Bringing 25% of the web to scale

The advent of the WP REST API is the most explosive update to happen to agile software development for the web and mobile this decade. It is a project that will instantly scale over 24% 25% of the entire Internet this 2015 and 2016.

EDIT: Check out this fantastic tutorial on how to build your own app with the new WP API and Facebook’s React.js. And, of course, here’s a tutorial for creating a WordPress fueled app with Google’s Angular.js, too!

rachel baker

The WP REST & JSON API founded by Rachel Baker and Ryan McCue transforms WordPress into a fully fledged application development framework. The WP API plugin page reads, “This plugin provides an easy to use REST API, available via HTTP. Grab your site’s data in simple JSON format, including users, posts, taxonomies and more. Retrieving or updating data is as simple as sending a HTTP request.”

With the official release of the WP API in the core version 4.3 this August, web and mobile app creators around the globe can use WordPress (already 24% of the Internet open web) to instantly scale new products. The backward compatibility and inherently agile approach that the WP API affords software engineers will guarantee lower costs and faster iteration paces for all kinds of future projects. In fact recently Founder Ryan McCue even asked readers in a partly satirical post to imagine the year 2020: when “an estimated 15% of all native apps use WordPress purely as a backend.”

ryan mccueJSON is a data format that’s meant to be inherently human-friendly. It provides encoders and decoders for 100s of major programming languages, including some forms of code that couldn’t be used with WordPress in a “native” format previously. The choice of JSON by the WP API team makes it easy for WordPress and any third-party application to send information back and forth to each other in a mutually understandable format, opening the doors wide for alternate front and back end implementations of WordPress.

As a result, WordPress will now be able to scale at rates never previously seen in its over 12 years of existence. Scaling WordPress to meet complex software and technology needs–from enterprise all the way to the SMB level–has never been faster or easier. The modulization that the WordPress ecosystem already provides for plugins, themes, widgets, and the customizer will carry over into the future of the WP API, too. These modules will continue to grow in a variety of ways to fit a wide net of commercial needs.

Thanks to this quickened pace, a wide breadth of new technologists and entrepreneurs will be driven to more affordable and immediate business models, meaning greater strength for the existing B2B WordPress economy as a whole. My estimate is that we will see the biggest points of innovation and hyper growth happen with mobile, local, and alternative e-commerce.

While initially scheduled for release in the core version of WordPress 4.1, the WP API is now optimistically penciled in for version 4.3 around mid-August 2015. Advanced engineers and developers at places like the New York Times have already begun using the new WP API in its plugin format for most of 2014 and 2015 already–be sure to check out Scott Taylor’s 2015 keynote at WordCamp Maine to see how the Times has been using it at the bottom of this post in the resources section.

The WP API’s growing and maturing scope and milestone delays are easily par for the course for a project of this magnitude, and doesn’t affect developers already implementing the API in advanced WordPress cases.

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Building an API for 24% of the web

Web developers love acronyms. API is short for Application Program Interface. An API is an agreed upon set of standardized methodologies that explain in developer’s terms how a particular piece of software can be used. These API parameters often define how an application can interact with the wider world online and how other pieces of software can “talk” to the application too.

When we talk about creating developer APIs for a system that already runs 24% of the Internet open web–including sites and apps like Bloomberg, Google Ventures, and the New York Times–and pairs automatically with millions of different permutations of independent commercial plugins, themes, and other future software solutions already, the massive scale of the new API becomes abundantly clear.

WordPress is also home to the #1 e-commerce tool, WooCommerce, just acquired by Automattic earlier this year, on its way to likely monetize any store that wants to set up shop. Considering this trend and the advent of the WP API, it isn’t unlikely that someday we’ll see WordPress running the base for 24% of all mobile apps in the iOS store (for example), too.

So what does this mean for technology startups and small businesses building things with WordPress?

Universality & simplicity

A REST API is a particular architectural approach to putting together the parameters for an application. REST stands for Representational State Transfer. It’s a methodology designed to let programs talk to each other in as simple a way as possible. While JSON provides the actual encoders and decoders, REST is the core methodology and philosophy behind it all. Remember, developers love acronyms.

REST APIs are meant to be inherently flexible, but follow a set of core practices which a recent WPMUdev article covers in more detail. Using JSON and the REST methodology, the WP API transforms WordPress into an application development framework or “base” for an application.
To gain a better understanding of what this vast increase in simplicity and universality means for small businesses and enterprise, Baker reflected recently,

“A good example is Wired Magazine. Wired recently replaced multiple WordPress installs with one install, linked to multiple front-ends via the REST API. His favorite part about this project is that the REST API will allow developers to choose their own way of working with WordPress. No longer will developers have to use a theme in the traditional way. They can use the JSON data any way they want.”

This is great news for developers building apps with Javascript and libraries such as React or Node, developed by Facebook and Google respectively. In fact, as of 2015 many leaders in the web and mobile industries have remarked that Javascript is eating the world of software. Now, to build an application with WordPress, an understanding of its complex PHP and related original code structure isn’t even necessary with the new WP API. You can use JavaScript instead.

“That’s one of the use cases I really like,” Ryan said. “The fact that someone who doesn’t know WordPress that well can go and start creating frontend websites with this… It expands how many people can use and develop for WordPress.”

WordPress at scale: enterprise & B2B

WordPress is inherently wonderful for entrepreneurs. Its open source philosophies and community allow anyone to dive straight in and execute a business plan online almost immediately. This opens up the floodgates where WordPress previously may not have played as major a role especially in e-commerce, mobile, open source, and the greater commercial modulization of WordPress as a whole beyond just plugins & themes.

One of the most obvious impacts of the new flexibility and universality of the WP API will be to enterprise software solutions. For example, if an engineer was deciding on coding languages, libraries, and frameworks for a new large scale or highly secure web or mobile application for millions of users, WordPress would have previously been immediately crossed off the list due to the original core’s rigidity with very specific PHP.

By opening up the doors to exponentially more coding languages, major corporations, hospitals, banks, and other types of very large enterprise projects can be fully executed at a secure scale with WordPress as its application framework. Small business SaaS or related software can also be brought to scale to serve business customers (especially SMBs) with the ability for scale and size that the WP API provides as well.

Businesses like (Automattic, Inc) and Reactor (AppPresser, Inc) who are already empowering small business creators will continue to rise in popularity among SMBs as SaaS. Automattic’s own VIP currently dominates in managed enterprise hosting for these types of very large solutions.

I expect that with the WordPress ecosystem growing to include so many more potential permutations for enterprise apps, that new services and companies like VIP will certainly continue to flourish. Successful enterprise software begets successful software for small businesses.

[bctt tweet="Successful enterprise software begets successful software for small businesses."]

I am extremely confident that this increased rate of sale for B2B products and modules for WordPress will supercharge the flow of dollars towards creators that specifically build tools to empower small business online, providing unprecedented small business growth online as a result. Importantly, this growth is also thanks to the open source qualities and philosophies that WordPress engenders at every level as well.

Contributing to the WP API is easy through Github.
Contributing to the open source WP API project is easy through Github.

A new mobile app framework

The most obvious startup growth to consider with the advent of the WP API are mobile apps.

Mobile applications provide both individual and in-app purchase opportunities to entrepreneurs building e-commerce revenue. For example, a single cookbook app can be created with the WordPress framework and sold for $4.99 each on the iOS App Store. Or a new app structured with the dynamically updated databases can create new in-app purchase opportunities anytime for training videos, individual products, and more.

Reactor/AppPresser is one WordPress company already excitedly at work building automated software for the construction of mobile apps with WordPress, making the process even easier for entrepreneurs new to the area. In a recent article they detailed three excellent reasons why WordPress is your best choice as an entrepreneur to build a mobile app:

  1. Ownership: WordPress and the WP API are open source, meaning you maintain total ownership over everything you add to build your app while building on an ever improving and completely open core
  2. Ease of use: WordPress already has one of the best backend admin panels, easily used to build and edit an app
  3. Control: With the total flexibility of the new WP API and ease of use inherent to WordPress, you can control every detail of your app’s user experience (UX)

“Most apps require some sort of database, and possibly creating a UI for a client. WordPress already does this, so why not modify WordPress instead of re-inventing the wheel?”

With Reactor and similar mobile app software companies for WordPress beginning to take off in the second half of 2015, the WP REST API has already manifested success at a place still very early in its lifecycle.

Psst: Consider building your app with Reactor: they have super affordable monthly pricing for businesses of all types. Want to build recipes into your app as well? Simmer is open source and is the first WordPress recipe plugin with multiple developer APIs for your food data for maximum extensibility and universality.

A “generic” API for building other APIs

WordPress as a framework can even build other APIs, by taking away the core endpoints. That’s exactly what we did at Simmer with our developer APIs for recipe data released recently. Josh Pollock also elaborated on the enormity of the potential APIs that can be built through this system:

This project isn’t just about creating a perfect API that works for tens of millions of sites. It’s really about adding a standard set of tools for anyone to make their own API, as well as a totally functional, but generic API.

The Internet of Things 💗 WordPress

One final, truly exciting potential for the new WP API is its future place in the IoT.

Imagine a kitchen where your favorite recipes are ported to a flexible, futuristic augmented reality (AR) UI near your countertop via Simmer. Your handy artificial intelligence assistant (robot?) lets you know when something’s going to burn or even go stale in your fridge, all through the power that WordPress provides at the root of your kitchen’s applications with its APIs.

How cool is that?

Let me know what you think of this article by sharing how your organization or startup plans to use the WP API. Drop your answers in the comment section below or with me on Twitter @laralfield. 👋

Learning Resources

The learning process for the WP REST API never stops. To get started, check out these resources and keep an eye as many new projects develop.

Photo at dawn by Jasper Boer 📷