349 – Is 20 years too long in web tech?

“Thinking the unthinkable (TTUT). Episode 349: Is 20 years too long in web tech?” with Nathan Wrigley and David Waumsley

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It’s the 19th episode of our “Thinking the Unthinkable” series and today’s (ambiguous)  topic is… “Is 20 years too long in web tech?”.

Full of our usual British cheerfulness, we are celebrating WordPress’s 20th birthday year with a title implying its potential demise.

This episode is not about predicting the future of WordPress. It’s because we have never had a chat dedicated to why some web tech flourishes (as WordPress certainly did), and some die. 

Talking points

It’s also 30 years for the web and there is a lot of reflection on that history too.

It’s kinda interesting that folk like Tim Berners Lee have decided that the internet is now somewhat of a rubbish dump. I can’t recall where I saw that, but he bemoans how the web has turned out, and he’s right. We screw some things up, and I think that as soon as business / money got involved, it went south a bit!


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Particularly looking at browsers and operating systems. The foundations we all build on.

Is growth and demise in tech a matter of luck and unpredictable?

The right thing and people at the right time due to, and followed by, unpredictable social and technical change?

I think that there’s a fair amount of luck, but also the right thing at the right time – Facebook et al.


Is there a natural cycle of boom and bust as with economic markets? I think there is a gold rush element where the ones making the most are those selling the spades. React and WordPress are like that now.

Is it subject to fashion? We like new things!

I think that we do, but I think that WordPress sidesteps this with plugins and themes!


In tech there is an expectation to always be innovating which often forgets the good that was done before.

It is fascinating that we’re never happy with what we’ve got. Human history is thousands upon thousands of years in which almost nothing changed at all. So 10,000 years to create a slightly better shaped piece of hunting flint, and now we can’t wait 20 minutes in a queue before we’re posting our ire on social media!


Heydon Pickering’s Webbed Briefs videos (particularly the hilarious “What Happened To Text Inputs?” – Warning: some bleeped swearing).

The fundamental web languages lasted:

HTML – 1993

CSS – was first proposed 1994

JavaScript – was invented in 1995

PHP was created in 1993 and released in 1995

Flash created in 1996 (Adobe purchased Macromedia in 2005). Died in 2011 (security issues, SEO and iPhones. The idea of Adobe owning the Web – shudder!).

In the day, I loved what Flash could do, but hated what it did as well. I remember when the iPhone killed it in a stroke!


HTML and CSS are safe

Are they? What if someone came up with a better layout system? I doubt that in 50 years it’ll be HTML that’s powering the web.


Frameworks and CMSs are vulnerable

An added layer that is subject to technical debt and UX and UI problems.

There’s no way that anything that we’re using now will be what my grandchildren use. I really do think that WordPress is the best of the bunch right now, but it just takes one genius to upset the apple cart.


CSS Frameworks

Bootstrap (more of a design system for designers?), and Tailwind (more of a tool for backend devs who could not get on with CSS?) seem likely to lose popularity. There have been so many improvement to native CSS.

So glad that I never got into any of these. With hindsight, they were a complete distraction from the good ‘ol CSS spec.


CSS preprocessors

Like Sass and Less are losing their unique benefit as the best of it is added to the CSS spec. 

JS based frameworks or libraries

Similarly were making up for a shortfall in what HTML could do. It created a fork in the road.

Commercial demand for SPAs like React is high presently, but also getting more criticism for being mostly an over complicated solution.

Remember CoffeeScript? A language that compiles JS. The original died when the JS syntax changed. Java is 26 years old – considered sluggish but still going.

There is an interesting new kid on the block called HTMX. It’s offering much of what JS libraries can do, but going back to HTML with a 3rd of the code. It improves HTML’s  hypermedia capabilities with some JS. Some consider it true  “RESTful” API and it is one of 20 projects in the GitHub Accelerator.

So I guess that what’s lasted from dawn until now:

  • A connection to the internet
  • TCP/IP
  • HTML
  • A browser of some kind
  • CSS
  • JS

Everything else I think is window dressing.


WordPress is the only PHP based CMS holding steady in popularity (there is decline seen in BuiltWith’s top 10K and 100K sites – devs being replace with DIY users).

No clear (Jamstack) CMS alternative.

Page builders. Easier for Wix to change as they own the whole code base and restrict users.

WordPress sites are as strong as its weakest component. From that point of view going all in on Gutenberg and community plugins now seems logical, but…

It is having to fight both technical debt and UI issues (and its restrictions).

Looking at only Gutenberg the bugs have only ever risen to 1110 and 5k issues (presently). Hosting companies (according to Miriam Schwab) see a 50% churn due to poor onboarding. (I think this to those expecting a no-code page builder experience).

The competition in WordPress is not as friendly anymore. Gutenberg did not start that but it created a clear division.

Every 3rd party tool is expected to officially support every other. Seems like is a LTD every day!

Final thoughts

I’m wary of  excitement over the next big thing. If the old works I tend to  stay with it.

Generally I try to balance ease with long term costs and apply the KISS principle, but I get distracted.

I would hate to be a jobing developer looking for employment.

I think the best thing anyone can do is start with the fundamental languages, before adopting a framework because frameworks come and go and you can spend more time fighting against them.

Probably most coming to WordPress via page builders are having to work backward if they are looking to class himself as front end devs. 


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Transcript (if available)

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[00:00:00] Nathan Wrigley: Hello there, and welcome once again to the WP Builds podcast, you have reached episode number 349, entitled is 20 years too long in web tech? It was published on Thursday, the 9th of November, 2023.

My name's Nathan Wrigley, and just before I get into that chat with David Waumsley, first of all a few small bits of housekeeping. The first thing to mention, I've mentioned it before and I shall certainly mention again, is our Black Friday deals page. We've collated well over a hundred deals so far, and that number is only set to rise.

We're kind of making it your go-to place in the run-up to Black Friday. The URL is supremely easy to remember WP Builds.com forward slash black. And over there you're going to find a searchable filterable list of all of the plugins, themes, blocks, hosting, all in the WordPress space, in the run up to Black Friday. So bookmark that. There's also a button on that if you want to add your own deal. So if you are in the WordPress space and you have your own product, service. Feel free to click the, add a deal link and fill out the form, and we'll get that put on the page so people can discover it. And if you fancy helping out, that page can be sponsored right at the top of the page after three little black boxes from companies like WS Form, Gravity Forms and CheckoutWC. They have sponsored that page already. And if you want to join them, feel free. There is a section underneath that called, this could be you. If you click on the get pride of place and now button, you'll be able to join that page and help the podcast out.

The other thing to mention is that we're doing a load of series and shows and all of that during the week. We're doing shows with Leo, from Gato GraphQL and a weekly show with Sabrina Zeidan. You can find all of those on the WP Builds.com home page. Just scroll down a little bit, and there's a section called Coming Up. Go there and find out what is happening when.

Sabrina is helping out with speeding up your WordPress websites. But also we'll be having Piccia Neri back soon as well to talk about UI and UX. So don't say that we don't do a lot in the WordPress space because I think we do.

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Okay, what have we got for you today? As I said, it's called is 20 years too long in web tech? If you cast your mind back, if you've been in this game, as long as David and I have, there has been so much change. Have we given over the web to large corporations where all of the content is now siloed? Do we even know how to use HTML, CSS, JavaScript, PHP, and all of those kinds of things? Have we got a bright future in the web? Is CSS for example, and all of the different pieces that are being added to that, is that going to save us and make the web a happy, friendly place again? There genuinely is tons in this episode, I really enjoyed recording it with David. And I hope that you enjoy it.

[00:04:06] David Waumsley: Hello. It's the 19th episode of Our Thinking, the Unthinkable series, and today's ambiguous, perhaps offensive topic is 20 years too long in web tech full of our usual British cheerfulness.

We're celebrating WordPresses 20th birthday with a title in its potential demise.

[00:04:28] Nathan Wrigley: I love that. That was such a, that was such a snarky introduction. 20 years. It doesn't matter whether it's in tech or not. 20 years is a, really long time.

[00:04:37] David Waumsley: Yeah.

[00:04:38] Nathan Wrigley: And way

[00:04:38] David Waumsley: Anyway it is ambiguous because we could read this one as is it time for us to sling our hooks? Cuz that's about the number of years that we've been doing web tech, isn't it?

[00:04:47] Nathan Wrigley: Yeah, it is interesting cuz before we hit record, as we always do, we spend quite a long time just waffling and thinking about what we're gonna talk about. And one of the things that came outta that conversation is I. Both you and I share a very similar character trait, which is our inability to stick with anything for almost any amount of time.

but tech and working with the web in both of our cases, I is the, thing that. is the, what's, the phrase? It's the thing that disproves the rule, or there's a phrase around that. I've forgotten what it is. And, and this is the, longest I've been doing anything. I've flitted from job to job and couldn't really settle on anything and accidentally came into this and still really enjoying it.

[00:05:30] David Waumsley: Yeah, I think it's because it's, it's seen as the place which is constantly innovating and things just change, don't they? we, think five years is our point where we feel we need to shake things up, but we can actually do that within technology.

[00:05:45] Nathan Wrigley: Yeah. Yeah.

[00:05:46] David Waumsley: up and do something different,


[00:05:47] Nathan Wrigley: that's true. And as we're about to discuss five years, Really every five years. If you were to take that as the metric of how long you typically would be able to stick at something, a job or whatever it may be.

[00:05:59] David Waumsley: Mm.

[00:06:01] Nathan Wrigley: really the internet goes through it's unrecognizable five years into the future.

if you go back five years and back a further five years, there's always something interesting cropping up. Whether or not it's useful or desirable is, probably what we're gonna talk about, but it definitely is, the changing of the landscape is constant.

[00:06:21] David Waumsley: Yeah. And probably we should just explain our reason for this topic is cuz we've not actually had one in all of these years that is actually dedicated to looking at. Why some web tech flourishes and some dies, And it's definitely not about predicting the future of WordPress, cuz we have no clue about that.

[00:06:41] Nathan Wrigley: Yeah. that, that's the case. I haven't a clue about what the, internet or WordPress or. Almost anything really technological will be like in five years time. I can tell you about what my house will look like in five years time and the kind of meals that I'll probably be eating in five years time.

That's typically not gonna change, but tech and the landscape and the devices that we're gonna use, not a clue.

[00:07:07] David Waumsley: Yeah, and I think also, it's 20 years for WordPress and it's 30 years for the web and I think I, it's, a, I feel there's a sort of moment of reflection going on, but I, yeah, again, it's really difficult cuz I follow certain social media and I just, I'm doing that myself because I'm changing, again, The five years is up on page building.

So I'm looking to advance my skills with more technical stuff. So I'm looking for people who also reflecting as well. But I do see that going on. you, mentioned about Tim Bernard's leave earlier.

[00:07:43] Nathan Wrigley: Yeah. It's interesting because if you, think about the pioneers, Of the internet and Tim Burners Lee is the person that came to mind having had a history with the entire thing. So my understanding, and I could be wrong about this, but my understanding is he was the person that kind of came up with the idea of a hyperlink.

So you could embed a link in something which would then link to another. Document or resource somewhere else on another, machine and all of that. And I know that there was a whole bunch of technologies which needed to collide, in computing in general for the internet to happen. But what we know is the internet, HT ml with the hyperlink is his brainchild.

I think he's gotten to a point where, He's, questioning what it's all been for, whether the incentives of the internet are now aligned with what his goal was in the beginning. And I think probably like all of us, he didn't anticipate some of the things that have happened. And, I get the impression that he, if he could rewind the clock on the internet and put in different constraints rather than it being entirely open, I think he feels that some aspects of the internet have.

Have not been beneficial for us,

[00:08:57] David Waumsley: Yeah, indeed. I think there's one thing, actually, we're using the terms interchangeably, but I think he's, uh, assumed to be the person with the web, so that's really with the. H T M L and these documents where the internet preceded that in my understanding of it. So I think the, so it, for the purposes, of this conversation we're talking about the web, the basic sort of H T M L, which we all work with mostly.

or assume is there rather than the internet. Cuz it could be a, I think you've made this point earlier that. in the future we can't anticipate it, but the internet could be something entirely different and off the web, HTML as the foundation of it could be gone, and I think that's possible.

But yeah. So yeah, I, agree. And I've been checking him out a bit recently because I've become, again, interested a little bit in this history and it seems his web three. is what he's moving towards, where he felt that the internet itself was a useful for individuals to be able to connect with other people, and he thinks the sort of next wave of that was this Facebook era.

where we've got into data and collecting that. We're not just sharing these documents, but we're sharing, keeping the data. And what's happening is that it's these big companies now that own now data in order to commercialize that and try and identify what people might want to see. And his belief, I think for the.

The next wave on what he's working on is this idea that everybody gets to own their own data and this will be better. so he is working with governments and, yeah, I think the, yeah.

[00:10:36] Nathan Wrigley: it really is interesting in that. I have independently of him. I've come to some similar conclusions in that I don't really know why, but I've been appraising what I have given over to internet and companies on the internet. What, bits of my life I've surrendered. So for example, to-do lists, they've all gone online.

My photography library has gone online. Obviously there's the whole trove of social media stuff that's all gone online and it really, the minute I click upload or save or whatever, It's not really mine anymore. There's this, thing that I got into this contract that I probably agreed to without reading it, which says that stuff's not yours.

And I've independently of Tim, I've, started to reevaluate that and think, actually it would be, better if I owned all of this stuff because I don't really know whether Facebook will be around or whether my note taking app will be around in five years time. And, I think one of the things that we can be certain of is that most of these companies won't be around in 20 years time.

And so some of the things that I want to be, I, want them to be around forever. Photography being one of them, the photographs of my kids and what have you. I've really gotta think about, where are these being stored and how are they being saved? And should I print them out and go back to the real world?

Th this is the thing. I want my data to be mine. And I do see that as a sort of growing trend. And on websites, that now, don't you? You see a lot of people saying, w we don't have access to your data, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. It's all saved onto the, it's not saved into the cloud, it's on your computer.

And I just actually got a. a diary app, like a journaling app. And I, moved from one to another cuz I like to write a few things each day. And, and it's local, or at least the data. You can save it to the cloud, but it's encrypted so nobody can get access to it. yeah.

[00:12:38] David Waumsley: Yeah, I, was listening to a, wonderful talk on CSS day. this is a yearly conference for CSS people, and it was a, Person talking about encouraging people to get back to that early web where it was exciting where people built their own personal sites and it wasn't a commercial side to it, but she was also talking about how she was leaving things like Facebook and how, she and Twitter and she was trying to retrieve her data, which is yours, but they really own the conversations that come in.

So it's only your data, the, your outputs that you've got. So that's not it. And she was also mentioning about, How MySpace, I didn't know this, but apparently according to her talk, as I understood it, that they lost all of their data. So all that data you might have put up on MySpace has just entirely gone.

That whole

[00:13:26] Nathan Wrigley: Oh, interesting. Yeah. Lost as in accidentally lost or lost as in, couldn't afford to keep the servers going. So shot 'em down kind of thing.

[00:13:33] David Waumsley: It could be that, I don't know. it was a passing comment and I thought, I wasn't even aware of that. not that I'm worried to get my content from my space,

[00:13:43] Nathan Wrigley: No, That's right. But that's a good example though, isn't it? Because that company, at the time that you were using it and I was using it, It felt like, this is, gonna be here forever, right? This is absolutely gonna be here forever. And I'm currently staring at a Google Doc and I assume that this will be here until I pass away, but maybe not.

I've no realistic expectation to believe that Google as a company will survive for another 50 years. I guess it's been around for probably 20 years, a bit like WordPress, maybe a bit more, but. I have no intuition as to whether that's gonna be around or not. So this inexorable rise of services online and things that we do when we put everything online.

I do feel that, for me at least anyway, it's time to drag some of that stuff back and and have it stored locally in some more meaningful way to me.

[00:14:37] David Waumsley: Yeah, exactly. And, that talk I just mentioned there, it was very much about that, moving to Facebook, then you don't create anything that's your own space any longer. But there was a wonderful in, this is going out much later, but in this week I follow, Hayden Picker it. There's a really, clever guy.

He's a thing called, and you, really must watch them, if you don't mind, beeped, swearing, wet brief videos. and as fabulous. And the one that he put out this, week was just a very short one. He to do very short ones now, which was just basically, Somebody right into all of these imaginary, services and everything saying, since the terms of your conditions where I learned that you now own my pancreas, I will be ending and I suggest that everybody moves over to this next one.com and it goes on for a series of these.

But it's basically making a point how much we trust these billionaires, if you like, to look after our data. and at each point, we keep moving and moving from this because it never quite. Lines with, our personal politics or what they own of us.

[00:15:47] Nathan Wrigley: isn't that sort of Tim Burners Lee? Isn't that basically the knob of his complaint about the internet is that we have, we've, somehow in the web. 2.0 cycle. We've all these internet companies have come along, which are able to consume our data and obviously, in return in many cases for useful things.

So Google Docs very useful. my note taking app. Very useful, but there are, consequences to that. And the, tracking and the, continual, advertising nature of the modern web, the fact that, these services in large measure can't exist without. Add dollars and therefore the incentive to push adverts towards you more and to bend your thinking so that you, subscribe to this or you purchase that, and to be able to prove all of that.

I think that's where he's concerned is that the internet has be, has for many people, become something that he didn't anticipate, which was just a collection of documents linked to one another. Essentially just more knowledge, sharing of knowledge. Now we've got all of the, sort of social media addiction and all of that, which definitely wasn't predicted,

[00:17:00] David Waumsley: Yeah, he makes a very good point. it's turning the logic upside down, but his claim is that he thinks it's probably quite difficult. All this, setting up these systems so you can harvest this data, and that's where most people, not just the advertisers, go. As using and getting the money and, but that it's, a bit of a blunt tool.

So he uses, an argument I've seen him talk about where it's a family who regularly will pick certain holidays. They wouldn't get the certain advertising with the way that everybody's collecting this data for something different. Whereas if they own their own data, they might, it might help them to decide what they don't want any longer and look for something different.

So it's a kind of reversing of the logic, hard to get your head around.

[00:17:42] Nathan Wrigley: Yeah, that is interesting actually. there's definitely some benefits, isn't there? There, here we are talking to one another. We met on a social media platform that had consumed vast troves of data about us both. But yeah, I th I think on balance, it, I, think I want to have control of all of that sort of stuff again, and actually been making inroads into searching for, replacements for quite a few things and happy to report that there are quite a lot of alternatives out there, some of which seem to be.

very, good indeed. I moved over just recently to a, an app called Any Type. It's in beta at the moment, but it's a bit like notion, but you download it onto your computer, there is, cloud storage, but it's all encrypted with a key and if you lose that key, you are done. They can't get it back for you.

So things like that seem to be the way that I'm gonna go in the future.

[00:18:38] David Waumsley: Yeah, and, your choice of WordPress is partly, because you wanted something that was independent that you owned, and that was it. To go for an open source solution rather than something else. I think, with it's, very likely that's, gonna be our view anyway, isn't it? On data.

[00:18:54] Nathan Wrigley: Yeah. Do you know, it's interesting. I, think, what really got me into it back then was a, that it was u utilitarian, it worked. b, that it was free. That as much as I hate to admit it, that probably is part of the thing. You didn't have to sign up to some sort of license. That was great. and then the obviously along for the ride comes the fact that, you've now got it.

Even if everybody stops working on WordPress, it'll keep working in its current form as long as you've got the infrastructure to keep it up. yeah, that's a big part of it.

[00:19:30] David Waumsley: Yeah, exactly. There is another side of the web, which I think people are reflecting on a lot at the moment, and I saw I was talking to you about this, Douglas Crockford,

[00:19:38] Nathan Wrigley: Oh yeah,

[00:19:39] David Waumsley: who oh, has been an advocate for 20 years of JavaScript and was the inventor of J s O and, I, not that I could follow, Because he's operating on a much higher level than me.

But I think what he's saying is a very similar thing that we were talking about with css. This he's critical of JavaScript. It's time to move on from it is, I think there's a bit of a move to let's sort out our, make our operating systems and our browsers better. And I think with browser interoperability going on at the moment, that's why we're seeing big advances rather than let the.

Sort of libraries that are developed on top, have to make up for the shortfall. And I think that's what we're seeing. I think there's been this division that's gone on, which is definitely influencing WordPress at the moment where, and it seemed logical, where, p h p was the way of getting the dynamic where, and then you realize with, things like React that you could have this, single page application with JavaScript, where you could, uh, serve up data to the client without them having to go back to a HTML document and refresh and get the whole document back again.

So it seems the future, but I see there's a. There's a questioning of whether that was the right move because it moved, if you like, with React and all of this felt and view and all this to these kind of frameworks, which are not exactly dealing with the fundamental language html, it's serving it up via, JavaScript.

So I think that movement is happening at the moment,

[00:21:16] Nathan Wrigley: Do you, do, you mentioned, in the show notes, this thing H T M X, which I confess, I'm not really all that familiar with, but is this some, is this some endeavor to do what you've just described? Single page application and all of the different technologies that can do that. Is it, an i?

Is it the idea of having that in the HTML now HTM X spec so that there's a way of doing that natively without having to rely on some framework to, to make that work?

[00:21:50] David Waumsley: Yeah, I struggled to understand this stuff cuz it goes a bit over my head, but the, logic of it does seem like this potentially or something like it could be the future, because of the, Frustrations that a lot of people have jumped on various different libraries. And of course there's always a better one than the last one.

You keep having to learn a new one and this, it's not, HTML any longer. It's not the basic language of the web. So what this is doing is saying, okay, we didn't get what we wanted in HTML five, but we chucked out the baby with the bath water with this, why don't we use, html and then we'll make it, make kind of hypermedia.

Capabilities, better with some additional JavaScript. And effectively what you do is you just link in this JavaScript, which is, I think it compresses down to something like 14, kilobytes. But, as people have been, it's very new. But people have been experimenting with it. And it's a case where someone rewrote an entire SaaS app, which was built with React using this.

And the saving in terms of the amount of code that was needed was, 66 point something percent. So it's a third of the code and you think, ah, you know what? This is, it just bring you back to html. It just make you wonder whether this whole, and also, some would say that. What we have, because we talk about the restful api.

we've got these sort of in our J files this, information sitting there ready to be served up into the browser at the click. But many will say, these JavaScript solutions, as they are frameworks are not actually truly that anyway. And this actually would get us closer to what that ideal is anyway.

So you do, I do think this is potentially. Something that could shake things up a lot,

[00:23:43] Nathan Wrigley: Yeah, you are really into. Simplifying things at the minute, aren't You you, want to get the page load as low as possible. You want the technology, which is providing that page to be as simple as possible. And is this something that you would like to happen? Do you feel that over the last decade, really the last decade especially we've just made creating the internet, so all the technologies, all of the different pieces in the background, have we just over complicated.

Things that really, with a bit of hindsight, we could have just added into the HTML spec.

[00:24:19] David Waumsley: Yeah, that's been my thing. Keep it simple. Stupid principle, I think is, there built into the W three C and I think it's been quite effective. If not, it's. It doesn't deliver the things that people have necessarily wanted, but it's been cautious about what it ha it has added. And I think, why we see the CSS spec and browsers working together because I think, the web's been around long enough to understand that probably the demand for certain things for CSS to do in terms of layout and maybe things like pop-ups are appearing, are now are gonna be here for all time as far as we can see, so they can enter into the spec.

So I think there's a sort of, back to the Douglas C. Crawford, this sort of game back to if the browser can do it, then, let's go back to the earlier native languages and, not overcomplicate things with additions. when you jump on something like React effectively, this is a solution created by Facebook, to solve their needs at the time where things were, where they were, but.

with hindsight, was that the best way? Because it, saw a fork in the road where you've got your HTML people going one way and your JavaScript people going another.

[00:25:29] Nathan Wrigley: Yeah. Yeah. It's interesting. I guess the, I guess all of these things like, so you mentioned popups. I, think you're right. It's pretty clear that is not going away. okay. it may tail off in use, but it's now so widely deployed. I think we can decide. Okay. Humanity. Is okay with popups. we're, all right with that.

Yeah. And various other things. I'm struggling to think, but the point being you can't put something into the spec and then take it out, so they've gotta be seriously careful. About what goes into the spec, because if people start using it and it becomes the bedrock of the internet, then removing it at a later date, because, I don't know, it becomes uncool.

Or people think, oh no, this is not the, primary way of doing it. Yeah, you can't do that, so you gotta get it. You only get one chance, and if you put something into the spec, you've gotta keep it in the spec.

[00:26:26] David Waumsley: Yeah, and I think that, W three C because of the way it is, obviously it's got Tim Burnley at the head of this, but everybody is elected, to do the roles and because it involves people from, All of the globe, the big companies, with expertise in different media.

And then, as far as I can understand, I, saw, Rachel Andrew saying she's put a proposal forward and you just say, when you put something into a working group, it never stands up for very long because, accessibility experts are bombarding it straight away. And people, it's got so many different, ideas and, very much the cream of the crop.

people who are really operating on a very high level with lots of experience. Putting, bringing it together to work on something, to implement it. Always with that. I think cautiousness that comes with Tim Burn as Lee, about not overcomplicating stuff. So yeah, it moves too slowly.

So we invent frameworks and stuff to get round it, but,

[00:27:32] Nathan Wrigley: Does the fact that it moves slowly, is that one of its best features with hindsight? Is that a good thing? Because then I. All of these different things. You mentioned reactive, several times there. Th these things can be created and we can figure out what from that is useful and then it can feed back to the leviathan slow moving spec.

And eventually we can put those things in. I guess, if they moved the rate of Facebook,

[00:28:00] David Waumsley: Yeah.

[00:28:01] Nathan Wrigley: the HTML working group, if they moved at the, the, speed of Facebook, I think it would just be, the internet would just be far messier than it is already.

[00:28:10] David Waumsley: Yeah, exactly. they needed to, didn't they? This growing network needed to be able to do more and deliver better, so it's created its own solutions external to what? Will be coming outta the, the, spec that the W three C look after. It's, there was a case, where I think, at any point they can make a wrong turn and that, that has happened of course, with stuff that's come out in the spec, that stuff in html, which is, it was a mistake, but it stays in there and it's supported.

But there was a good example I heard with Grid, apparently the original. Grid, obviously for a long time we needed something like the grid spec. It's so obvious that's how you lay out a page. You needed something, not this floats. Flexbox was better, but it really didn't take care of the whole page. This is obviously needed and it could have come a lot earlier, but it, could have come out as a big mistake where, if you understand it, there's the intrinsic and the extrinsic, extrinsic, grid.

And basically when you say where you want things to put, that's, explicitly where you want to put it, and that's what could have gone out in the first place. But it real, as you've moved on, you realize that having this automatic grid where you put more content in and the grid knows where to put it, Because it's not, explicit has allowed for so much now, which is building on top of that and the way that we build.

So it, it is interesting with, perhaps even 10 years of something not moving there, it does mean that, it, gets all of those years and all of that brain power to not make a mistake too quickly.

[00:29:42] Nathan Wrigley: So it, a lot of people, it's like battle tested, isn't it? A lot of people, figure out, okay, there's limitations to this. This is probably a superior way of doing it, and it looks like. We were talking about a five year cycle, it looks like that kind of thing. You, really need to try things with external tools for 3, 4, 5 years.

So grid as the example there has been around for a long time. It's been improved and it's now, at a point where it basically can do more or less everything that most people I think would want to do with it. So now maybe it's time to start thinking about pulling those things in and making them like the core bedrock of the H T M L spec.

[00:30:24] David Waumsley: There are a lot of things you know that people, obviously if you stick, you're fairly safe, aren't you? At least in terms of what the web is itself. If we assume that is html, then HTML and CSS are pretty safe. If you learn that and you can do as much as you can with that, then that's fine, and then it, that's my standpoint now is keep it simple.

Start and learn what's there, and things have improved on that very much recently. And then in addition to that, you might need something, you and frameworks. Many of the, say if we take the CSS frameworks like Bootstrap, often there're for designers, but they made very, similar kind of designs if you like, and they were of their time.

they make up for some skills that perhaps the designer doesn't have. So allows 'em to do stuff. And Tailwind again is for a lot of backend developers I think, who. Couldn't get on with CSS and you can understand it cuz it's, doesn't quite have the logic of a lot of the stuff that they work with, and I, think they're still valid. but you can see that they're likely to lose their popularity with so much moving into native CSS that solves some of those initial, problems. they didn't have to learn every hack that was going to make things

[00:31:40] Nathan Wrigley: Yeah, it feels if you were to say the word bootstrap or tailwind in 20 years time, nobody will know what you're talking about. Whereas if you say HTML and C s, I think there's a fighting chance that they'll still be in use.

[00:31:59] David Waumsley: Yeah. And it's also, a lot of people are defending the css, you pre-process like SAS and Les and, only months ago I thought I took a course to do sas. What it. Told me is that I don't want to use sas, I can see why. I can see why people who have to, for me as a solo person in charge of everything, I, it's over the top.

I can see why it'd still be used, but it's really rapidly losing its unique benefits because most of the cool stuff that's been in there for some time, the css, it's going into CSS Spec because it's proven itself over a long period of time. So I can see them. they're going to slowly disappear, I think.

[00:32:42] Nathan Wrigley: Do you have any intuitions? So obviously we've talked a little bit about the fact that HTML and. CSS in particular. I guess you could throw JavaScript into the mix there. are the kind of foundational pieces, html being the foundational piece. Do you have any intuitions as to whether that will even be a thing in let's say 50 years?

Because I don't really know. are we gonna be working on text based documents on screens or is it gonna be more an immersive thing? Are we gonna have. I don't know. It is getting a bit ridiculous, but, glasses that we interact with, or something that we wear on our faces, or if Elon Musk is to be believed, will have things implanted in our brains that will allow us to, to access the, web more broadly.

I, I, don't know, I guess HTML is really bound to a screen, and the dom and all of that. I don't know. I'm curious to see what, where it goes at the minute. That's what we've got, but I don't know.

[00:33:40] David Waumsley: I'm the same as you. who knows? I think in terms of, because that's what we deal with. we do web design and I think web design is fundamentally HTML and serving it up. But I think the internet could be, the worldwide web would go a such, it would, worldwide ple, but I dunno what it'd be called.

it'd be something else.

[00:34:02] Nathan Wrigley: Yeah, I just don't know. I, really don't know. I look at my, I consume a lot on my phone and I'm really not entirely sure if it's a native app. Obviously, if I'm on a web browser, then I know that I'm looking at H T M L, but. I'm not really sure if I go into, let's say, my note taking up, I'm not entirely sure how that information is getting to me or in what form it's being passed over the wire, whether there's any HTML there or not, I don't know.

So I'm not sure.

[00:34:29] David Waumsley: There is an interesting, cuz I think there's a tendency, we always want to be innovating, we always want to be jumping on the next thing. And I'm not like that and I think cuz there's still like big problems. WordPress, I'm quite critical. I think of the jump if you like to.

Gutenberg and the JavaScript root with it. But there is just nothing out there that's solving that CMS problem for people other than WordPress. Really, it's the biggest one out there. It's still solving problems. So even, the people who just think, ugh, PHP, flipping neck, and then they hate the JavaScript stuff on this may still feel the need because the.

That problem hasn't been solved yet. There's no clear JAMstack alternative CMS that is winning everybody's hearts and minds.

[00:35:20] Nathan Wrigley: Yeah. So by saying that, are you, fairly sa and I know your usage of WordPress is dropping because of the nature of the work that you are wishing to do, but you are, fairly optimistic that WordPress as a solution. You think that'll, let's try to stare 10 or 15 years into the future. It's got 20 years under its belt so far.

Do you, you fairly optimistic that it'll be around,

[00:35:42] David Waumsley: I don't know, honestly. I feel personally looking at it now and I don't think there's any chance when Matt jumped on, if you like, the JavaScript where that's in the sensible, the, single page application route I. I just think it was a little unfortunate he forced it into core rather than kept it as a plugin, cuz that could allow for a different, it'd still be this PHP based system and most of those are dying because people don't need that live.

But really the PHP system is only the framework to house. the JavaScript is, Gutenberg. Now, I might be wrong and that might take off. I just feel it was unfortunate, but I still think in terms of, community around it and the sense that there is this WordPress, if it can be, remain stable.

So for me, if I need a cms, it's always still gonna be WordPress. I might strip out all the Gutenberg stuff and do it my way. the only difference of why I'm moving away from the WordPress is that I just use it now as a static site builder, I know, I realize my clients don't need the cms, but, so yeah, I think, it could go any direction, couldn't it?

WordPress and it could be a there in 20 years. It depends how it's managed,

[00:36:51] Nathan Wrigley: I think what we love about technology is the fact that there's always something new and shiny on the horizon. you've got this brand new iPhone and all of the apps that go on that and you've got your new Apple computer or windows got an update and it can now do this thing, and you go and you see something new on the internet for the first time.

We love. Things to surprise us and for it to be new. And I think with WordPress, the plugin architecture of it keeps that excitement going. You, may be utterly disinterested in what's happening in core. although you may be, in my case, I'm quite excited about it. I think there's a lot of cool stuff going on there.

But, you, can, I think it'll still be fascinating because people are still building things around it, which do new and remarkable things. So for me, The, metric is if that architecture keeps going and people still build fun things on top of WordPress, I think it'll, I think it's got a huge, future.

[00:37:52] David Waumsley: Yeah, I. It's got too, I think that's great and I've often looked to a lot of simple plugins to do what I want. Trying to keep it simple. But one of the difficulties with the demands of the people who are attracted to WordPress is that they buy a new plugin, lifetime deal or something, and then they want all their other plugins to support use of that so they can integrate it.

That is one of the things that as a, plugin producer, you're forced into, if you're not supporting or integrating Elementor, with its 13 million new, websites out there, you know you're not going to carry on. So you have to keep adding to your own individual plugin.

And I think that's one of the, one of the difficulties with the plugin. Architecture, we have to have this, people expect this interconnection so they can do it because they, because increasingly more people, I guess because of the success of page building, have come to expect that they don't need to touch code and somebody's gonna take care of it if they buy enough plugins,

[00:39:00] Nathan Wrigley: we're, we're, guilty of kind of hype, hyping some things up, aren't we? And you are stepping in completely the opposite direction. You don't want any of that hype. You don't want any of that, plugin bloat. You just wanna keep it nice and simple. And I. Think there's something quite, I don't know, there's something a bit like fireside chat about that.

There's you're getting back to the roots of it all. And I know that sounds a bit poetic, but I think there is something quite poetic about it. You're just keeping it nice and simple, honing your skills in one particular area, you've worked out the, being on the cutting edge is not something a, that you probably would enjoy.

And you might also say you're probably not capable of doing that Now. Time in life. Time in life is. learning a lot of new language is probably gonna be difficult, so honing those skills. Yeah, it's probably a nice feeling.

[00:39:51] David Waumsley: Yeah, and it's nice to have that kind of control of it. You, the interesting thing about not being able to predict WordPress and how it's going, cuz in some ways I see a, sort of a negative route because of the way it's gone. Very commercial with. Lots of, most of the big plugins are owned by a very few number of, companies.

And that's, worries me a little bit. So I want independence of that. But also I remember that when I came into WordPress, 2007, when I was trying to get some understanding about whether this was a. Good bet. there was so much negativity. it was like, oh, it's dead.

It's php, it's dead. You should be using Ruby on Rails. don't do that. Oh, it's not a proper cms, it's a blog game platform. And that's when I came in and people have never really used it for what's been intended for, and I think, so that's why it's really hard to predict, the

[00:40:46] Nathan Wrigley: It'd be interesting if you could re rewind the clock 20 years. So when Matt and Mike Little forked B2, I wonder if you rewound the clock and played it again. I wonder if WordPress would even. Get. Where it did, were there a bunch of total random coincidences that happened? maybe something that was written just on the spur of the moment in the first few days of that fork happening that just got somebody involved in the project that might otherwise not have done it.

Perhaps if somebody had, got. Got something else going on in their life, they wouldn't have turned on the computer at that moment and seen something which got them committing a further thing. I just don't know. I, don't think there's anything intrinsic about WordPress, which guaranteed its success.

I see it as a bit of, a lucky, thing in the same way that, Jummah didn't work out, Drupal didn't work out. Some reason WordPress did, and I'm never quite sure what that is.

[00:41:44] David Waumsley: The only thing I think it's lost a little bit of is that I think a lot of the people who dominate have a commercial interest in it. So they're, I think, it really did build around that open source community where people were just scratching their own itch, individual developers trying to create something out of it.

this sort kind of simple unit and that where I think a lot, there's a lot more cynicism if you like, and a lot more stronger competition. when they go into it, they. People will invest in, WordPress and created something for WordPress because they're already predicting the future sales of it and what might appeal to the present audience of WordPress.

And I think some of that individual plugin makers has been lost, but maybe, it could be pulled back. for me it's, it might be an odd thing to say because I've been a Gates Gutenberg, but. I think if I was coming into WordPress now, I think the best option would be to stick to WordPress and perhaps to, encourage the plugin community, these plugin community plugins rather.

so you've got this kind of one, uh, one, source if you like, cuz that's the problem with WordPress. And it's not like Wix, they can't, you don't get to control the whole code base,

[00:42:57] Nathan Wrigley: Yeah. Yeah, it does seem like a solid foundation, a framework that more or less everybody can get to grips with. I think it's gonna become more and more difficult for people to understand the internal mechanisms of it, but I think the fact that it's now, able to do with a point click interface, albeit, it may be confusing for a little while.

I think a lot of that. We'll probably maybe even allow it to grow. We seem to be at a turning point at the minute. He's obviously had this inexorable rise and that's flattened out and possibly going down a little bit. I don't know. We'll have to like, like we said, right at the top of the show, staring five years into the future.

I've no idea, but I would imagine it's possible for it to grow. Maybe it's already got to the point where 40% of anything is, not possible in the same way that, when we were kids, we could watch the telly and more or less everybody would watch the same program. So two or three programs was what everybody was talking about.

Maybe that's gonna be the case on the internet in the future because we, we've had these products, these giant companies coming into existence, Facebook, Google, not a company, but WordPress as a CMS dominating. But maybe the future is a bit flatter than that. we'll have a lot of players and everybody will just go to the one that suits them best.

I don't know.

[00:44:15] David Waumsley: If you were, if you thought somebody wanted to go into web building now, I didn't discuss this with you earlier, so I'll put you on the spot. What do you think, what would be your advice for them?

[00:44:25] Nathan Wrigley: Oh, it really depends. I think if they wanted to do it as a career, in other words, to make themselves. Sellable to any kind of agency I, guess you'd probably be saying, look, learn html, css, JavaScript. Get those skills under your belt, then you can go anywhere. But if you wanted to drop into a job quickly, And not do that hard work, I'd say yeah, learn how to do things with WordPress, you can build a site in minutes once you've mastered those skills.

And so mastering the, Gutenberg interface and mastering how you can create layouts with blocks and templates and patterns and all of those kind of things, that's definitely useful as well. yeah, I guess it depends what you, wanna do. whether you wanna start and freelance for a freelancer, it feels Go for WordPress, but if you wanna work in an agency and really get your skills to the point where you can sell yourself to any agency, maybe, not WordPress, I don't know.

[00:45:26] David Waumsley: Yeah, I think your advice, I, saw someone talking about advice for new deaths, obviously people want to code, for living. And it's just saying, how horrendous it is, because you can learn, react, learn view, whatever. One new one comes in, J query goes out, something else comes in, blah, blah, blah.

it's another guy talking about, investing in Java and then, Coffee script,

[00:45:50] Nathan Wrigley: Yeah. Remember that?

[00:45:51] David Waumsley: compiler for that. Yeah. And all these kind of things. And I was just saying it's a nightmare. But what their advice was the same as your advice is basically get the fundamentals, get your html, your css, and your JavaScript, and, then learn these things which build off those things and do it that way round.

And I do think, and I think you and I are a little bit fortunate, that's why I think it's easy for me to reconnect. A bit this time with the HTML and css, even though I'm totally outta touch, is that we started that way. And I think if you were to come in now and start with a page builder, you have to backwards learn it.

[00:46:27] Nathan Wrigley: Yeah. Yeah.

[00:46:28] David Waumsley: you might go, oh no, a few bits, and then I'll find a CSS framework to stick on top of this, and then I'll get to understand it, and then eventually we'll get to the root cause. And I think I, I think, yeah. you know it, you'll end up working backwards when you do that. Where I think if you start with those basics and if you're doing it as a profession, then you might decide that WordPress is the CMS that you actually need for what you're gonna do for your clients.

And you might decide that, working, knowing JavaScript initially, then you might want to be working with the React API I in Gutenberg or something, But they will be later decisions, Yeah.

[00:47:02] Nathan Wrigley: I think the other nice thing about deciding to learn HTML and CSS is that you get a lot of mileage quickly. You know it from zero knowledge. I feel that like in a week you could actually be really dangerous with it. you could, have learned a significant amount of what you need to do.

Inside of a week, then pile on JavaScript. I feel you're years in the making there. then throw in all these other things, which, are obviously required in certain industries now, then your years and years in the making, and some of that will be thrown out the window. So yeah, I do think that's good advice.

[00:47:41] David Waumsley: Yeah, I've seen so many people giving it in different, CSS as well, only knew recently. Kevin Bow was talking about the same thing as the Roots to learn it, and it all goes back to that. And if you like, I'm. I'm back plugging a lot that's missed. But as I was mentioning to you that, there was two lines of css, which solves so much responsive issues that I used to scramble around with because I was doing it within the page builder.

And now I wouldn't do it that way. the page builder still has its merits for what it needs to do, but I would've, it's, so much better to know that I could do this natively with c s if I needed to in a very simple way.

[00:48:21] Nathan Wrigley: we're gonna have to start a podcast, the CSS podcast or something like that.

[00:48:24] David Waumsley: Yeah.

[00:48:25] Nathan Wrigley: yeah.

[00:48:26] David Waumsley: Yeah. Oh, really? dig to the depths of my ignorance.

[00:48:30] Nathan Wrigley: Yeah, there's probably about 25 of them already. yeah, so the foundational stuff really, if you wanna be on the internet, you need an, I wrote a few things down here. You need a, connection to the internet that's pretty much guaranteed. You need a cable going somewhere, or a 5G or a 4G connection.

You need some kind of T C P I P stack. You need html, you need a browser, you need CSS and JavaScript. And then I wrote onto that. I think everything else is basically window dressing. After you've got those things, you're off.

[00:49:00] David Waumsley: Yeah, exactly. It's, yeah, the rest is, yeah, your choice, isn't it? After that. So I think, and you wonder doing it professionally, I think that's the way to start. but everybody seems to not go that way. it's a difficult thing, isn't it? if a page builder gets you in and you're learning backwards, then at least it got you in and got you

[00:49:17] Nathan Wrigley: that's right. I think that's a really good point. it's not like you were trying to e express, shame on you for. for doing it that way around. I, think in many cases it may prompt you to, learn things. why the heck won't that thing go there? And then you dig into it and somebody gives you some advice and some help and you figure, okay, it's cuz of the thing that's containing it and the, selectors that I haven't taken account of and all of that.

And, and you learn. But yeah, you're right. learning backwards that way, I guess it must be hard when you. encounter a difficult problem because you've then got a lot of learning just to get that one problem fixed. Whereas if you do it the way you are doing it, increasingly because you're building it from the ground up, you're probably gonna only encounter little problems often.

[00:50:02] David Waumsley: And it's, conceptual, isn't it? css, you can learn it and you can learn what this does, but it's conceptually trying to work out Kind of how it will all hang together. And actually at the moment, no one really knows cuz there's so much new stuff. No one's worked, how it's all gonna quite interconnect, you So yeah, it's fascinating stuff. But concepts is really the hard thing. You lose those I think if you don't, uh, build up with the language, but yeah.

[00:50:31] Nathan Wrigley: So our predictions for the next 20 years of the internet are, we haven't a clue mate. No idea. exactly. Yeah. And that's

[00:50:40] David Waumsley: It's not too long. Yeah, it's not too long. Is that, I think, answering our own question, is it too long? No, it isn't. And I think you know that and, even if it's a language which isn't well supported, I think the key thing is if it still works to do the job that you need it to do, that's probably more important than spending your whole life worrying about what the next thing that might take its place is,

[00:51:02] Nathan Wrigley: Yeah, you've just, ended it in the perfect psychologist. lie on the couch and tell me about your father moment. You've made us all very happy there. So yeah, we'll end it there. We'll knock it on the head and, we'll be back in a couple of weeks. Are we gonna do this? Are we going.

[00:51:18] David Waumsley: this is the opposite of psychology. Yeah. We're, gonna try and do an episode. we're gonna talk to ai, aren't we? For the

[00:51:24] Nathan Wrigley: Oh Lord, what can go wrong? The intention is to put out an entire episode where every answer or every thing that we basically say is created by ai. How well this will go is yet to be seen. But

[00:51:39] David Waumsley: is a fun fight as we argue with it.

[00:51:42] Nathan Wrigley: that's right. Yeah. It'd be interesting. All right, I'll see you in a couple of weeks.

[00:51:46] David Waumsley: Yep. I like that. Cheers. Bye.

[00:51:48] Nathan Wrigley: Well, I hope that you enjoyed that. As I said at the top of the show, absolutely boatloads of things going on in there. If you're new to web development, maybe some of that is a little bit fresh. If you are a seasoned web developer, there's probably a lot in that to get your teeth into either way. If you have a comment, please head over to WP Builds.com, search for episode number 349, and use the WordPress commenting system over there. We would surely love to hear everything that you have to say.

The WP Builds podcast is brought to you today by GoDaddy Pro. GoDaddy Pro the home of managed WordPress hosting that includes free domain, SSL and 24 7 support. Bundle that with The Hub by GoDaddy Pro to unlock more free benefits to manage multiple sites in one place, invoice clients, and get 30% off new purchases. You can find out more by heading to go.me forward slash WP Builds. And we really do thank GoDaddy Pro for their ongoing support of the WP Builds podcast.

Okay, just a few bits before we go. Don't forget that we have our, This Week in WordPress show live every Monday. It's at WP Builds.com forward slash live. As are these shows. We've got a Gato GraphQL series with Leo Losoviz, but we've also got Sabrina's Zeidan and her speed it up show. You can find out all about these and get dates for your calendar.

Head to WP Builds.com, and search down, look for the black row entitled coming up and you'll be able to find what's going on. And when over there. That's it, I guess for this week, hopefully you'll join us again soon. Stay safe, have a good week. Bye-bye for now.

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Nathan Wrigley
Nathan Wrigley

Nathan writes posts and creates audio about WordPress on WP Builds and WP Tavern. He can also be found in the WP Builds Facebook group, and on Mastodon at wpbuilds.social. Feel free to donate to WP Builds to keep the lights on as well!

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