Good memories are always worth revisiting. Recalling a time, a place, and an experience brings comfort. Even in difficult moments, they reassure us that things can get better.

This has certainly been the case in the WordPress community. Browse social media or websites like HeroPress and you’re likely to find someone talking about the way things used to be. Their first WordCamp. The moment they realized how transformational the software could be to their career. How they saw an opportunity to succeed.

I’ve always been a fan of nostalgia. I enjoy reading about notable people from past generations. If I come across a retro arcade, you can bet that I’ll be emptying my pockets to play. Binge-watching old TV shows? I’m in.

But WordPress nostalgia feels different. There’s an emotional connection that goes beyond casual memories or markers on a timeline.

Why is that? I think it says something about who we are, what we’ve done, and where we want to go.

Feeling a Sense of Personal Ownership of WordPress

The narrative around WordPress as a tool is rather simple. Anyone can download the software for free. From there, they can make anything they want. And they can even extend it through a custom theme or plugin.

It doesn’t matter where you live, what you look like, or how old you are. WordPress is within everyone’s reach.

And one can argue that, by using it, they’re contributing something to the project. Each active install, recommendation, and customization keeps WordPress moving forward in some small-but-meaningful way.

Combined with a passionate global community of users and builders, it’s easy to feel a sense of personal ownership. Because regardless of how great the software is, it’s the people who make it matter.

This has led to some extraordinary things. People have volunteered their time to improve the content management system (CMS). Countless others have built successful businesses around it. Community members have started organizations dedicated to supporting others. And we shouldn’t forget the friendships and partnerships that have come along the way.

Thus, even if you don’t contribute in an official capacity, WordPress likely means something to you. For some, it’s more than a tool. It’s a significant part of their life and livelihood.

Trying to Navigate Change and Uncertainty

The Gutenberg Block Editor was merged into core back in WordPress 5.0. The 2018 release ushered in a new era for both the CMS and the community.

For those who started using WordPress before the Block Editor, this was a pivotal moment. It provides a clean split into the pre- and post-Gutenberg periods. But this wasn’t the only major shift to take place.

The rise of blocks also coincided with a changing landscape for the ecosystem. Independent theme and plugin authors started selling their businesses to larger firms. And building for WordPress slowly moved away from PHP and leaned toward JavaScript.

As if these changes weren’t enough to digest, a global pandemic hit and put in-person events on ice for over a year. Indeed, it felt like the WordPress community was frozen in time.

Put these factors together and it’s no wonder that we’re thinking about the past. Both WordPress and its community were models of stability. We knew how to use and extend the software. We knew the people behind the products. We had a sense of our place within this little corner of the world.

Then everything seemed to change overnight.

Where Do We Go from Here?

There’s no going back to the days before Gutenberg. Nor can we reverse the fundamental shifts within WordPress or our lives. That’s water under the bridge.

And if it feels like WordPress is missing some of its former magic – it probably is. We’re now navigating a different type of landscape. One that has matured and attracted the attention of big business. This is no longer a small band of rebels coding their way to freedom and coffee. There’s too much money on the line for that.

I don’t say this to depress you or declare a state of hopelessness. Rather, it’s my view of where things stand.

Besides, there’s good news to share. We can bring some of that old spirit back to life. We can responsibly organize in-person events. We can continue to share knowledge, mentor, and guide each other.

Even better is that we’re seeing people take real action. The recently announced WP Community Collective is a prime example.

A non-profit organization dedicated to sponsoring individual contributions to WordPress? That sounds exactly like what this community needs. And I’m willing to bet that it won’t be the last impressive initiative we’ll see.

It’s up to Us to Build the WordPress We Want

I will readily admit to feeling warm and fuzzy about the good old days. I miss the excitement that came from seeing a great WordCamp presentation or discovering a new code trick.

Those early experiences with WordPress shaped who I am today. Most importantly, they made me want to keep working with the software and become a part of this community.

Maybe we can’t recreate those moments. But what’s stopping us from making new ones? Ultimately, we have the power to do so.

And if the past is any indicator, we can look forward to some wonderful things to come.

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