Guest Essay

WordPress joining the Block Protocol could revolutionize software development

Lego Blocks

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This is a guest post by Roger Rosweide, the co-founder of WPCS.io, a tool that allows developers to build SaaS offerings on WordPress. Today, Roger discusses the implications of WordPress joining the block protocol, and how that might affect day-to-day development as well as the creation of SaaS products on WordPress.

A recent article by Leonardo Losoviz in Smashing Magazine, Implications of WordPress joining the Block Protocol, convinced me once again of my belief that the next frontier of WordPress is software-as-a-service development. In the article, Losoviz talks about the Block Protocol debate, sparked by the interest of Matt Mullenweg (co-creator of WordPress) in joining the protocol. This would mean that blocks, which are usually very specific and naturally proprietary, can be shared across the web. Joel Spolski, creator of Trello, pitched the idea first.

Losoviz notes that companies like Notion or Medium, whose use of blocks is part of what makes their products so appealing, wouldn’t be interested in joining such a protocol. It could spawn clones overnight. But it might be very interesting for small teams, SaaS startups looking to create a minimum viable product, older applications that need to catch up, other CMS’s, and other open-source projects.

For those that need a refresher, a block is the outermost component from the hierarchy of components (HTML, CSS) wrapping each other to become a component of high-level, asserting a definitive purpose, and defining the requirements to produce the desired layout or functionality. That’s pretty much how we create WP blogs these days thanks to Gutenberg.

If WordPress starts to adhere to a block protocol, I think it would ignite a second open-source wave. Having WordPress backing the protocol sends a strong signal and creates confidence for others to join, knowing that the project will have contributors and long-term support. I see it as a way to send more of WordPress into the digital ecosystem and this ecosystem becoming more like WordPress. To quote Losoviz:

“For WordPress to be relevant for the next 15 years, it needs to survive in the world of modern, highly dynamic applications. For that, starting from version 5.0 onward, WordPress has embarked on a modernization process, which has seen it metamorphosing from being a rather static application, rendering layouts based on PHP templates on the server-side to a still-static-but-less-so application which fetches data from a REST API, and uses JavaScript blocks to render content, and — since the latest version 5.9 — layouts. This transformation has taken a while to materialize, starting all the way back in 2015 when Matt Mullenweg asked the WordPress community to ‘learn JavaScript deeply’. Joining the Block Protocol would be yet another stop on WordPress’s voyage of modernization.”

“Now, we can ask ourselves, what is exactly a WordPress site? In the past, with its monolithic PHP-based architecture, the response was quite clear. But nowadays we build websites based on a stack comprising multiple technologies. We may have a WordPress backend powering a React frontend, feeding it data via the WP REST API. Is that a WordPress site?”

Blocks make WordPress even more powerful

His article has some other very interesting insights about how Gutenberg would no longer have to be the only way to create blocks with WP. Instead, the protocol would enable other types of blocks, which is to the benefit of WordPress as it would improve the public-facing site that you can build using WordPress because it is not relying on Gutenberg; instead, it simply prints the HTML created with Gutenberg on the backend.

The way I see it, thanks to the Block Protocol, WordPress open-source and those in the ecosystem could assume a new role: providing blocks to power the frontend of any application. This would democratize the frontend in the creation of scalable SaaS solutions, as well as make them more accessible. The logical next step would be to use a scalable infrastructure. For it to really scale and live up to its potential, this infrastructure has to be multi-tenant.

The question Losoviz raises is if it is even feasible given the challenge of backwards compatibility. The questions I ask you is: how could this benefit companies that want to easily and quickly build a SaaS or website-as-a-service tool to validate a niche, introduce a new value proposition, or boost an innovation?

This is how I see it: if the WordPress community ends up creating blocks that become part of the block protocol, and this becomes a new wave of building stuff on the internet outside of websites, it would spark a new era in open-source development of web applications.

If that’s the case, then the combination with multi-tenancy would make WordPress the infrastructure of all SaaS MVPs and startups worldwide. This reason for this is simply that the WordPress ecosystem is the largest, most robust, and most innovative maker’s community on the internet. However, it has always been geared towards building websites. If you can wield the same skills, but build different tech, there’s an exciting future ahead of us!


Author Profile Image

Roger Rosweide is a guest contributor and the CCO of WPCS.io, the WordPress multi-tenant cloud platform. If he’s not writing blogs, helping to figure out what WPCS is and where it's going, he’s having a huge bucket of responsibilities dumped on his head daily, while trying to be an awesome co-founder for Wijnand, Dexter, Sybren, and the rest of the team.

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