of new features in order to focus resources on finishing version 5.9
The same announcement noted:
“5.9 is still in feature freeze. Work from here on is strictly to address the changes that get the release to a stable state.”
WordPress Rushed In A Dangerous Way
Core contributors to the WordPress core raised concerns over a week ago, noting that the project was nowhere near finishing and saying that it was being dangerously rushed forward, recommending that the release date be moved back to a later date.
The core contributor wrote:
“I think there are some large red flags here that some things are not ready for 5.9.
Especially re-creating the entire post list for templates / template parts at the last minute.
Don’t we want to give new flows ample testing in Gutenberg to ensure they are refined and the desired solution before including them in a core release?
We once thought the Nav Panel was a desired solution, imagine if we had shipped that to core WP just days after it had been developed. We would be regretting it now.
Overall, it seems like right now we are rushing things in a dangerous way.
We targeted 5.9 as the release for these items in core but too many things are just not ready, hence the rushing to change so many things at the last minute.
Wouldn’t it be better to miss the expected target date than to rush potentially regrettable decisions and brand new flows into core WP at the last minute?”
Better Off Releasing Post Holiday
The sight of WordPress core contributors “rushing things in a dangerous way” to meet what is essentially an arbitrary deadline might appear frightening from the outside looking in.
Yet it was the core contributors themselves who were frightened as well watching the time run out on realistically delivering a finished product.
In a way it’s better to release a major version upgrade after the year-end holidays.
There’s always the potential for something to go wrong and to have it go wrong during the crucial holiday shopping season would be a disaster.
An argument could be made that the decision to push back the release date until well after the holidays works for the best for several reasons.