The commercial arm of WordPress announced they were entering the website building business. The announcement was generally not well received by the WordPress web development community. Many softened their response and saw opportunity as more information became available.
People think of WordPress as the company that develops the open source content management system (CMS) called WordPress. But WordPress is more than the open source development community hosted on WordPress.org.
There is also a for profit site that’s hosted on the WordPress.com domain that offers website hosting and domain name registration, among other related services.
The WordPress.com business is a part of a larger collection of WordPress related businesses that are under the Automattic umbrella.
Sister sites run by Automattic include WooCommerce, Gravatar, Jetpack and Akismet, among other businesses.
Automattic’s slogan is:
“We don’t make software for free, we make it for freedom.”
Built By WordPress
The WordPress ecosystem has thrived because web developers and programmers contributed to building and testing the open source WordPress CMS and in return they have a great software for offering web design services, plugins and themes.
But now the WordPress brand is being used to sell web development, which is a step beyond offering plugins or hosting.
The service is called Built By WordPress.
According to the official web page:
“Whether you need a fast and performant eCommerce store for your products and/or services, a polished website for your professional services firm, or an educational website for your online courses, our experts can build it for you on WordPress.com…”
Website Building Plans
The Built By WordPress site offers three kinds of “website building plans” that are focused on three kinds of sites.
- Online Stores
- Educational Sites
- Professional Services
That covers eCommerce, online courses, educational sites, and professional services websites. That last category, professional services websites may be local brick and mortar sites like a yoga studio or a moving company.
The landing page states that an “engagement manager” is assigned to the website building project that serves as the point person.
The cost of the websites starts at $4,900. But oddly, the offering is offered at a limited capacity.
According to the site:
“Custom websites starting at $4,900, but space is currently limited as we launch this new service.”
Web Development Community Responds
An important issue raised in the community is the perception that the web development community helped create WordPress. For WordPress to turn around and begin competing against them is like using their own work against them.
One person tweeted:
“See Automattic’s business model has changed. Feel for the developers this will affect. While WordPress built wordpress[dot]com platform and manage the project, it is the unpaid dev community that made it and gave it the rep they market and capitalize on.”
See Automattic’s business model has changed. Feel for the developers this will affect. While WordPress built wordpress[dot]com platform and manage the project, it is the unpaid dev community that made it and gave it the rep they market and capitalize on. https://t.co/nLxIysu66E
— Philip Joyner (@filljoyner) January 5, 2021
Someone else compared Automattic and WordPress to Amazon and how Amazon created their own products to compete against the retailers selling on their platform.
This is the open source version of Amazon copying popular products and turning them into “Amazon Basics” to take profits away from vendors. It’s unnecessary, predatory, and unfair business practice. The devil’s advocate advocates for the devil.
— Morten Wears a Mask (@mor10) January 4, 2021
The other issue is the perception that the goodwill of the open source WordPress.org project domain name is exploited by Automattic through the use of the WordPress brand, potentially confusing consumers who might not know that WordPress.com is different from WordPress.org.
Absolutely ridiculous that they do this IMO. If they wanted to it shouldn’t be on https://t.co/XtTfaMjzSO.
No one else can use “WordPress” in a domain.
It’s like “Hey, you all made WordPress popular, now we’re going to steal your customers *evil laugh*.
— Jack Kitterhing (@codemonkey_jack) January 4, 2021
There are two things at play here:
1. The trademark and naming confusion making it hard for non-insiders to understand .com is not the Open Source project.
2. Unfair business advantage thanks to sole exclusive use of said trademark when competing with bazaar vendors.
— Morten Wears a Mask (@mor10) January 4, 2021
Matt Mullenweg, founder of WordPress stated that this product is meant to compete with the companies like Squarespace, where people on the entry level of creating an online business might turn to.
The goal then is to keep new businesses within the WordPress ecosystem as opposed to buying into the Wix and Squarespace markets where there is no market at all for WordPress developers.
I would be extremely surprised if this impacts anyone’s consulting business, if you do have a current or potential client leave for it please let me know — it should be all new-to-WP users who wouldn’t have been successful getting started.
— Matt Mullenweg (@photomatt) January 4, 2021
Others were looking on the bright side of the announcement to see if WordPress.com would open the program up to white label work by trusted agencies. Matt indicated he was open to that.
How does an agency get involved so they can receive referrals from this service? What’s the agency’s cut of the $4,900? Who handles the customer during development and after? What’s included in the package? Why is this something https://t.co/DoK7RXvK3t needs to do?
— Scott Carter (@sc456a) January 5, 2021
It’s unclear if anyone wants this yet, so for this experiment don’t have that yet. If it works then definitely will try to open it up.
— Matt Mullenweg (@photomatt) January 5, 2021
The entire community wasn’t against the development. Some commented that this did not represent a head-on competition with the WordPress development community, as it was more about competing against companies like Wix and keeping more of the Internet within the WordPress ecosystem.