Project Gutenberg: What Does it Mean for Thrive Themes Products?

"Project Gutenberg" is the name of a visual(ish) editor that is in development by Automattic, the creators of WordPress. It is set to replace the current WordPress editor at some point in the future.

Since our core product is a visual editor (Thrive Architect), some of our users have asked us how Project Gutenberg will affect our own work and our products. This post is our answer to that question.


The Near Future

At the time of this writing, Project Gutenberg is in beta. You can download it and try it on a test site, to get a feel for it yourself.

Originally, the plan was to include it as a core part of WordPress in the next major version update, but there have been a few setbacks on the way. First of all, the beta plugin has not been well received. At the time of writing, it has a 2.5 star rating in the WordPress repository, with the most common rating being 1 star:

Many voices in the WordPress space have also been more critical than encouraging of the project. This doesn't spell doom in any way, but it indicates that there's still a lot of work to be done before Project Gutenberg can replace the current WordPress editor.

A further issue is that Gutenberg was originally built using the React framework. This framework is created by Facebook and due to legal and licensing matters that are beyond my attention span for such things, Automattic decided to switch to a different framework.

All of this simply means that from a development standpoint, Project Gutenberg is not mature yet. When it will be ready for wide adoption is unclear at this point.

How We're the Same

In what ways is Project Gutenberg the same as Thrive Architect? Where is there potential overlap?

Right now, it's mostly the stated purpose of Project Gutenberg that overlaps with what we're doing with Thrive Architect. Project Gutenberg is ambitious and the end goal is to make content creation more visual and more intuitive for users.

Gutenberg is based on "blocks" and the idea is that theme and plugin developers will be able to add such blocks for different purposes. In functionality, these blocks are no different from short codes, but instead of looking at a page full of short codes, you'll see visual representations, which should make things a lot more user friendly.

This is similar to what we do in two ways:

  1. Thrive Architect is all about providing a true visual representation of your content.
  2. We are also working on providing more "building blocks" for rapid website and content creation.

How We're Different

In the intro, I called Project Gutenber a "visual(ish)" editor. If you try out the beta, you'll quickly see why.

The new editor has an interface that looks like a front end editor as well as some features that are reminiscent of a visual editor, but it's not really a visual editor. Here are some reasons why:

  • The editor view in Gutenberg looks kinda like a web page, but it doesn't look like the page your visitors will see.
  • The order of different text, image and media blocks on the page can be shuffled around, but there is no true drag and drop functionality.
  • There is no responsive editing and there's no real functionality for building column layouts.
  • The editor looks and feels different but currently, there's not much you can do with Project Gutenberg that you can't do with the default WP editor.

Without the backing of the WordPress team, this plugin would stand no chance in the market. Because it does have the backing of the WordPress team, we can assume it will stick around and be given the chance to mature. And eventually, it will maybe be an alternative to other visual editors worth considering. But right now, it is very far from that.

So, a major difference between Project Gutenberg and Thrive Architect is that Gutenberg is not a true visual editor and probably never will be. For Thrive Architect, true and instant visual editing is a cornerstone feature.

Apart from that, there are 2 reasons why I doubt our paths will ever cross with Gutenberg:

  1. We specialize in developing with a conversion focus and with business use cases in mind. Automattic have a track record of developing for everything but conversions. They tend to keep things simple and basic and they don't develop things with a business purpose in mind. Case in point: there has never even been a "button" element in WordPress core (there's one in Gutenberg, but it doesn't work yet...).
  2. The development pace of WordPress is understandably slow. I believe that by the time Project Gutenberg turns into a decent editor, the Thrive Themes team will be even further ahead than we already are.

The Far Future?

So far, I haven't had much good to say about Project Gutenberg. However, I'm actually very much in favor of it. Project Gutenberg is an example of WordPress moving forward and keeping up with the times. While their development pace is slow and deliberate, it is also consistent and that's one of the great things about WordPress.

I doubt that Project Gutenberg will ever impact our own products. BUT: there are millions of WordPress users who don't need the kind of business and conversion focused tools we create. And for them, a more visual and friendlier editing experience built straight into WordPress can only be a good thing.

I also predict that there will be at least one company that builds a premium extension for Gutenberg, which adds many features that current visual editors for WordPress already boast. The company that does this best will probably be able to carve out a piece of the market for itself. Thus, there will be more competition in the "visual editor for WordPress" space and that is good for customers.

I'm sure the WordPress team will overcome the early hurdles they've encountered with the project and I'll be watching the progress they make with great interest.

What are your thoughts on Project Gutenberg? Have you tried the beta? Do you think you'll use it in the future? Let me know by leaving a comment!


Author: Shane Melaugh

Shane Melaugh is a co-founder and the CEO of Thrive Themes. When he isn't plotting new ways to create awesome WordPress themes & plugins, he likes to geek out about camera equipment and medieval swords. He also writes about startups and marketing here.

  • Tao says:

    Hey Shane. Yes, I have installed the beta and had a play (on a test site I might add!) but didn’t see anything that made me want to move back from using more advanced tools such as TA.

    As you said, it is more geared towards “standard” WordPress users and I think it will benefit them. It’s past time that WP caught up with more mature editors, even like more minimalist options like Medium.

    • Shane Melaugh says:

      Thanks for your comment!

      It’s true, the current WP editor does feel quite ancient compared to pretty much every other solution out there. I guess Gutenberg is a step in the right direction.

  • Jose says:

    Thanks for the info, Shane. Personally, at no moment I thought Gutenberg as an alternative or ‘threat’ to Architect.
    For me the choice is quite clear.

  • Doug L says:

    You guys have stayed so far ahead of the curve for years. I have complete confidence that when Gutenberg releases, you’ll already be ahead on the next iteration of ‘visual editing’ — perhaps you already are ahead of where they’ll end up.

    As long as you continue innovating, you have my membership.

    • Shane Melaugh says:

      Thank you, Doug! We have every intention of keeping up the innovation. And what’s more: we’re always trying to accelerate the pace at which we develop.

  • Anil R says:

    Reading your post is enough for me. I may try it if i remember at some point in time and as someone mentioned i thought project ‘wouldn’twork’…sorry gutenburg would pose some sort of a threat from a technical standpoint. If that’s not the case and it’s still maturing, i’ll leave it alone for now! Thanks for the insight Shane!

    • Shane Melaugh says:

      Yeah, it’s not a technical problem at all. Gutenberg and our products will just continue along on separate tracks. :)

  • Luis Carlos Eskay says:

    Thank you for the explanation Shane, I was not even aware of this…

    • Shane Melaugh says:

      Thank you for your comment. As you can see from the other comments here, you weren’t missing out on much. :)

  • Alain F says:

    In a post you last month I thought I understood that Thrive is working on a plugin or another way to improve the 10 existing Thrive themes, or do not think to develop or create new templates?

  • Bryce+MacCabe says:

    What you guys create is so much farther than I think Gutenberg will ever get. I love using your tools and the more I use them, the more I get excited!

    As a suggestion for a future plugin (sorry this is kinda long), you guys are super focused on conversion and I think it would be very helpful to create a plugin that provides conversion reporting features. Specifically, I would like to be able to see the analytics from all of your different plugins in one place and I would like to be able to easily integrate conversion reporting into Google Analytics/other reporting tools. E.g. I would love to be able to see my quiz statistics from Quiz Builder alongside my opt-in rates from Leads along with my results from Headline Optimizer. Right now, everything is pretty spread out and it doesn’t integrate nicely into Analytics.

    An issue that I’ve come across is that I’m not a very good programmer, but I’ve managed to piece together some Analytics conversion reporting using the Class/ID feature in Architect, then sending over to Google Tag Manager, then over to Analytics via the fired tag. It would be amazing if you had a plugin that integrates with the rest of your suite where you could just take and element and say “mark this as this type of conversion and send it over to Google Analytics for analysis.” That would be a game changer for people who wanted to be able to look at their data and see which pages/offers/marketing tactics/etc. were really making the difference for the business. I haven’t seen anything like it on the market and would love to see it.

    Thanks for taking the time to read my suggestion. You guys are the best and I love working with your tools!

    • Shane Melaugh says:

      Thank you for your comment and your vote of confidence, Bryce. :)

      I like your suggestions. What I can tell you is that we have a concept for a “unified reporting area” similar to what you describe.

      I also like your idea for an analytics integration, but I have to say: I’m afraid of going there. Analytics are highly complex and difficult to sell, so I’m not sure that would be a good thing for us to focus on.

      • Bryce MacCabe says:

        Thanks for the insight Shane. I’m sure it’s a difficult beast to tackle with dozens of unknowns so I can certainly appreciate that Analytics integrations may not be feasible at present. Thanks again for all you guys do!

  • Art M says:

    Thanks for the video! My concern was any conflict between the 2, but happy to hear it will be cool! After using Thrive I do not wish to use anything else.

  • Roy says:

    A plan was presented in June 2018 that indicated that WordPress v5 will change the default editor to Gutenberg later this year. Can Thrive coexist with Gutenberg? How is the behavior of Thrive affected? I would not want to purchase Thrive and find that it did not work when v5 is released.

    • Shane Melaugh says:

      Yes, there will be no conflict between Gutenberg and Thrive Architect or other Thrive Themes products.

    • Devin says:

      Let’s say, hypothetically speaking, there was a catastrophic technical error of some sort caused by mixing Gutenberg and Thrive.

      So catastrophic it brought upon the Internet a WordPress cataclysm of epic proportions that melted down hundreds of servers, leaving content creators screaming and running in circles.

      If that very unlikely event were to happen there is no doubt in my mind Thrive would saddle up and bring the heavy guns to save our asses.

      That’s why I choose Thrive and, without hesitation, renewed my membership last month.

    • Shane Melaugh says:

      We’ve already made our tools Gutenberg compatible a few weeks ago. :)

  • aniruddha2907 says:

    It is being said that Gutenberg will be there in WordPress 5 update. I understand from this post that thrive is basically a lot sophisticated as compared to Gutenberg. But I am curious about compatibility issues if at all I decide to use both thrive and Gutenberg together.

    • Shane Melaugh says:

      We’ve already made sure that Thrive Architect is compatible with Gutenberg, so no worries there.

      Basically, Gutenberg will be a bit more powerful than the previous WordPress editor, but Thrive Architect is still on a totally different level. So if you want real design freedom, Thrive Architect is the way to go.

  • Dale Y says:

    WordPress 4.9.8 came with the option to try Gutenberg or install the “classic plugin”. Will Thrive products be compatible with Gutenberg on release or is it best to install the classic plugin?

    • Shane Melaugh says:

      Hello Dale,

      Thrive Architect is already compatible with the Gutenberg editor and the other products aren’t affected by it. So you can go ahead and choose whichever option you prefer.

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