I was recently invited to write some thoughts for Convesio’s new blog Speed at Scale on the future of WordPress, Introducing Our New Blog: Speed at Scale. First, there are a number of great thoughts in this piece from Bhanu Ahluwalia (CMO for Rank Math), Cate DeRosia (Chief Instigator HeroPress), Brian Jackson (Co-Founder forgemedia), Vito Peleg (Founder Atarim), as well as author Lawrence Ladomery. I’m not going to quote my entire portion but just followup on my closing thoughts: “As WordPress grows in flexibility, very experienced developers will be called upon to integrate headless environments and integrate with 3rd party and enterprise APIs. The hosting companies which can trivially support these more complex, flexible, and scalable websites are in the best position to succeed over the next 10 years with a more invisible WordPress.”
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So what does it mean for hosting companies to support “complex, flexible and scalable websites?” Let’s start with the two basics that I believe will become commoditized over the next ten years.
First, the performance gap between the fastest hosts and slowest hosts we see today will dramatically shrink. Hosts that don’t prioritize performance today will either make the investments necessary to stay competitive, or disappear by being acquired or shutting their doors. Everyone knows the value of performance, and just by the very nature of technology, speed will continue to improve.
Second, while security will always be an issue, the plethora of solutions at different levels of the stack will be adopted or developed across the board. You can’t be a successful host if sites and infrastructure are routinely hacked. This means low level tools like Monarx, then moving up the stack, other tools like Patchman, Wordfence, Sucuri, and CDNs, will be available and utilized by all hosts. This won’t make security bulletproof but will provide a very similar (commoditized) security profile.
With the basics out of the way, what’s this complex, flexible, and scalable thing? Host complexity is the level of integration with application (i.e. WordPress). Flexibility is the ability of the host platform to support different application types (i.e. PHP, node.js, etc). Scalability, while definitely tied to performance, will include global edge delivery (which is different than a CDN).
Today we these individual needs being taken on piecemeal by hosting companies, examples include (but are certainly not limited to): WP Engine for application integration, WP VIP for edge scalability, and Cloudways for flexibility. In ten years, the best companies will have stronger yet varying degrees of support across these needs. Those varying degrees will be the differentiation. Is it a SaaS, or is it a dedicated cross network API? Is it spinning up private containers in a global cloud or a platform like Microsoft Azure? How much developer, technical, administrative support for scaling?
Ten years is a very long time for WordPress but I think very grand and fundamental changes will be coming sooner rather than later.