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As someone who makes WordPress sites almost 8 hours a day, what would be the best start is a rewrite of the WordPress core on a popular, modern framework (my vote would be Symfony2). This would bring a breath of fresh air to coding for WordPress. Ideally much of the API would be similar too.

One of the things we're looking at moving forward is using things like this. We're taking a look at various frameworks at the moment as we look to move forward on a few issues (such as request variable abstraction, for which we're looking at Symfony's HttpFoundation/HttpKernel).

However, WordPress still supports PHP 5.2, whereas most frameworks are now 5.3+. There's still a huge [1] userbase still on 5.2, so dropping it isn't really possible at this point in time.

[1]: http://wordpress.org/about/stats/

However, OP says WP is over 3mb. Including any popular PHP framework means adding a lot of weight in the start (take CakePHP for example).

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