What do Acquisitions in the WordPress Space Mean?

Episode 17 June 04, 2021 00:35:11
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WP Review
What do Acquisitions in the WordPress Space Mean?
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Joe Casabona

Show Notes

It’s been an action-packed couple of weeks in the WordPress space! Just this week, 2 more acquisitions were announced. One from Delicious Brains, and one from Liquid Web. We’ll get into all the news, as well as answer the big question: what do all of these acquisitions mean for the WordPress ecosystem?

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Episode Transcript

Hello, and welcome to WP Review, a show that looks at WordPress news offers opinions, and brings you new and helpful tools to build a better WordPress website. This podcast is brought to you by creator courses. It’s a website that I run. I put my own courses on there. And they show you how to build things sometimes with WordPress, sometimes not. But, I am working on a new Gutenberg course and it’s going to be updated for WordPress 5.8. It’s going to have a separate full site editing course, but you’ll be able to get them in a bundle. So if you want to learn the latest and greatest about Gutenberg and WordPress, you can head over to [creatorcourses.com]. You can use the code WPR for 10% off any course. And if you sign up for any course today, then you will get lifetime updates. So the Gutenberg course, you’ll be able to get for pretty good discourse because that price is going up when I release the new version of it. And if you get the Gutenberg for freelancers course, you’ll get the updates and you’ll get the full site editing course for free. So, something to think about there. Head over to [creativecourses.com]. Use the code WPR at checkout for 10% of anything. All right. My name’s Joe Casabona, let’s get to the review. I’m doing something different today. So if you ever wondered what does Joe looks like when he is recording of podcast, I’ve got the camera rolling for this one. So I’ll try to adjust the camera as much as possible. I do have notes on my screen though. I will show you some of them. So if you are new to the show, this is a segmented type of podcast where I do the promo, and then I talk about top stories, I do a main segment, and then I recommend a theme, a plugin, or an event in the WordPress space. So there’s a lot of news to cover here and I just figured I’d try something different by having the camera rolling. So, you can go over to Casabona.live, and that will, I shouldn’t say that I guess. Why don’t you go to [wpreview.io/youtube], and that’ll take you to, we’ll say the most recent video of me talking like this. You just saw me think about that. I need to remember to do that now. But that’s not why you’re here. You’re here for the news. So let’s get to the first big piece of news here. And that is earlier this week, Delicious Brains announced that they are, or they have acquired Advanced Custom Fields. Now in episode five of the Delicious Brains podcast, I love that name by the way fellows. Ladies and gentlemen, over there at Delicious Brains, it’s not just fellows over there, everybody over at Delicious Brains, love that name, Delicious Brains. But they have acquired Advanced Custom Fields. Personally, I think that this is a great move. Congratulations to Elliott. He was a one-man-band overrunning ACF for 10 years. It is one of the most popular plugins among users and developers. I have my own course over on LinkedIn learning for how to use Advanced Custom Fields. And it’s a pretty popular one. So congratulations to Elliot on his 10-year journey, 10 years of Advanced Custom Fields that ends in an acquisition by Delicious Brains. Now, Delicious Brains is an incredible company. They make one of my other favorite plugins, WP Migrate DB Pro. I use that and all of its ad-ons regularly because it makes moving sites so easy. They do such a good job with that plugin. What that suite of plugins that I know that ACF is in good hands over there. So you can listen to the podcast to get their take on it. My general take is that you know, the Delicious Brains folks are great developers. They do a lot of really interesting stuff there. They share a lot of really good stuff on their blog to a lot of developer stuff. So it’s great to see ACF move into what will be a team of developers working on this plugin. I’m excited to see what Delicious Brains does with it. And I think it makes sense for Delicious Brains too, cause they are very familiar with the WordPress database. And ACF does some pretty heavy-duty stuff with the custom meta boxes or the, I guess custom metal boxes is another plugin, with the custom fields API or whatever in WordPress. And I’m again, I’m just excited to see what Delicious Brains are going to do with it. Now, there was a lot of consternation, as there often is with an acquisition. People were worried about what’s going to happen to a lifetime license. Users, I am one of those people. I am a lifetime ACF license holder. I picked it up. And let me just say, picked it up for a song. Like I make a recurring revenue from my course over on LinkedIn learning and I picked it up for a song I’ve used on client sites. I’ve used it on my own sites. How I built it, [howibuilt.it] is powered by ACF. And that is a big revenue generator for me. So what I’m going to say here is while I am extremely happy that Delicious Brains has come out, Brad Touesnard, the Founder of Delicious Brains has come out and said that they’re honoring the lifetime license forever. I would not be mad If they were like, look, we got to switch you to a yearly subscription. And I was reading in discussion boards that people are or were like, they were worried that this was going to happen. And someone said you know like security updates should be free. That would be like renting an office space for, or not even an office space. That would be like renting a storefront where you operate your business, where people come in and buy stuff and saying to the landlord, I’m going to pay you once for this space. Also, you’re going to pay for utilities. That is what you’re saying when you say, “I should only pay once for this software. Also, you should continue to support it.” Supporting software costs money, especially if you have developers as talented as the ones at ACF. Elliott is a very talented developer, the folks at Delicious Brains are very talented developers. If you don’t see the value in what these tools bring to your business, I’m sorry. You have no business being an entrepreneur or a freelancer. If you don’t see the value in what these tools do for you, you do not deserve to run a business. Because how can you go to someone and say, “I’m going to charge you this much money for the service I provide you”, if you don’t see the value in the services others provide for you. You know, this is not today’s main topic that saves me. Topic is more analysis. But maybe in the future, I’ll talk more about this. Cause this is like, this is something that sticks in my crawl or whatever that colloquialism is, It’s, you know, we on the web have it pretty easy as far as business expenses go. And to complain about software that is an integral part of our business is not fair to the developers. It’s frankly childish for you if you’re one of those people who complain. And I just don’t understand how you can expect people to pay you what you think you’re worth if you’re not willing to pay other people what they’re worth. Well, that news ended in a soapbox session. I hope you liked it. But, anyway, again, Brad Touesnard said that they’re going to honor the lifetime license, and, you know, he mentioned that there was no mention of lifetime in the post when they first published it. That was corrected. I don’t really think that Brad needs to, I mean, it’s smart that he did that, right? This is what makes him a better business owner than me probably. But I don’t think that he really needed to apologize for this. But you know, I mean, at the very least, maybe in an email to lifetime member saying like “Hey, and this will still be lifetime” But again, if they turned around and told me tomorrow, we’re going to charge you annually for this, I’m going to be like, “Okay.” So, all right. Anyway, that was the WordPress announcement of epic proportions from Delicious Brains. Congratulations to Delicious Brains. Congratulations to Elliott of ACF. Really happy for both of you. And, I’m excited to see where ACF is going to go in the near future. Okay. The second thing I want to talk about is a super cool study by WPMarmite. I, (oh, gosh. I’m really sorry if I actually know the people who run WP Marmite, but, I don’t think I’ve heard of WPMarmite before this). But they conducted a study of 127 WordPress theme shops to evaluate if they are ready. If themes in general and theme shops are ready for full site editing. Now, this is a pretty long tweet thread with lots of graphics and stuff like that. If you want to break down the Tavern doing fantastic work, as usual, has a breakdown of it. And so, you know, and I like the context in Justin Tadlock wrote this episode, this article, you know, FSC is not a single thing that’s going to get dropped on us all at once. In fact, earlier this week, when I was kind of figuring out what to cover in my course, I really just want to cover what’s going to be in this latest release of core for at least part of the course. Right. I don’t want to make the whole course dependent on the Gutenberg plugin. But I was a little bit confused as to the exact features of FSC. Like I saw like remnants of the template of creating your own templates. I know that like the widgets as blocks as there. But, anyway, and it says it right here. I just mentioned the two things. Single post page template editing and block-based widgets are expected to arrive with 5.8. So, the study looks at Block Editor support. So all themes kind of work with the WordPress editor, but do they support blocks? it sounds like they found 57% of them feature in their compatibility or featured their compatibility with the block editor in some way. Justin points out that it might not mean solid support. So, and then have the full site editing survey. It looks like 82% follow FSC related news. 86% believe that FSE will be a breakthrough. Maybe I’ll go back to the Twitter thread, right? Cause there are some nice graphics here. Only 17% of the theme shops offer custom Gutenberg blocks. Okay. Block Patterns are very rare. For a video on how to create your own block patterns, you can head over to [wpreview.io/youtube]. I have a YouTube video over there. But only 3% offer patterns. That’s four out of 127, and they’re actually named Anders Noren is on that list obviously, cause he’s like a prolific WordPress theme designer. 17% of theme shops, right about Gutenberg, 65% update or release a theme and the updated or released a theme in the last three months. So 22% are working on a full site editing-ready theme. And again, they named names. StudioPress is one of them that will be exciting. 9% of theme shops are contributing to full site editing. 32% aren’t working on blocks nor FSC at this time. So again, just some interesting numbers to look at as we get ready for full site editing, which is about a month out as we record this. 5.8 it’s about a month out. So a really good number and a breakdown here. Some more acquisitions new. Today’s main topic is going to be about the acquisition. But some more acquisition news is Iconic, which is a WooCommerce plugin shop is joining the Liquid Web family. They’re joining the Liquid Web family under the new brand StellarWP that was announced with the GiveWP acquisition. So again, congratulations to everybody involved. I got to interview James on my podcast a while back. Another great acquisition for Liquid Web. There are a lot of really good plugins here for WooCommerce. Obviously, LiquidWeb offers, (Gosh. They might be the only ones offering managed WooCommerce hosting, or at least they’re the only ones calling it that.) And so I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw the integration of these plugins into at least some levels of managed WooCommerce hosting. Creator courses is on Manage WooCommerce hosting. It’s really good. It’s fast. I love it. And so, just congratulations to the Liquid Web team on another great acquisition. And finally, I do just want to mention this really quick Jonathan Wold, a WordPress evangelist formerly of X WP. (Gosh. Jonathan, I’m really sorry if I’m messing that up. I don’t think I am.) Go to the about page really quick. Yeah. I’m like nearly certain it was WP, before he left that company and worked for Automatic for a little while. But anyway, he’s like a big thinker in the WordPress space and he has some really great thoughts on an app store for WordPress. Now, last week I participated in Post Status comments, which was a Twitter space, which they turned into a podcast. But we talked about what [WordPress.org] can do to help plugin developers monetize a little bit better, and an app store came up frequently. So, Jonathan Wold has some really great thoughts on defining the problems, defining success. I would encourage you to take a look at this post. I will link all of this in the show notes over at [wpreview.io]. Some really good food for thought here again. It made me, I will release my thoughts in a later episode, coming up with a bunch of future content for me. But, I just wanted to touch on that really quick. So, before we get into the main segment again, I do want to mention career courses. If you want to pick up the block editor course or Gutenberg for freelancers, 10% off with the code WP. And when the updates come out, you will get the updates for free. And yeah. So let’s get into the main segment here. The main segment is acquisitions in the WordPress space. I was on WP weekly or, this week in WordPress, perhaps. I always forget what they call it, but it’s Nathan Wrigley and Paul Lacey’s weekly discussion which is on Mondays at 2:00 PM, UK time. And I was on a couple of weeks ago and we were talking about the Give WP acquisition. And I was asked, well, I mean, the topic came up, What are we…it’s called this weekend in WordPress. The topic came up. What do we think about all these acquisitions? What does it mean for the WordPress space? And there were two more this week. And one was even not from a hosting company. So what does this mean? I said this a couple of years ago, but it just really means that the WordPress space is maturing and growing. This is what happens in other spaces, Apple, Google, and Facebook make all sorts of acquisitions like this all the time. They do a cost-benefit analysis and they realize that it would be better to buy a company or a product than to develop one from scratch. Syed Balkhi at Awesome Motive has been doing this for years. Acquiring plugins and folding them into Awesome Motive, and giving them the Awesome Motive treatment. So, you know, I think what we’re seeing is just something that’s going to continue to happen, especially for plugin and theme developers who have been in the game for a long time. And things are changing, and maybe they can’t keep up or don’t want to keep up, or are ready for something new. I suspect this is probably something that happened to Elliot. He’s one man in Australia. I suspect a lot of his customer base is outside of Australia. But he’s one man managing a plugin that is used on everything from tiny mom and pop shops to government organizations. That is not only a lot of liability, but it’s a lot of stress for a single person. And Delicious Brains, also, I suspect WP Migrate DB Pro is used on the same range of customers, but they have a team of people who will be able to continue to support ACF. I assume we’ll see some pretty good synergy between the two plugins in the near future. And again, this is what happened with Iconic, Give WP, Atomic Blocks when that was acquired. You know, we see these smaller plugins fold into bigger companies because ultimately, that is probably what is best for the plugin. WP Simple Pay, I’ve been using that a lot lately. Phil Derrickson, sold that to, well, that was like an Aqua hire, but, sold that to Pippin, Sandhills Development. So that’s part of the EDD family and the affiliate WP family. So I think, I just think this is maturation in the WordPress space. Now, specifically for hosting companies, I offered some good thoughts then that I want to share here because if you actually take a closer look at some of these acquisitions, I think we’re seeing a little bit of a playbook here. And so I’ll focus on LiquidWeb. I’m most familiar with them. I know many people who work there and all of my stuff is hosted with Liquid Web. But they acquired iThemes, iThemes despite the name offers a whole suite of stuff. Really no longer themes. And yeah. Those tools that they offer. And I think he’s offered hosting for a while too. Still, do I think but, their tools are just general good multi-site management tools. iTheme sync, Backup Buddy, and things like that. So, that was a good acquisition. But iThemes also has a very good educational arm. They do webinars and workshops. They have their members, and they do a really good job over there of keeping their customer base educated. I got to do a three-hour workshop recently on WordPress foundations we called it. And so Nathan Ingram is doing a great job. He’s still managing that as far as I know, but IiThemes is focused on education, at least some aspect of it. And then let’s look at some of the other things that LiquidWeb has acquired recently. Restrict Content Pro memberships, WP course where WP complete, I want to say it’s WP complete, which is essentially a way to add kind of lightweight courseware on top of membership or any LMS to track course completion. So memberships courses were to some extent, Chris Lema, who’s the vice president of product over at Liquid Web just wrapped up a big series on creating online courses. And well, I mean, while it’s on his personal blog, I mean, it’s hard to think that he’s not doing that for some grander purpose. Not that I spoke to him about it. That’s pure conjecture. But then Give WP, right, Give WP is a donor model. It has subscriptions built-in. it’s an e-commerce platform specifically for nonprofit organizations that rely on memberships and subscriptions. So I think Liquid Web fully moving into the educational and membership space and with managed WooCommerce hosting, they have the e-commerce part of that, right. They have hosting that can handle memberships and subscriptions and taking payments. And of course, WooCommerce has its own set of subscription-based stuff. That said, Automatic acquired WooCommerce subscriptions and ProsPress which is the owner of WooCommerce subscriptions. GoDaddy acquired SkyVerge, which makes WooCommerce memberships. Those two plugins worked very well together. I’m sure they still do. They’re just owned by different entities now, but so Liquid Web picked up Restrict Content Pro. Great plugin. I use it. And then they have some other tools to help people with the subscriptions, the recurring revenue, the membership aspect. And I really think that’s where they’re going here. Right? iThemes is focused on education. Liquid Web is making a bunch of moves in that space. GoDaddy who picked up SkyVerge, they are going full e-commerce and it’s like, it’s super clear, right? They talk about WooCommerce a lot. SkyVerge, prolific WooCommerce, and e-commerce plug-in developer. They also made jilt which is cart abandonment. And so I think that GoDaddy is, I don’t even really feel like I need to think that anymore. I think they’ve made their strategy pretty clear. They are doing WooCommerce stuff. If you look at GoDaddy Pro for example, which, full disclosure, GoDaddy will be sponsoring this podcast in the very near future. So just full disclosure on that, if you think later, like, “Oh! Joe was just saying this.” So they’ll be a sponsor of this podcast in the very near future. But, you know, the WooCommerce is all over the GoDaddy Pro homepage. They focus on it. They have specific e-commerce hosting and their acquisitions dictate that they’re fully moving in that direction. So GoDaddy is focusing on WooCommerce. The last one I want to point out Is WP Engine, right? Cause WP engine has made several acquisitions in the last couple of years. Studiopress is a big one. They’re known for their beautiful designs. They’re beautiful theme designs that are being folded into a WP Engine hosting. So if you are a WP Engine customer, you get access to at least some of these themes. They acquired a FlyWheel which was hosting specific who targeted designers. And so I think that the WP Engine is going to focus is moving focus to the design part of it. Right. They probably see a lot of designers creating websites, but they’re maybe not as technical as the backend developer type. And so they want good hosting that they don’t have to worry about. WP Engine I feel is more locked down than Liquid Web. At least I haven’t used GoDaddy hosting recently, or I haven’t used GoDaddy Pro hosting at least. But with WP Engine, you know, there are certain things you can do, certain things you can’t do, maybe that’s by design. Maybe they’re going for the less technical audience, gets set up with a beautiful website, quickly, our tools are built for designers, et cetera. So that’s my general thoughts. And then you have some other big players that I haven’t mentioned here. Pagely, we’ll say the oldest managed WordPress hosting company, I think that’s their claim. They’re pretty focused on the enterprise and they do a lot of stuff in the enterprise. Not to say that the others don’t. Liquid Web has like a HIPAA compliant hosting and WP Engine works pretty closely with Crowd Favorite if I’m not mistaken. But I just think if I’m looking, I haven’t talked to any of these people, but if I’m looking at the acquisitions, I think those are the moves the hosting companies are gonna make. And so soon, we’ll see Silos of kind of types of WordPress sites were, cause you need to niche down, you need to differentiate. And so if you need a good WordPress membership site, you go to Liquid Web. Maybe if you need a WooCommerce site that you want up and running quickly, and you don’t want to think too much about it, you go to GoDaddy. If you’re a designer and you just want to pick a really nice theme that you can customize easily, and you don’t want to worry about the tech stuff, you go to WP Engine. That’s kind of what I’m thinking. What I believe. And so we’ll see if that pans out, you know, I kind of feel like I’m one of those movie theory people right now, you know, like if you watch like Marvel YouTube videos, they just like throw wild theories at the wall to see what sticks. So those are my general thoughts. Okay. So last thing I want to talk about is the recommended theme or plugin. And I wanna talk about Cadence, the Cadence theme, another Liquid Web acquisition, by the way. So I’m thinking if you want the total package, you need a good theme, Cadence has a lot of great tools. They have WooCommerce tools, but they also have a page builder that’s built on the block editor that’s really flexible and fast. And so I relaunched [podcastliftoff.com] using Cadence and their block editor. And I’ve got to say, I’m really happy with it. There is some nuanced stuff, I’ll maybe do some tutorials on how to use Cadence, but, any more of these days, I’m recommending Cadence or Astra. And for this one, I decided to check out Cadence and I’m really happy with it. They’ve got some nice templates. I’m sure we’ll see some more. If I was a betting man, I would say that we’ll probably see better Restrict Content Pro Integration in the near future. Oh, I didn’t even mention the Events Calendar. Liquid Web also picked up the Events Calendar. So you are nonprofit running events for your members, or you’re running virtual events for your members or your subscribers, now you’ve got a good toolset for that too. But, yeah. Just Cadence. I really like it. It’s super clean. It’s there’s this tiny bit of, not a tiny bit. There’s a little bit of a learning curve. They do some new things. They put things in different places. And I don’t know how much of that is like the block editor versus what they’ve done on top of the block editor. But, you know, I was able to make a, I think this is a really nice looking site and I’m not the best designer in the world. So some of the things that I wish you could do are, like set a consistent, I mean, you probably can, I just haven’t dug into it. But, you know, in general with this, kind of do it all yourself themes. I would love to see a little bit more consistency. They have like block patterns, not block patterns, but like templates. But they like to pull in custom fonts. I really wish they didn’t do that cause I’m, you know, I’m trying to keep this light and I’m not trying to have like four different fonts on my site. But in general, you know, I really like this theme. You can do some pretty cool stuff with it. And yeah. I would generally recommend it. If you want to get it, I guess we can take a peek, you can take a peek here on the, this is like terrible podcast content. But it tells a lot of features. So if you’re watching the video, you know, I’m heading over to, I think it’s, cadenceWP is the website I want to go to. [cadencewp.com]. I have a link in the show notes for this too. I’ll have like an affiliate link. There’ll be affiliate links in the show notes. But, yeah. They offer the theme. They offer the blocks and you can do some pretty, pretty nice stuff. I mean, they’ve got like full site templates to get you started. It integrates with all sorts of page builders. It already integrates with Restrict Content Pro, it says here. So, and Learndash for that matter. So, you know, if you’re looking for a new theme that you want to try, and you use, if you, first of all, if you want just a standard Gutenberg page builder, they have their blocks plugged into. But if you use Elementor or Beaver Builder, they’ve got you covered. Okay. So, there you go. That’s my recommendation. That’s it for this episode of WP Review. Thanks for listening, sticking around with me. If you’re watching, thanks for watching. I’ll change my lights to give you a little something on the watch feed. To get even more WordPress insights and to subscribe to this show, you can head over to [wpreview.io/subscribe]. You can find all the show notes over at [wpreview.io]. And if you liked this episode, share it with a friend in the WordPress space, maybe. Thanks to creator courses for sponsoring. And until next time. I’m Joe Casabona, and I will see you out there.

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