I’ve been having lots of thoughts of the WordPress leadership, community, development process and the resulting product lately.
My outlook isn’t particularly great…
I think many in the WP community view Matt Mullenweg as our version of Steve Jobs. The quiet genius that dictates every granular detail of the the product to create the most seamless user experience ever. And, yes.. he is quiet and I’m pretty sure he’s a genius.
But the reality is there are so many leadership roles for so many variety of teams, that I feel there is no unifying directive for where WordPress goes, and how it gets there. The roadmap is great but as these projects are released it feels that instead of converging and forming like Voltron, things just miss the mark. Things are diverging, not converging.
And where are these random pet projects coming from, and who’s approving them?
Duotone filters: WTFingF?? Who approved that bullshit?
Core Plugins: Sure it’s Matt’s idea. But it seeks to shutdown plugin developers that makes the community what it is. And it turns a back on the people that have built this house.
Is this an attempt to make WordPress more locked down? Is the intention to become an Apple like ecosystem, yet paint a rosie picture that anyone can build any plugin?
You can’t be the iPhone and Android at the same time. There are repercussions to choosing one path or the other.
Also… everyone still hates Jetpack. No Core Plugins please!
Plugin Previews: Then we get today’s drama. The ability to preview plugins popped up out of nowhere.
A leader in the community approved this!
No communication with existing plugin developers. No warning. No poll on if it was a good idea… It was just launched.
There is something absolutely broken and fractured when a feature like is approved of by a “leader”
This also points to one of my biggest frustrations:
Ever since Matias Ventura announced the proposal for the new Media Library I’ve been desperately trying to find out who is running that project. As a web developer and a professional photographer, I might have some insights. But the Core Media team has no idea. Anthony the Media team lead and I asked around at WCUS. I’ve pinged Matias on Slack… 🤷♂️
WhoTF is running this project? Is it all behind closed doors?
Why is this project so fractured that one hand doesn’t know what the other is doing???
Matt needs to repair the damage done on Twitter
I didn’t want this to be a thing here in this post. But Mullenweg needs to apologize and address the issues with Se Reed. Leadership starts at the top. That’s what leaders do.
I’m questioning how much the WordPress community has an influence on the product these days. And when I say community, I mean two things.
There’s the community that talks on Twitter and Slack, and discusses WordPress adjacent things. They’re the ones in Trac, making decisions on tickets, etc.
Then there’s the people in the trenches. The small business owners using WordPress to run their site, the web agencies building sites for clients, the solo-preneurs and freelancers…
I feel those are the voices that need to be heard most. Those are the people that use the product. I feel that we’re so up our own ass that we don’t see that Squarespace and Wix and Webflow are starting to provide superior products and features, and listening to what those people want and need.
I understand WordPress democratizes publishing. But WordPress hasn’t been just a blogging platform since we got Custom Post Types. We as a community need to think about how best to build a platform for those endusers and how to provide the best tooling for the developers building for those end users (hint: it’s not native blocks).
Besides, Squarespace and Wix, and Webflow all democratize publishing for $20-30/month now too.
The only difference is the $20-30 people spend per month on WordPress goes to a hosting company.
I don’t think the Community at large (all of us) want to acknowledge the superiority of the other platforms. They may not have WordPress numbers. But a wave is coming. I guarantee it.
I recently saw one of the coolest sites I’ve ever seen recently. I asked the designer if it was a custom React site with Greensock animations and ScrollMagic triggers, and HTML5 video libraries for the cool video playback features…
He said it was a Webflow site with all native interactions! (insert dumbfounded emoji)
Agencies and devs have been ignored! There’s a reason most agencies are still using Classic Editor and ACF, or ACF Blocks. I personally have come to enjoy building native blocks, and using React and JS. I’m very thankful I took the time to learn JS when Matt told everyone to.
But native blocks are an absolutely atrocious workflow.
ACF and ACF Blocks is the saving grace for agencies and developers doing highly creative custom web development. The same block built natively would take 2-3 times longer than one built in ACF Blocks.
This matters to agencies! This matters to freelancers!
They need a seat at the table. They need to be listened to. They matter more than the Plumber that wants to spin up a site and slap a theme on it, because the agencies and the freelancers are the ones that the Plumber eventually calls to build his site because he is a fucking Plumber.
Workflow and dev flow matters!!! Tooling matters! Agencies and freelancers need to be listened to.
Don’t even get me started on Full Site Editing…
It may be fine for brochure sites. But there is NO way it’s ready for the more complex sites. There may be ways to make it work. But the workarounds, and the constant changing, and breaking, and renaming of things is a detriment to those that want to attempt to build with it.
Full Site Editing is still a Beta product…
Speaking of the product.
I understand change. But I still can’t help to think what I thought back in 2019… Gutenberg should have been a fork of WordPress. More change means less and less of the WordPress we know how to build for. We already have the Classic Editor plugin. Soon we’ll need a Classic Media Library plugin, and a Classic Admin Plugin, and a Classic Multisite plugin.
Who knows, maybe this was what Canonical Plugins was setting the stage for…
If I can tie the last few sections together here: If WordPress evolves into a 100% Gutenberg experience, we lose the Classic WordPress we’ve come to know. And fine, that’s ok. We’ll just make brochure sites from now on.
But that is the consequence of doing so. There are things that agencies will not be able to do. Or the development effort to accomplish those would result in websites costing 2, 3, or even 4 times more to be realized, putting that development out of reach for businesses, and drying up WordPress agencies.
It’s seriously time to consider what the next 10-20 years looks like for WordPress but with a strong emphasis on the developers that make this ecosystem run. Not the WordPress contributors, but the developers that build the entire web with WordPress.
Maybe that’s forking WordPress and iterating and evolving both paths. How that looks, I don’t know. I’m not that smart.
Maybe it’s two things.
Maybe it’s Gutenberg and WordPress.
Maybe it’s WordPress and WordPress Pro.
Maybe WordPress.com goes full Gutenberg, and WordPress.org continues to be a downloadable Classic Core WordPress that agencies and site owners can use, and download the editor they want.
We didn’t ask these questions when we started Gutenberg. It’s absolutely imperative we ask them now.
Does leadership want to be Steve Jobs, or Steve Balmer?
Does WordPress want to be the App Store, or does it want to be the Android market place?
These questions need to be resolved and the consequences faced.