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Media Library Upgrades for WordPress in Gutenberg Phase 3

We are at the beginning of an exciting, new phase of WordPress development.

Over the last several years, the WordPress team has been working hard to provide a new block system for creating WordPress posts and themes.

The main part of that effort is now complete, and we’re entering a new phase. Here at MetaSlider, we’re excited because this may lead to improvements for the Media Library in WordPress. There’s a lot of room for upgrades in how WordPress handles images and files. The block editor has introduced nice improvements such as duotone filters and aspect ratios, but there’s room for more.

In this guide, we’ll give you some background on WordPress media development, and make some guesses about where it might be headed.

Some Background on the Gutenberg Project

If you used WordPress in the last few years, you’ve probably seen the new blocks system used for writing posts, and sometimes also for building themes. These blocks are part of the “Gutenberg” project.

Matt Mullenweg is the co-founder of WordPress and he started the Gutenberg project in late 2016.

The WordPress team was able to launch Gutenberg two years later with the release of WordPress 5.0. While celebrating that launch, Matt announced that Gutenberg itself would be the first of four phases:

  1. The Block Editor: Completed in 2018. This allowed you to write posts with blocks.
  2. Customization: Completed in 2023. This allowed you to create themes with blocks.
  3. Collaboration: Starting now. This will make it easier for groups of users to collaborate inside WordPress. This post is a full guide to Phase 3.
  4. Multilingual: This will make it easier to translate WordPress.

So at the moment we are about the enter Phase 3 of the Gutenberg project, which is called “Collaboration”.

What will be in Phase 3 of Gutenberg?

The simple answer is that there will be a lot of things in Phase 3. The WordPress team have published six planning posts.

  1. Real-Time Collaboration
  2. Workflows
  3. Revisions
  4. Block Library
  5. Admin Design
  6. Media Library

We hope that the Media Library will see a lot of action in this phase.

Some background about Media Library Improvements

At the beginning of 2023, Josepha Haden Chomphosy, who is the executive director of WordPress, laid out the project’s big picture goals for this year.

These goals included several media improvements:

  • Openverse search in Core” which has already been achieved with WordPress 6.2.
  • “Media management” about which there were no more specifics shared, but clearly the WordPress team are planning changes to the media library.

WordPress 6.2 did bring some substantial changes how media is handled in WordPress. For example, when you add a block, there’s now a new “Media” option, in addition to “Blocks” and “Patterns”. This “Media” tab lets you more easily search for and add files from your Media Library. You can choose a specific media type such “Images” or “Videos”.

New Media inserter in WordPress 6.2

David Bisset frequently writes about WordPress and he posted a question, asking for readers to tell him what improvements they want to see in Gutenberg. “Media” was the clear winner.

David wrote a recap of the poll and the responses people sent:

Media “won” the poll in terms of the choices I provided. “Media Library will get some well needed attention during this [imaginary] phase.” Jason Cosper remarked. Some people said all they wanted was “folders in media”. I think because there isn’t a standard “good” media enhancement plugin, either people have their own enhanced plugin of choice or simply “suffer” with the current WordPress media system. And media doesn’t just mean storing photos or the “media” menu in the admin… it seemed to extend to how WordPress treats and stores media, photos, and videos. In fact, Hendrik Luehrsen commented that the “media” choice should be rephrased as “asset management” in general”.

Ideas for the Media Library in Gutenberg Phase 3

The “Media Library” post from Matias Ventura is the most detailed overview we’ve seen so far. Here are some of the ideas in this post:

  • Look into adding categories and tags support.
  • Explore better browsing organization (for example, date headings and other improvements to the filtering UI).
  • Improve inline and freeform cropping of images.
  • Connect with Workflows: for example, to require certain steps, such as adding a caption, attribution, alt text, or prevent things like publishing with external images.

The whole post is worth reading in detail. Not all of these initial ideas will be implemented, but if even 25% of this arrives in the WordPress core, we’ll be seeing good improvements.

Summary of Media and Gutenberg Phase 3

Clearly the WordPress community is ready for media improvements in WordPress. The WordPress developers have media improvements on their mind and so do ordinary users.

At the moment, we’re still in the discovery phase and the specific implementation details of Phase 3 haven’t been decided yet. However, the idea of improving how WordPress handles media is out there, and we’ll update this post as soon as we hear more.

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