The WordPress Attack, Competition and Blogging Innovation

Adam Tinworth
Adam Tinworth

John Gruber mused:

I have to wonder when WordPress users will start switching to some other platform.

There’s a reason it’s not happening. They can’t. There are no good alternatives for a less technical user who wants to self-host.

There’s a vocal breed of WordPress advocate who pretty much equates blogging with WordPress. The two are synonymous, they argue. They treat my continued use of Movable Type as, at best, an aberration and, at worst, a political statement. It’s neither. I’ve just never had a compelling reason to shift off MT. It works fine for me, and pretty much always has.

The irony here is that these folks have helped facilitate this attack. There are people out there who would have been far better blogging on the hosted, Typepad or Squarespace, because they really don’t want to be bothered with the technical stuff, but were encouraged onto self-hosted WordPress because that was “real blogging”. If you’re on recent versions of WordPress, upgrading is now trivial. But still too many people don’t do it, just as they don’t run Windows Update.

A world with only one good self-hosted blogging platform would be a poorer world – and we’re dangerously close to that point. The competition that drives platform innovation would not be as strong, and the black hats have much more tempting targets to attack. For the sake of the development of this medium, we actually need a good, strong competitor to WordPress.

Six Apart has, to a large degree, ceded this ground to Automattic. Although MT4 and the in-beta MT5 are both huge steps forwards as large-scale blogging platforms, they’re tools for the technically-skilled at the installation and maintenance level, not the casual user. Habari and Melody aren’t ready for prime time yet. But one of them could rise to be a challenger, if they’re willing to look at the innovations the WordPress team have made in ease of use and maintenance, and attack them head-on.

And we need someone to do so, and soon. Blogging is a vibrant, fast-moving and dynamic medium. And handing it over entirely to one platform, one view on what a blog should be, will only stifle it – and hand more bloggers over to the spammers.

Automatticblog platformsBlogginghabarihackingmelodymovable typesix apartspamWordPress

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Adam is a lecturer, trainer and writer. He's been a blogger for over 20 years, and a journalist for more than 30. He lectures on audience strategy and engagement at City, University of London.