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WordPress took the online world by surprise. Undoubtedly the single most influential tool in the blog-boom, WordPress has not only revolutionized the web as we (used to) know it, but also completely changed the daily ins and outs of web development forever. It’s not just about the power and perfection of the package, but also the coding standards, community benefits, and open source modeling. In short, WordPress has changed the face of web scripting for everyone.
The most obvious impact WordPress has had – on everyone – is that there really isn’t much room for another blogging platform. No matter how good of a competing product someone might make, it’s near impossible for anything to ever overtake WordPress as the tool of choice for the job – no matter what that might be. WordPress isn’t perfect, and we’re the first to admit it. It certainly isn’t the most lightweight blogging platform nor is it the ultimate CMS, but that most definitely hasn’t stopped it from conquering the market.
“Making a better product” isn’t anywhere near as easy as people make it out to be. Take it from us, software development is our thing. It’s hard enough to get an idea that might end up shaping a great replacement for an existing platform/product/service, but it takes a whole lot more to get things up and going. You have to convince the user base that your product/idea is not only better, but also that all the complementing products & services are just as good, too. It’s not enough to make a product; you also have to have the community, support, and charisma to go along with it.
In that sense, WordPress is hard or even impossible to beat. Not only does it already have everything you could want from a blogging script; it also has one of the largest and most extensively utilized online communities the web has ever seen. Coupled with a relaxed open-source model, friendly developers, and totally free hosting services, it’s damn hard to beat – especially coming from scratch. After WordPress 2.0 shipped, it became impossible for someone to write a script that would ever replace WordPress simply because of sheer quantity, fame, and support.
We’ve been asked to review a plethora of independent (free and otherwise) blogging scripts in many languages and with many purposes; but every single time it boiled down to WP: No matter what the program, audience, or goal, WordPress just did things better. In a nutshell, the blogging market is c.l.o.s.e.d. – as in no more room, and most importantly, no more competition; because let’s face it, whatever you’ve got, it’s just never going to be good enough.
Not only does WordPress have the blog market sealed off from newcomers, but also WordPress has made it much more difficult for developers to take on, use, or otherwise modify other existing projects. Just last month, I hacked up e107 and coupled it with a couple of 100% custom PHP scripts/platforms for an ambitious project (DVDxml.com), and it wasn’t easy. Two years ago, e107 would have been considered excellent and a piece of cake to hack or modify – and it was, given the alternatives and what web developers were used to. But today, it can be pure torture. e107 is ideal for comparison given the similarity between it and WordPress as far as open-source models, “extensive libraries” of hacks and plugins, and relatively large online communities. Two years ago, the documentation available online for e107 (now) and the quality of the code would have been seen as border-line marvelous; but today, when compared to WordPress, it and everything else just fails.
WordPress has spoiled us developers with its well-written & easy-to-use Codex (online wiki/documentation for users, developers, and hackers, alike). You no longer have to read through hundreds or thousands of lines to find out what exactly any given function will do, mainly because every single function is heavily documented and well-referenced, and also because no function is that long in the first place. Function names are clear and logical, they’re declared properly and follow some sort of sane schematic. Basically, it’s not a nightmare to sort through.
On the other hand, projects like e107 have age-old outdated documentation for the more commonly-used functions, and absolutely no sense of explanation or aid for the rest. At the end of any given hour, you’re almost guaranteed to be banging your head against the wall and wondering aloud whether no documentation or old, incorrect, & out-dated documentation is better – especially if this is the first (and certainly the last) time you look at the source code.
While products of the likes of phpBB and e107 have “support forums” set up for helping users and developers get answers to their questions, more often than not these questions and requests for help will go ignored and unanswered. This may be a community thing, but nevertheless, you are much more likely to get a response to a support request on WordPress’ support forums than you are there.
But mostly, it boils down to code cleanliness. If you’re on a time-critical project and you need to use a platform you’re not familiar with and don’t have time nor patience to hassle with support forums, product documentation, and mailing lists, you had better pick WordPress. It’s what really ruined the rest of the online scripts for web developers: good code. It’s not hard to find a function that does what you’re looking for and it’s even easier to find out what a function does. A quick query in the online Codex will usually turn up what you need, and if it isn’t there, it’s a good bet that one of the top ten results on Google will.
Don’t get the wrong impression though, WordPress hasn’t made it all fun and games for web developers everywhere. Those of us that aren’t lucky enough to work for ourselves still have to deal with the incredibly high expectations of even the least technical of users today. When a user sees an interface as refined as WordPress’ admin center, code as compatible and succinct as that employed in WordPress, and the ease of extending and changing the behavior of WordPress via plugins, it means you’re going to have to work at least 10 times harder to make them just half as happy.
Most users/employers don’t understand the technical differences between a 100-man development team and a one-man printing press (yes, yes, WordPress isn’t technically a 100-man job, but still…) and that can make things a little bit difficult. Not everyone can come up with five-hundred brain storms an hour, and not every web developer out there has mastered Prototype. We’re not all rocket scientists, and we most certainly aren’t mind readers. We do what we can, and we hope that WordPress keeps the wheels churning and the challenge going.
“Code is Poetry”
…Better believe it!