The featured themes page was quietly removed from the WordPress theme directory. Previously, it was the primary page users would see when visiting the directory. It has now been replaced with the popular themes list. This change is only reflected on the WordPress.org website and not directly in the WordPress admin for end-users.
This is the first major change with the featured list since it was switched to a randomized set of themes in 2014. Over the past six years, volunteers have presented numerous ideas on what to do with the page that is, in many ways, the face of WordPress, particularly for new users who are searching for their first theme. No proposal has gone beyond a Trac ticket with a handful of participants or a theme review team meeting. It is almost as if every idea was dead on arrival.
Removing the featured list altogether is not a simple matter of hiding the page on WordPress.org. There is an API endpoint that serves the list and core WordPress fetches themes directly from WordPress.org. Even if removed from the software, we would still be dealing with years of backward compatibility for older versions of WordPress. At this point, outright removal is not an ideal solution.
The commit note makes a point that hiding the page from the theme directory is only temporary. The idea is to eventually replace it with a properly-curated featured themes list.
However, such a proposal could languish for years. Given that we have suffered through six years of a randomly-generated list, it is unclear if anyone is motivated enough to push the project forward.
In October, the WordPress theme review team decided to create a system for a curated feature themes list. The initial plan was for the team representatives to work out the finer details and create a path forward. However, the idea seemed to fizzle out before it ever broke ground. There was little public mention of it after the excitement of the initial decision.
The curated list based on their criteria would be too small to rotate regularly on the featured page. The team attempted to find other solutions. However, they were unsuccessful.