Automattic Acquires Frontity, Founders to Work Full-Time on Gutenberg – WP Tavern

Sarah Gooding
Automattic has acquired Frontity, the company behind an open source framework for building WordPress themes with React. The acquisition comes more than a year after the company raised €1M in funding in a round led by K Fund, with Automattic covering 22%. Frontity co-founders Pablo Postigo and Luis Herranz and their team will no longer be developing and maintaining the framework. Their new focus will be on contributing to the WordPress open source project and improving the full site editing developer experience.
“After a series of conversations, Automattic offered to sponsor our team to work directly on the WordPress open source project,” Frontity’s founders said in the announcement. “In particular, to contribute our expertise in developer experience, frontend tooling, performance, and UX to the WordPress core itself, instead of doing so only for an external tool.”
In a separate FAQ document, Frontity clarified that this acquisition does not mean the framework will be merged into WordPress, nor does it mean the team plans to bring React into the WordPress PHP or full site editing themes. The founders intend to apply their expertise to the Gutenberg project full time:
Even though Frontity is a React framework, it doesn’t mean that we are going to push React to the WordPress frontend. We will look at the Gutenberg and full site editing space to identify those areas in which our work could have the most significant impact, and work closely with the WordPress community to help improve its developer experience.
WordPress is already the best content platform on the web. We want to help it become the best development platform on the web.
In addition to putting the Frontity team on improving developer experience, Automattic is also investing in other ways that expand its support of the Gutenberg project. The company has recently hired a new head of developer relations who is building out a team tasked with improving the developer experience with Gutenberg and full-site editing. Birgit Pauli-Haack is a new member of that team and Automattic is also sponsoring her curation of the Gutenberg Times publication and the Changelog Podcast.
As the result of the acquisition and the team’s reassignment to working on Gutenberg, Frontity’s founders are transitioning the framework to be a community-led project. The team has prepared to leave the project in “a stable, bug-free position,” with documentation regarding what features they were working on. The framework is used by many companies and agencies, including high profile sites like the TikTok Creator Portal, popular Catholic news site Aleteia, and Diariomotor, a popular Spanish automotive publication.
“As far as we know, Automattic is not using Frontity Framework in any of its products,” Frontity CEO and co-founder Pablo Postigo said. “But we know there are a lot of Automatticians who have been following our progress closely. 
“We are aware that WordPress VIP does recommend Frontity for decoupled solutions, too. We are sure our experience and knowledge might be of help for this team as well.”
The departure of Frontity’s founders and team introduces some uncertainty into the future of the framework. When asked if it can survive as a community-led project, Postigo was optimistic but not certain.
“We still think that Frontity Framework is the best way to run a decoupled WordPress site with React and that this will be the case for a long time,” Postigo said.
“It is still too early to know what will happen. Frontity has a great community behind it, there are a lot of great projects which are using the framework in production, and there’s also a nice group of really active contributors. We feel really positive about the future of the framework.”
Great news and proud to be a small Frontity investor as well.
Congrats to Pablo and Luis on the exit! Since they aren’t going to be working on Frontity anymore, this sounds more like a hiring bonus with some extra steps than an acquisition. That’s certainly a useful strategy for hiring new talent for Automattic in the current client, especially when they’ve so many open positions right now.
I’ve run a web design house developing WordPress sites for clients for the past twelve years and I fail to see all the fuss being made over ‘headless.’
It is an awful lot of work and coding just to save a second or two of loading time.
Also, WordPress stays rather stable for a long time while the tooling necessary for “headless” changes from month to month.
Frontity is the current Javascript framework / library flavor of the month but it will be replaced next month by another… which will be replaced by another.
When WordPress (Automatic) buys or develops a framework or library that will be maintained as “core” or integrated into it, that is when my shop will pay attention to the “headless” paradigm.
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