Divi, the popular commercial WordPress theme and page builder created by Elegant Themes, has announced major changes in version 5.0 that constitute a complete rewrite of Divi’s core technology. The update, expected to be released in beta next year, will focus on performance, stability, scalability, and extensibility, but will not introduce any new features.
“We’re rebuilding Divi’s backend framework, cleaning up years of technical debt, changing Divi’s storage format and improving its rendering mechanics,” says Elegant Themes CEO Nick Roach. “This new version of Divi will be able to process design setups much faster.”
One of the most notable changes in 5.0 is that Divi will no longer use shortcodes.
“This change will align Divi with the future of WordPress, which is moving in a new direction,” Roach said.
Divi will be migrating to a new JSON format similar to the way Gutenberg stores data. Legacy shortcodes will continue to work, and Divi will lazy load on demand in the old framework for a while.
“If you’re using Divi shortcodes outside of post content, it’s highly recommended to replace those shortcodes with our new json-based elements,” says Roach. “Otherwise, your performance will suffer.”
As part of the 5.0 update, Divi’s developers plan to include a button to perform the migration from shortcodes, which will automatically change posts to use the new system.
Divi 5.0 will also introduce a new Builder API, which Roach says “may also open up opportunities for Divi/Gutenberg cross-compatibility:”
Developers familiar with creating blocks for WordPress will find many similarities in the Divi 5.0 module API. WordPress blocks will be easier to adapt to Divi, and WordPress developers will be able to take the lead in building content for our community. We’re building this new version of Divi to work in harmony with WordPress.
The news of the upcoming update has been welcomed by Divi users, who have raised more questions and concerns in the comments. Some users are skeptical of the new direction, but willing to see how it turns out.
Current user Peter R, who said he appreciates Divi’s “better and smoother user experience” and collection of design settings, said that Divi seems to be lagging behind what the block editor offers for building pages with dynamic data:
As good as Divi 5.0 sounds, it’s just too far away…especially since it won’t have the features I’m looking for at launch, and if they do, it’ll take a lot longer. I really wish Divi 5.0 would move more towards the Gutenberg block builder (besides backend data storage etc.).
There seems to be a real arms race with block builders going on right now. Many companies are adding features that Divi simply can’t compete with now, and it may take years to match. More flexible layouts, especially when it comes to making your own post loops etc., more power to display dynamic data or collect and store data, and the ability to mix and match blocks from different creators, so you’re not dependent on things like A single provider like Divi.
According to BuiltWith, more than 2,425,411 live websites are currently using Divi, and another 1,486,812 have used the product. The nearly 10-year-old product has seen steady growth over the years, but appears to be leveling off from 2020.
Embracing the way WordPress has evolved is important to the continued success of page builders, and Elegant Themes seems to acknowledge this with planned updates.
“In terms of block theming, as part of Divi 5.0 we are also transitioning to a block-based theme, and since Divi 5.0 is actually built internally using the same ‘package’ as Gutenberg itself, Divi 5.0 has a lot of built-in compatibility,” says Elegant Themes developer Josh Ronk.
“We’re hard at work pushing Divi 5.0 for maximum Gutenberg Blocks compatibility with the goal that you can use Gutenberg Blocks in Divi-built pages and then apply all of the Divi design options you love to otherwise bland pages on your installed Gutenberg blocks. This means you don’t have to choose between Divi or Gutenberg, you get Divi and Gutenberg.”
Divi’s developers plan to ensure backwards compatibility with older Divi modules built using the current Divi API, working on the front end but in a more limited capacity in Visual Builder. They will encourage developers to move to the new APIs to take advantage of performance.
Divi 5.0 will not introduce new features or change Divi’s design, but the underlying architecture will move closer to Gutenberg compatibility.
“Divi 5.0 will use React, which will leverage more native Gutenberg packages,” Roach said. “At some point, we want Divi and Gutenberg to work together in harmony. We don’t want to be against the direction WordPress is going.”