A Clarification on WordPress

Day before yesterday, we posted an article about how WordPress was king of the blogging world, and how close to impossible it would be for it to lose its position. Amongst the comments, trackbacks, emails, and pingbacks directed our way, we find it necessary to clear up some points. For sake of communication and clarity, we’re using bullets to explain:

Most importantly: that wasn’t a review of WordPress. Just a discussion about how WordPress amongst others “spoils” developers!

  • WordPress isn’t necessarily the best engine, just the best platform. The difference is, it might not have the best code and features out there, but as a product together with its community, resources, and developers, it’s the platform for you to use.
  • The reason why WordPress will find it much easier to remain at the top compared to others that have taken the fall is that it’s open source, friendly, and free. That means people are more willing to help it out. Business 101: “open & flexbile” companies take much more and much longer to fail than “closed & rigid” companies do.
  • We’re not saying WordPress will remain the best product, but that even if a far better product came out (like the promising new-comer: Habari), WordPress will remain the tool of choice simply because of how widespread and prevalent it has become.
  • WordPress is not a company, it’s an open-source project. Automattic is the company. They come together, but WordPress is a separate entity, that continue developing and improving with or without Automattic. Don’t confuse the two.

Now for people saying that was a rather unfair article coming from staunch WordPress contributors and users, maybe this will help change your bind. We’re not blind-believers. WordPress has it’s shortcomings, but we feel its benefits far outweigh these:

  • Inflexible hosted WordPress. Stop right there. WordPress is the product, and technically has nothing to do with WordPress.com. WordPress.com is an Automattic project, and even its limited, paid implementations far exceed those of other large competing services like Blogger and Xanga.
  • WordPress is heavy. There is no denying it. WordPress isn’t optimized at all, since as some of the developers used to (incorrectly) say: “It’s just a blog.” But that’s changing, and you can take a look at WordPress 2.1 for more proof.
  • WordPress breaks standards. Yes, in the past WordPress has “broken” syndication standards, but that’s fixed now – isn’t that what matters?
  • Drupal. That’s corporate stuff.. None of our business. Again, that’s WordPress.com & Automattic, not the WordPress project.

Some WordPress alternatives:

  • Habari: Most promising, still in alpha, but looking good!
  • ExpressionEngine: Made by pMachine, commercial, not free. Otherwise, it’s an excellent platform.
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  • 9 thoughts on “A Clarification on WordPress

    1. How about writing an article on the shortcomings of WordPress. Strange that I would ask this since I recommend it myself, but I guess pointing out the short comings will help improve WP even more?

    2. That’s certainly a good possiblity. At NeoSmart Techonologies, we run and recommend WordPress quite often, and contribute code and ideas to the project whenever we can – but that doesn’t mean that we have any illusions about it or that we’ll go at lengths to hide the truth.

      Thanks for your feedback, Ajay, and if you have any ideas or lists or thoughts on what could go in such an article, please: reviews@neosmart.net

      NB: We’d be focusing on WordPress, not Automattic. So anything on WordPress.com wouldn’t really have anything to do with it

    3. but WordPress is a separate entity, that continue developing and improving with or without Automattic

      Now, I don’t follow WP development much but I was under the impression that Automattic was the biggest (if not the only) contributer to Wordpress. I thought it was fairly hard to get commit rights to that repository! Then again, I may be wrong.

    4. “I thought it was fairly hard to get commit rights to that repository!” To get commit access to the core repository, which 4 people currently have, 2 of which don’t work for Automattic, is really hard. The best of the best of the best contributors who prove their worth over time with high quality code, responsiveness to the community, and reliability in crunch times. It’s a meritocracy, and the number of core committers at one time has varied anywhere from 1 to 6 over the life of the project.

      That said, commit access is actually a very bad metric of community involvement. If you look at SVN logs half or more of the commits in WordPress have a “hat tip” or “props” recognizing the patch came from someone in the community. In that case the committer is merely ensuring the quality of the patch by doing a code review and checking for any bugs or security holes. Many of the larger companies using WordPress contribute code back, as well. In a major release the number of people contributing is 10-20x the size of all of Automattic.

    5. Matt, I would challenge your use of the term ‘meritocracy.’ A meritocracy is a system by which ability determines power. Wordpress is a system by which the leader of the community is by definition. You, Matt, are the leader of the Wordpress community. You have the power to overrule decisions, and you use that power. There are meritocratic aspects to how Wordpress operates, but the fact that you exercise your right of fiat makes it not a meritocracy. Please don’t interpret this as a value judgment one way or the other. This isn’t the place for that. It’s merely important to use terms correctly. Note Apache – the original folks to use this term in regards to software development – where almost none of the original leadership is involved in current day-to-day code decisions. Granted, Apache is a lot older than Wordpress, so perhaps it’s premature to judge. But clearly defined individual leadership with unilateral right of veto is not a meritocracy.

      I would welcome the opportunity to discuss your community leadership philosophies at greater length, and will likely be posting something on my blog about this in the near future.

    6. DrBacchus, there are dozens of examples of things I have personally disagreed with that have gone into core because people who contributed a lot to WP believed in it. Sometimes this has been for the better, like our themes system, and sometimes the end-result has been mixed, but the important thing is that the strength of of an idea can carry it into core whether or not I agree with it, if it’s good enough to convince other core developers. When core developers have been wrong, as I’m sure will happen again in the future, we’ve also been non-religious about re-examining old decisions.

      What you might be mistaking is my belief that software is not a place for compromise because solving arguments through trying to please everyone ultimately creates more burden on end-users and shows a fundamental disrespect for their time.

      So, for example, there is one templating system in WordPress because even though smart people disagree about the best templating solution, our users benefit 100x by not having to think about a templating system when they download and install a theme. The people who preferred Smarty or phpTemplate when we made that decision might feel disenfranchised, but sometimes that’s the cost of creating the highest quality software possible in the long-term.

      This is not unlike the model that Firefox or Ubuntu take, in fact I’ve spent a lot of time talking to folks in each community and that has influenced the current model WP aspires to.

    7. In my opinion, WordPress is awesome. But as Matt himslef said, this past year he (and therefore Automattic) have been focusing a lot more on WordPress.com than WordPress.org, and that’s scary.

      Anyway, I think this is a good conversation to be having here and now. It’s not taking place behind closed doors nor on an Automattic website. This can only make things better.

    8. Your main point being that wordpress is open source and ergo much more ‘stable’ (because of it’s community) than commercial software is understandable, but i guess it’s hard to say, which type of software lives longer. 

      “Business 101: ?open & flexbile? companies take much more and much longer to fail than ?closed & rigid? companies do.”

      Well, then microsoft is the best example against this statement. MS is about the most closed sourced you could get and the least interested about standards. Yet they are still around after those many years and kicking.. I think the statement, that it would be hard to bring wordpress to a fall is more than an overstatement. People move on and so will the community. People moved on from mozilla suite to firefox, from firefox to flock and some to opera and others back to ie7 and some around and around and so on..

       I still think wordpress is some awesome peace of software, but i would change it in a heartbeat if i thought, my blog would benefit of that change (at least i’m trying to use lightpress).

    9. Did you consider taking a look at DotClear?
      ? http://www.dotclear.net/en/ (English)
      ? http://preview.dotclear.net/wiki/Download (English)
      ? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/DotClear

      DotClear 2 ?Aoraki? (a very hard mountain to climb in New Zealand) is a very popular blog software in France, which runs exclusively on PHP5 and is natively multi-blog as well as Unicode (it is the blog solution used by Gandi, the registrar). It also feature some kind of SQL abstraction, since it may be installed on PotsgeSQL and SQLite, on top of MySQL. I’m not a ptogrammer, but I heard code is very clean and object-oriented; it also features widgets, native support for tags, RSS2 and Atom? As well as a very good way of adding plugins, called ?packages?. This really is a no-brainer and I wonder why this has not been included in WordPress, as it really comes in handy, especiallly for those who can’t handle a FTP software.

      If you are looking for quality code, I urge to get some inspiration (it is GPL, of course). The contact form (in French, but this kind of form can be handled with eyes closed) to contact a DotClear developer that happens to use (and be disappointed of the latest version of ? see here http://translate.google.com/translate?u=http%3A%2F%2Fcallmepep.org%2Fblog%2Fpost%2F2007%2F02%2F04%2FWordPress-21-%253A-premieres-impressions&langpair=fr%7Cen&hl=fr&ie=UTF-8&oe=UTF-8&prev=%2Flanguage_tools) WordPress: http://callmepep.org/blog/static/contact

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