stephen.news

hypertext, words and more

Matt Mullenweg

  • Happy Birthday WordPress! 20 looks good on you!

    For me, it began with Xanga and Myspace. For others, maybe it was LiveJournal or something else. Blogging exploded during this decade like never before. Blogging began as a teenage refuge. An outlet for my younger self to express myself. It gave me incredible relief to share my thoughts, ideas, and interests. It overjoyed me when others would join me in the song and dance of commenting or sharing my posts. To no one’s surprise, millions of others felt the same way.

    At university, that interest remained strong and grew even further as I delved deeper into a design career. As my design education went on, it became clear that university could only go so far in terms of teaching web development. To scratch my itch for building for the web, I got involved in as many web-related projects as possible. We built websites for parties, school projects, web forms, magazines, and stores. I desperately wanted to build websites as a career and express myself even further as a design-orientated web developer.

    When WordPress was introduced to me, I couldn’t believe it. It was like the missing piece of the puzzle. Manually editing HTML files as blog posts instantly became a thing of the past. Everything, just clicked for me with it too. The WordPress Template Hierarchy blew my mind. Understanding the ins-and-outs of how WordPress works, made me instantly hirable basically anywhere for a short while. Hand-building WordPress sites for clients was a complete joy, and later, building site-generators was even more fun.

    Maintaining a legacy WordPress site is like being working on an Audi sometimes. But, WordPress at large has been one of the greatest joys of web publishing since Markdown and I’m so excited for what comes next. I owe the WordPress community so much, so here’s to another year around the sun WordPress!

    Today is the 20th anniversary of the first release of WordPress. None of us knew what we were getting into when it started, but we had a shared conviction that the four freedoms of the GPL combined with a mission to democratize publishing was something worth spending our time on. There will be celebrations in cities around the world, please join if there’s one happening near you.

  • For as long as I’ve known the web, I have known the little textarea element. It’s a simple element. In all likelihood, it’s just about as ubiquitous as the input tag on websites. It’s a captivating little thing. Before the modern inventions of React or complex JavaScript libraries, all it ever really contained was text.

    I suppose that’s the case to this today. But, it has long evolved into a springboard for authoring webpages. Modern publication inventions such as tweets, blogs, posts, blocks and countless others all stem from the textarea (sprinkle in some JavaScript magic, some drop zones and you have yourself a little “composer” where you can add images, video and more).

    Looking over the W3C spec for the textarea and looking back on SMS character limits (they were varied to say the least), it doesn’t take much imagination to see why Twitter came about in the first place. It seemed that short-form blogging was always destined to become a thing. Twitter’s success can largely be attributed to the fact that there’s really a lack of competition in the short-form blogging space.

    Tumblr and WordPress have always occupied the space between short and long-form blogging, sure. But, the spiritual successor to status messages (aka away messages)? Twitter has owned that (and marketed themselves as such) ever since it became a mainstream social network.

    While Twitter’s previous management has a long and well-documented history of running this company into the ground, Musk maintains no exception either. He’s nosediving and it’s headed for a calamitous user exodus. With no Trust & Safety board and a hostile CEO at the helm, banning tweets to Mastodon, banning journalists, then re-instating some of them — he’s clearly on a tyrannical, pathetic war path toward creating a platform that benefits Elon, elites and promotes a right-wing stochastic terrorist echo chamber.

    Needless to say, I’m getting the heck out of dodge. Like many others before me, I am kissing my neat little Twitter handle goodbye. Meanwhile, I was enthralled and delighted by Matt Mullenweg’s Decoder interview. There’s a brief point where he discusses what it means to be a good steward of Tumblr and how it has humbled him. Between Automattic’s Tumblr, the fediverse and this blog (which is also powered by WordPress an Automattic invention), I’m absolutely delighted to leave Twitter behind. Not to mention, the kind folks at Tumblr are considering adding ActivityPub support to their network which would effectively make Tumblr that largest Mastodon instance on the fediverse.

    You may be asking, “but, wait — how will I find my friends on Mastodon?!” Well, I have some good news! First off, don’t deactivate your Twitter. Follow these steps to get started with Mastodon

    1. First, join an instance. Doesn’t matter where you join! You can move freely about the fediverse. Think of each instance like an email handle.
    2. Next, add your Mastodon handle to your Twitter profile (this will make it easier for folks to find you in the fediverse).
    3. Finally, go here and sign in with your Twitter creds to find your friends who have also moved to the fediverse: movetodon.org

    With your help Twitter can be given a proper burial. It should go down as one of the worst acquisitions in business history and become the cautionary tale that it deserves. The textarea and microblogging on the other hand is never going away. In fact, I would argue that the slow death of Twitter reveals what we all want deep down — each of us want to own a little piece of web. One step closer to a de-commodified web utopia.

    Update: Elon banned links to Instagram, Mastodon and other social platforms and then reversed that decision. Then ran a poll on wether or not to step down, which ended with 58% in favor of him stepping down. Despite claiming he would abide by the results, there’s been no indication he would do so. Even more concerning, it appears he’s spellbound by the idea of restricting poll voting on Twitter to Blue subscribers. Welcome to hell, Elon.


    If you are so inclined, you can find me in several places on the web now!

    I’m on Tumblr where I may shitpost, share photos, re-blog cool things and whatnot: tumblr.com/petrey

    Elsewhere, on the fediverse I have several handles. However, I’m mostly here with my fellow hackers and unix computer club community: tilde.zone/@petrey

    Follow me wherever you’d like, but wherever you go, this blog remains ✨

  • The WSJ reports:

    Verizon Communications Inc. has agreed to sell its blogging website Tumblr to the owner of popular online-publishing tool WordPress, unloading for a nominal amount a site that once fetched a purchase price of more than $1 billion.

    Automattic Inc. will buy Tumblr for an undisclosed sum and take on about 200 staffers, the companies said. Tumblr is a free service that hosts millions of blogs where users can upload photos, music and art, but it has been dwarfed by Facebook, Reddit and other services.

    This is a shocking acquisition. No doubt, this a good move for the preservation of blogs. I firmly believe Automattic will be a better steward of creators than Verizon (or was it called Oath?) would’ve been. I have long awaited the day where Tumblr and WordPress have publication parity. This has to be really excited for everyone at Tumblr. I mean this even has Tumblr veteran Marco Arment pumped:

    Edit: it appears that Marco Arment deleted this tweet:

    This is pretty cool. Can’t think of a better owner today than Automattic for Tumblr’s huge creative publishing community.

    Marco Arment

    Now the hard question — what about the adult content ban? For now, it seems the ban stays in place. But, it’s really unclear if Matt will ever changed the policy. Regardless, the blogs at Tumblr will live on under the safe and profitable umbrella of Automattic.