Looking forward to WordPress 3
WordPress 3 has been slated for release in May and, although this version won't be an entirely new animal there are a couple of significant changes I'm looking forward to.
Firstly, the MU (multi-user) version is being merged into the mainstream product. WordPress MU enables a single installation to power multiple sites, assuming these sites use the same plugins. MU is the technology behind WordPress.com and is ideally suited to single organisations that want to allow users/members/staff to have their own blogs. The roadmap is clear: soon there will be only one.
Version 3 will include "Custom Post Types". WordPress currently supports two types, Posts and Pages, but in the new version it will be possible to create any post type you like, with the help of a plugin. For example, let's say you want to have a Parts catalogue: in 3 it'll be possible to create a new type of post called "Parts" that will contain the appropriate fields. This will hugely improve WordPress' capability to support different types of content without fudging. You'll also be able to create custom templates for each Author in your blog - for example including their signature/picture.
The menu system is being completely overhauled so that you will be able to drag and drop pages, posts and categories in a similar way to the widget management screen.
The existing default theme, a study in boredom, is making way for a much smarter, easily customisable default. It's long seemed ironic to me that the worst theme I've ever seen was the one that was installed by default, so this is a long overdue improvement.
Version 3 includes a number of other more minor changes, including allowing you to change the default user from "Admin" to your choice and easier management of a theme's background graphic.
I'm a huge fan of WordPress but I don't believe that this update, useful though it is, does enough to open it up to non-technical users. It ought to be possible to change the design from within the Admin Control Panel without having to fish into the code but, to do this, I currently have to use the paid-for Thesis theme. There's still a lot to be done to encourage users to customise their blogs more radically and effectively - it's still all too easy to identify a WordPress site within moments because even simple design changes require knowledge of CSS. Roll on WordPress 4!