WordPress first released the Gutenberg editor in beta form over a year ago, and it is now available to the public in the WordPress 4.9.8 “Try Gutenberg” preview release. But now that it’s out, what is WordPress working on next? Here’s a preview of WordPress 4.9.9 and 5.0.
The next WordPress minor release, 4.9.9, is in the works. With a scheduled release date of November 5, 2018, it has four main focuses.
WordPress strives to be a website content management system for everyone, regardless of language or country. It already supports 180 locales in one form or another and even offers multilingual support to help websites whose audiences span multiple languages, but WordPress still sees room for improvement. WordPress 4.9.9 will focus on translations, making sure date/time values work properly, and increasing right-to-left (RTL) language support for languages like Hebrew and Arabic.
Accessibility has been a major focus for WordPress over the past couple of years. We have shared insight on this as well, helping you to ensure everyone can read your content, colorblind users can see your site properly, and everyone can use your site. Gutenberg also helps with accessibility, adding useful tools like a warning when foreground and background text are too similar in color. WordPress sees room for improvement, though, citing “lots of ways we can drastically improve the experience for a lot of people with minor effort” as a focus for WordPress 4.9.9.
Site Health Project
WordPress is working on a set of updates internally called Servehappy to provide extra stability to the platform. It will protect against the so-called “white screen of death,” provide a more prominent notice in the Dashboard when something needs to be updated, and provide additional information on plugin compatibility. Servehappy does not appear to be a guarantee for WordPress 4.9.9 as the goal is currently to “investigate the work remaining for the Servehappy project and determine how to get it in people’s hands as soon as possible.”
As you’ll see below, WordPress 5.0 will bring further changes to Gutenberg and WordPress 4.9.9 seeks to lay the necessary groundwork for these changes.
WordPress 5.0 is a major release. The exact release date is still not scheduled, but we can surmise from the 4.9.9 release date that it will be after November 5. At earliest, we can expect WordPress 5.0 in December, and it could potentially be pushed back into early 2019. The team has had a goal of “sometime in 2018” for over a year, but with repeated delays — WordPress 5.0 was originally projected to be ready around April 2018 — and the clock ticking, 2019 wouldn’t be too surprising. It’s also possible that WordPress could release more minor updates between 4.9.9 and 5.0, even though 4.9.10 and beyond are not currently listed on the roadmap.
The main change coming to WordPress 5.0 is known as a Gutenberg “merge” into core. Right now, Gutenberg is available as an optional plugin that must be installed, but in WordPress 5.0, Gutenberg will become a part of the WordPress core, enabled by default unless users install the Classic Editor plugin to disable it. In order to ensure as smooth of a transition as possible, the WordPress team is currently hard at work to ensure sites will translate to Gutenberg with minimal issues.
While it is possible that WordPress 5.0 will include other features, it is unlikely as the focus for the release is squarely centered on Gutenberg. At WordCamp US 2017, Matt Mullenweg announced that an updated “annual theme” — like the Twenty Seventeen theme that comes bundled with WordPress — wouldn’t be a point of emphasis until WordPress 5.0 was complete. There’s a strong possibility that “Twenty Eighteen” will be skipped and a new “Twenty Nineteen” theme will be released early next year. Once Gutenberg is released, it’s likely that other features and bug fixes will be released in WordPress 5.0.1 and beyond.