WordPress 5.0 Delivers Block-Based Editing Approach

For the first time in four years, the open-source WordPress project is delivering a major new milestone update that will change the way tens of millions of websites are designed and built.

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The open-source WordPress blogging and content management system (CMS) project on Dec. 6 released a major milestone update—WordPress 5.0.

WordPress 5.0 is code-named "Bebo," named after Cuban jazz musician Bebo Valdés, following the project's long tradition of naming releases after notable Jazz musicians. WordPress 5.0 boasts a number of improvements, with the biggest user-facing change being the new Project Gutenberg editor. The new editor is the primary interface to how WordPress site administrators create content and define how it is displayed.

"Our new block-based editor is the first step toward an exciting new future with a streamlined editing experience across your site," Matt Mullenweg, founder of WordPress, wrote in a blog. "You'll have more flexibility with how content is displayed, whether you are building your first site, revamping your blog, or write code for a living." 

WordPress has emerged in recent years to become one of the most popular CMS technologies on the internet, powering an estimated 75 million websites. The 5.0 update marks the first major version number change since September 2014, when WordPress 4.0 was released. The WordPress 4.x product line was last updated on Aug. 2 with WordPress 4.9.8, which developers tagged as a maintenance release.

The open-source WordPress.org project enables anyone to freely download and use software, while the WordPress.com website is one of many hosted options for users who want a WordPress-powered website.

Block-Based Editing

The way that the new Gutenberg editor works is that every piece of content is defined as a block. The block is a wrapper of sorts that enables new positioning and control capabilities in a visual approach.

"Blocks provide a comfortable way for users to change content directly, while also ensuring the content structure cannot be easily disturbed by accidental code edits," Mullenweg wrote. "This allows the developer to control the output, building polished and semantic markup that is preserved through edits and not easily broken."

WordPress has provided documentation and guides to help developers and WordPress theme authors build sites that work well with the block-based editing approach. Additionally, in support of the new editor is the new Twenty Nineteen default theme for WordPress 5.0, which provides users with custom styles for the blocks that are available in the new release.

While the new editor is the key highlight of WordPress 5.0, Mullenweg knows his audience well and expects that there will be some users who are resistant to the change and not want to adopt the new editor. To that end, WordPress 5.0 has an optional plugin known as the Classic Editor, which restores the same editing interface that WordPress was using in the 4.x series. WordPress plans on continuing to support the Classic Editor as a plugin until at least 2021.

Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at eWEEK and InternetNews.com. Follow him on Twitter @TechJournalist.

Sean Michael Kerner

Sean Michael Kerner

Sean Michael Kerner is an Internet consultant, strategist, and contributor to several leading IT business web sites.