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Matt Mullenweg is returning from his 3 month sabbatical, dubbed “Samattical”, which kicked off February 1, 2024.

He handed the CEO reigns back to Toni Schneider and placed Daniel Bachhuber in charge of WordPress.com in his absence. I thought we’d see the whole organization coast while the open source benevolent dictator dug his toes into the sand, but Automattic/WordPress stayed as busy as ever!

I don’t know how much Mullenweg was involved with all of these milestones — something tells me he didn’t stay as disconnected as he had hoped. Let’s take a look at some of the big moves that happened with WordPress, Automattic, and the community while Matt was away.

1. The WP Tavern Hunger Games

One of the first major activities to kick off was the search for two new full-time writers to breathe life back into WP Tavern. It was a Hunger Games-esque approach, where 7 or 8 writers, duked it out to be crowned winner 1 & 2.

Author Brian Coords was the last contestant to publish a post on March 14th, 2024. There hasn’t been any clear announcement on who earned the position or what happens next, and most authors I’ve spoken to are still wondering what’s next for their writing careers at the Tavern.

2. Woo.com -> WooCommerce.com

Something I didn’t have on my Bingo Card was the short-lived woo.com domain defaulting back to the original WooCommerce.com domain.

“Moving to Woo.com created challenges for our users to find WooCommerce in Google searches, which were made worse following Google’s March update. To address those challenges, we assembled a group of SEO experts and consultants to evaluate the best way to build on the strength of the WooCommerce brand.” Kevin Bates wrote in an update.

3. The Old WP-Admin Dashboard is New for WordPress.com

In another, what’s old is new again, WordPress.com is giving users the ability to “roll back” to a traditional WP Admin interface. It seems there’s no future for the once innovative Calypso project, citing that developers were looking for a more familiar interface when working on WordPress.com sites.

This might be a sign that more WordPress consultants are starting to recommend .com more to their customers now that the platform has been supporting user installed plugins on the $30/mo+ plans.

4. Automattic spends an additional $125 Million on Messaging with Beeper Acquisition

Automattic is pouring money into messaging, with its latest acquisition of Beeper. Which I’m assuming Mullenweg was quite active on during sabbatical.

I like the idea of Automattic building up a strong solution for messaging. In a world where SEO is getting squeezed and social media feeds being curated by ad-driven algos, we need more direct channels with our readers/subscribers/customers — and I think that’s direct messaging.

It could be an exciting new frontier with Automattic leading the charge, and I’m here for it!

5. WordPress.com Launches Studio App

The new Studio app allows users to run WordPress installs, locally on their computer.

This is a great way to learn WordPress and develop WordPress sites for free. It’s powered by the same technology that runs the official WordPress playground and gives users the ability to publish their local websites to a temporary WordPress.com account to share with the world. Other hosting platforms like WP Engine and Kinsta offer local development environments making this a natural fit for Automattic to offer.

6. Big Sky: WordPress.com starts waiting list for AI designed websites

WordPress.com decided to throw their hat into the AI web design ring by opening a beta signup for their latest project, BigSky

I’ve signed up to trial the product, but I also signed up for access to Studio before it was released and didn’t hear anything — fingers crossed. If anyone at Automattic is reading this: I have found 100% AI website builders underwhelming. It’s basically machine learning with blocks and patterns that are tagged with keywords that just get mashed together based on the prompt.

I prefer starting with a collection of professionally designed themes and patterns, but I’m happy to see if they can change my mind!

That’s not all!

The above marks 6 of the biggest moves I think happened around the WordPress space while Mullenweg enjoyed some time off. But, that’s not all!

Here’s a quick list of other notable events that happened over the last 3 months:

Was there anything on your list that didn’t make it here? Let me know on Twitter/X!

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