Block Protocol, a project that started this year and wants to make a universal block system, has announced that it will release a new WordPress plugin in early 2023. Users will be able to put in interactive blocks that work with Gutenberg. W3Tech says that WordPress is used on 43% of the web, so this plugin is a big step in the project’s plan to make the web more open and interoperable with blocks that can be shared through a standard protocol.
With the Block Protocol plugin, users will be able to access the global registry of blocks that can work together. These include drawing blocks that you can interact with, an overview of GitHub pull requests, a timer, a calculator, and more. Users will be able to use these blocks in the inserter after they have been installed. Users can always get the latest versions of the blocks without having to update the plugin. Along with the plugin, the people who made the Block Protocol are also releasing a few new blocks. These include an OpenAI DALL-E-powered block for making images and a GPT-powered block for making text.
This news comes just a few days after Matt Mullenweg’s 2022 State of the Word speech, where he was asked about the possibility of Gutenberg working with the Block Protocol project.
Mullenweg said in response to the question, “Sometimes developers don’t like to work together on the same thing.” “This is one reason why there are like 200 CMSs and other similar things. When you look at a change in style or technique, you might think, “I can’t use this thing that already exists. I’m going to start something new.’ I think something similar is going on with Gutenberg and the Block Protocol.”
Mullenweg said that the projects were talking to each other, but they couldn’t get on the same page.
“They think that some of the choices in Gutenberg or the ways we build things don’t fit with how they see things going,” he said. “We’ll have to see where that goes. We’ve tried to make it independent of content management systems (CMS), so it can be embedded anywhere and re-skinned to look completely different, as you saw with Tumblr. Everything we do is open source, so I would hope that Gutenberg blocks could be used wherever they end up, if there’s a translation layer or something like that.”
Mullenweg seemed hopeful that Gutenberg and the Block Protocol’s specification could work together so that users could copy and paste blocks between applications.
He said, “Perhaps they’ll make something really cool that’s open source.” “Then we’re like, ‘Oh, let’s bring that over to Gutenberg,’ so innovation can go both ways, and sometimes that’s only possible if you start from scratch.”
Since the Block Protocol project is open source and meant to be an open protocol, Mullenweg said he thinks of it as “like a cousin project” and hopes that WordPress can work with it more in the future.
“It’s fine if not,” he said. “Perhaps this will just be a different ecosystem where people can try out new ideas or even things we would say no to. And then we’ll see how people use it.”
The team at HASH, an open source data, modeling, and simulation platform, is putting together the first draft of the Block Protocol spec. The protocol is being used by HASH in beta. The current version of the specification will no longer be supported after v0.3, which is expected to come out in February 2023 along with the WordPress plugin.
“I can’t say what Automattic officially thinks about the Block Protocol, but the continued interest from the community has energized us,” said David Wilkinson, CEO of HASH.
“Thanks to the open architecture of WordPress, we can test out the Block Protocol first as a plugin. Users can now access Block Protocol blocks within WordPress and build their own blocks that work in WordPress, HASH, and other Block Protocol embedders. We think it will become clear over time how important it is to have a standard way to write blocks that work across apps.
Wilkinson said that Block Protocol users asked for WordPress the most because it is the most popular CMS. He also has a personal connection to the software.
He said, “WordPress is very important to me.” “I built my first websites with it, I’ve worked with it for more than half of my life (! ), and I have a lot of respect for the organization and operation behind it. It seems like the best place to start.”
Users of more than 50 block-based applications have asked the Block Protocol team for help, and the project is currently running a poll to help decide which one should be the next one on the road map.
Even though the Block Protocol and Gutenberg projects couldn’t find a good way to work together, the new plugin for WordPress will give users the best of both worlds. Access to Block Protocol’s Hub of blocks doesn’t have any features that are better than what you can find in core WordPress or other native block plugins at the moment. The OpenAI-powered blocks will help make it more interesting, and the fact that the protocol works across apps could mean that more interesting blocks will be added in the future.