Yes, a block-based version of the Kubrick WordPress theme exists – WP Tavern

It’s literally the one thing no one was asking, but we can all collectively agree that it’s pretty cool. A block-based version of the old-fashioned Kubrick WordPress theme exists.

Gutenberg frontman Matías Ventura tweeted a quick-to-action video yesterday. Another Automattic engineer, Riad Benguella, had developed the theme.

I’m always on the lookout for those nostalgic plugins and themes that remind me of my web beginnings from the early to mid-2000s, the golden age of blogging. And, there’s nothing that embodies better than Kubrick, WordPress’ second default theme. It was literally named “Default” and represented the platform for over half a decade.

Even today, Kubrick / Default still has over 10,000 active installations. I wonder if it works on sites that are no longer there or if the number represents bloggers still active.

The theme was the face of WordPress during its rise to popularity as a CMS. The authors of themes owe him more than the others. It has been copied, forked, repackaged, and redistributed more times than most of us will probably ever know.

Kubrick 2, as it’s named in the GitHub repository, is still under development. There are still a few flaws, such as single posts showing the snippet instead of the full content. However, this is a working theme.

What’s shocking is how little code it took to recreate Kubrick with the block system. The original theme, last updated in 2020 and now at version 1.7.2, is under 11kb of CSS. I can’t remember the last time I saw a classic WordPress theme with so little code. The block-based version currently uses a handful of theme.json settings and has no CSS.

Of course, it didn’t take long for me to dive into the site editor and start customizing it. Kubrick’s most recognizable design aspect was his gradient blue header. It was also one of the things people in the blogging world would customize to make their site feel like theirs. They would decorate it with custom colors, gradients, and even pictures.

Today, with the block editor, it’s much easier than fifteen years ago. In addition, there are more options.

With such power in my hands in 2005, I’m not sure if I continued with theme development. I probably could have done everything I needed in the WordPress admin. Kubrick was one of my first introductions to theme design, and I owe him an unpayable debt. It is good to know that his legacy lives on.

For the sake of the good old days, I spent a few minutes making edits through the site editor – modernizing it a bit. However, I didn’t want to lose the flavor of the original work.

Blog theme with a large image header, followed by a two column design with content on the left and widgets on the right.

I’m as comfortable as anyone can be in the editor. I know most of his pain points, but it sort of felt more natural than usual. Perhaps it was the simplicity of a theme from a bygone era. Maybe the site editor and I just agreed today. Or, maybe it was just in the cards. I had a lot of fun venturing into the past.

I doubt Kubrick 2 sees a lot of real world action. Maybe a few nostalgic people like me will install it when it’s ready for production.

Much like Ian Stewart did with Kirby in 2010, perhaps an adventurous theme writer will take it upon himself to build a modern successor to Kubrick. One that looks at both the block system and has legible typography. I am getting old and losing my sight. A font size of 13px is not so easy on the eyes these days.

Esther L. Gunn