Industry Analyst & Strategist

WordPress Community vs WordPress Economy

There are so many people involved – and billions of dollars – that wordpressing (intentional spelling, defined as building infrastructure for, or deploying content on the internet) is seeing WordPress community ideals and business goals start bumping up against each other more and more often. Recently we had issues around and Bluehost trademark use rear their heads.

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WordPress Community Point of View

Sarah Gooding, WP Tavern, nicely summarizes a discussion that happened on Post Status Slack, Elementor Raises Eyebrows with Google Ads Targeting Full-Site Editing: “In another advertising-related matter, Elementor, a popular page builder used by more than five million websites, has caught some attention recently for its Google ads that target “full-site editing.” Birgit Pauli-Haack, publisher of the Gutenberg Times, pointed out the ads last week in the Post Status Slack community.”

Birgit continues in the Slack that, “Why I think it’s shady in regards to WordPress? It’s the searcher’s intent diverted, in a misleading way. 30% of Google Searchers do not know that the first results are paid ads and are led astray. Information about Full Site Editing has people already confused and worried. It doesn’t help if someone hijacks the new feature’s keyword. WordPress is also an easy target because the Foundation certainly doesn’t have any money to throw at the problem to big higher on the keywords.” And, “Instead of supporting [Elementor] is undermining the project.”

While “full-site editing” is a relatively new term of art, it’s just good marketing for what we used to call WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get). Ancient software like Microsoft Front Page and Adobe Dreamweaver (created at Macromedia), long held out the promise of of exactly what WordPress is now striving for with full-site editing.

In my opinion I don’t think any website developers and designers are being confused by Elementor using and/or targeting “full-site editor” in advertising or content. I just don’t buy it. WordPress and Elementor “customers” are quite aware that Elementor is an add-on to WordPress. If it offers better wordpressing then so be it. I know people who do and don’t use it – I do not. I most definitely prefer an open Gutenberg experience.

After WP Tavern’s post, Matt Mullenweg chimed in on Post Status.

I think Elementor would be successful even if you didn’t look at the names and features Gutenberg is launching, then try to co-opt them in your marketing. Full site editing was not a widespread generic industry term inside or outside of the WP community before we announced it. I actually preferred the terms you used before, “theme builder” and “design system” so you copied something that is probably worse. It’s not a trademark thing, just a common decency thing, especially when building a business on top of all the good faith and collaborative effort that has created WordPress. You’re on 7M+ sites, you raised 15M+ dollars, you claim to be the “#1 Free WordPress Website Builder” — it would be a good time to stop trying to undermine community efforts in the same space, we go farther when we work together instead of engage in internecine warfare.

WordPress Economy Point of View

I really hate to argue with Matt on this, but respectfully, there are a couple of points I don’t agree with. First, this is lightyears from internecine warfare. It’s a shrewed move by a business. No one is going over to the Wix offices with pitchforks every time their name comes up in an ad for WordPress, why are we beating up on “our own?”

Next, in general there are good marketing reasons that doesn’t call full-site editing a “theme builder” or “design system.” “Full-site editor” is much more user friendly, approachable, and descriptive terminology. It makes sense that businesses will utilize it in conjunction with the growth of the term in WordPress community.

I also feel it is disingenuous to shame someone in the economy when they use code and terminology from an open source product in legal ways. That is absolutely the nature of open source. We should celebrate such successful utilizations of open source! Billion dollar companies like Automattic, WP Engine, GoDaddy, and Newfold Digital, as well as smaller ones like Convesio, Liquid Web, Cloudways, all have a take on how to implement and sell their services. The WordPress economy is very competitive, and frankly, while I certainly have issues with Bluehost’s trademark use, the Elementor issue is not even in the ballpark.

This discussion will only be aggravated by more SaaS based wordpressing in the future. We’ve had for years and we already know that Elementor is in beta with a similar SaaS solution. Ongoing we will see more and more companies that either have the hosting platform or the interactive layer and merging those solutions.

Let’s look at Liquid Web, they own iThemes, and guess what, you can get iThemes hosting. Even more integrated is the example of StoreBuilder by Nexcess. It proclaims, “Reap all the benefits of WordPress and WooCommerce without the complexity.”

The future is about unified solutions from one vendor. Less billing confusion. Less friction. It’s about SaaS. It’s about wordpressing in a different way. We need to allow businesses to innovate. It’s not happening at the expense of the project. It’s helping the community grow with unique, innovative, successful WordPress based businesses that drive interest, developers, innovators back into the community.

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