WordPress' Seat at the Table

Episode 37 February 10, 2022 00:14:38
WP Review
WordPress' Seat at the Table

Hosted By

Joe Casabona

Show Notes

After 2021 ended with a call from Matt Mullenweg to contribute more to open source (specifically WordPress), 2022 began with a less rosy picture of the open source space. Some of the biggest names in tech met at the White House to discuss how to identify critical open source projects. surreptitiously missing from this meeting was representation for WordPress. But that's because we need to answer an important question: Who?

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Show Notes

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Episode Transcript

After 2021 ended with a call from Matt Mullenweg to contribute more to open source (specifically WordPress) 2022 began with a less rosy picture of the open-source space. Some of the biggest names in tech met at the White House to discuss how to identify critical open source projects. And today, we are going to discuss where WordPress falls in all of that. Hey, everybody. And welcome to WP Review for February 10th, 2022. This is a show that provides an analysis on what's happening in the WordPress space and what it means for users and business owners in the ecosystem. This podcast is brought to you by GoDaddy Pro who you'll hear about later in the show. My name is Joe Casabona. And today, we're talking about WordPress's seat at the table. As reported by ZDNet: “The meeting, led by White House cybersecurity leader Anne Neuberger, included officials from organizations like Apache, Google, Apple, Amazon, IBM, Microsoft, Meta, Linux, and Oracle as well as government agencies like the Department of Defense and the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA).” That is quite a list of companies. And this follows White House national security advisor, Jake Sullivan saying open-source software is “a key at national security concern”. While reporting on this meeting last month, Dan Knauss, (I hope I'm saying that right. Dan) who was reporting for Post Status pointed out that surreptitiously missing from that list and this meeting was “WordPress.” “Currently, WordPress and other open-source projects, many of which belong to the WordPress ecosystem, do not have a seat at the table… Clearly, that needs to change.” And I agree that one of the biggest open-source projects on earth, and the open-source project that powers over 40% of the web should have a seat at the table. But there's a very important one-word question that we need to answer: Who? Who from “WordPress” gets a seat at the table when there's no official clear option? And this has been a point of confusion for as long as .org and .com co-existed. WordPress is not an organization. It's not represented by a single person officially. So whereas Google can send Larry Page, or in this case, the president of Global Affairs, Kent Walker, “WordPress” can't send anyone because there is no one officially. Wordpress.org is strictly run by volunteers (more or less). And Wordpress.com is a commercial property that uses and contributes to WordPress, but it's owned by Automattic much like Yoast, Nexcess, even GoDaddy Pro who have platforms that are built on WordPress. Automattic is a for-profit company that doesn't represent the open-source project (though anyone can be forgiven for thinking otherwise.) There's also the WordPress foundation, a nonprofit that was basically created to hold WordPress and WordCamp trademarks, instead of them being held by Automattic. But they do have a mission statement from their website? “The point of the foundation is to ensure free access, in perpetuity, to the software projects we support. People and businesses may come and go, so it is important to ensure that the source code for these projects will survive beyond the current contributor base, that we may create a stable platform for web publishing for generations to come.” While you think that this might be a better candidate for representing the open-source project, aside from the trademarks, it can't really claim any more ownership of the open-source project than Automattic or Yoast, or anybody who's made considerable contributions. Oh, and this along with Automattic, has Matt listed as the CEO. At least in the most recent data, I can find. That open-source project or the open-source project itself has a rich community of people who contribute in many ways from contributing code to contributing time and learning resources and organizing events. So what about the open-source project? But we still don't have an answer even if we say yes, someone from the open-source project because there's no official singular leader of the open-source project. Release leads are supposed to change from release to release. Of course, Matt has been the release lead nearly uninterrupted for 3 straight years. We don't know at the time of this recording who is going to be the release lead for 6.0. So if Matt is the CEO of Automattic, the biggest contributor to the open-source project and the CEO of the WordPress Foundation which is charged with ensuring the project stays open-source, and he's the longest-running and most recent release lead, is it Matt who should get WordPress seat at the table? Let's step back for a minute. But because between the question of leadership in the open-source project, the Five for the Future debate, compensating contributors, and the non-discussion that is the WordPress app store, a lot of big questions hang over the open-source projects had. Because the truth is, with Matt being the top dog in all three of these areas of WordPress, there's already a suspicion among some that he's guiding the open-source project in a way that's mostly beneficial to Automattic. This is not me editorializing. There has been as recently as the week I'm recording this discussion of “If Full Site Editing is just .com’s goals leaking into the open-source project?” And this is the very thing the WordPress foundation is supposed to prevent. So who gets WordPress a seat at the table? I don't think this question can adequately be answered until either: We implement a governance structure for the WordPress project. Matt Mullenweg steps down from one of his overlapping leadership roles, and therefore ending (or at least lessening) the conflict of interest that exists Automattic just admits that they own the Open Source project and will take control of making all of the decisions. Because at least in that last scenario, we know who gets the seat at the table. And it's the person who everyone probably assumes gets it anyway. But this would require us to say the quiet part out loud. And it would require Automattic to say the same thing. And I know this sounds like an anti-Matt Mullenweg rant. I assure you it's not. But what I don't like is the duality we see in this space. If Matt owns the open-source project, (which I don't know what else the moniker “Benevolent Dictator for Life” would imply) besides that, then we should just say it and move on. I would much rather that happen because at least then it's crystal clear who gets that seat at the table. This episode is brought to you by GoDaddy Pro. GoDaddy Pro is an experience tailored specifically to the needs of web designers and developers and helps them more efficiently manage their work and deliver results for their clients. Combining website, client, and project management, GoDaddy Pro is an integrated solution made by and for web professionals. Whether you are new to web design or looking to grow your business, you'll find the tools, products, guidance, and support to help you deliver results for clients. At the heart of GoDaddy pro is the hub. From one intuitive dashboard, the hub seamlessly brings your sites, clients, and projects together. Manage and monitor all of your client's WordPress sites from a single place. No more juggling multiple client passwords. With one click, perform bulk updates, backups, and security checks no matter where your client's sites are hosted. You will save time and free up your day. Integrated Project Management makes it easier to keep track of your client communications and deliver projects on time. Electronically sign, notarize, and store documents. You can create a visual timeline to break down projects into smaller tasks, to stay on track, and on time. Access all of your client accounts with a single sign-on through their tailored shopping experience by-products to help clients grow their business like powerful e-commerce stores using Woocommerce. You can always reach dedicated and knowledgeable customer support. 24/7. On top of that, you'll find a thriving community of web designers and developers who share advice, insights, and learning opportunities. GoDaddy Pro is free to join. Head over to [go.me/wpreview] to get started. That's [go.me/wpreview]. Now, I do have a quick addendum to this story. Shortly after I finished writing this piece, I discovered a new blog post on [wordpressfoundation.org], the official website of the WordPress foundation called “What is the WordPress Foundation and Why Does it Exist?” This post makes a very strong case for the foundation being, not just for WordPress, but all open source. Here's a quote from the article. “The WordPress Foundation is here to ensure that open-source software is part of the future. Human beings may have limited life spans, but our efforts don’t have to. Our organization wants to ensure that the source code for projects like WordPress will survive beyond the current contributor base, so we may create a stable web publishing platform for generations to come.” And then there's the call to action: If you want a future where open source exists, you can help. Donate to the WordPress foundation. This sounds a lot like the expert I read earlier from their website, except in this one open-source software is specifically called out not just software projects we like. And maybe I'm confirming my bias here, but it kind of sounds like the WordPress Foundation is positioning itself to be deserving of the seat at the table. And maybe that's a good thing. Maybe there are some organizational changes coming to the WordPress foundation because honestly, it's kind of opaque. There's no clear list on their website of who is in charge. If you look at their financial or filing papers, you'll see a three-person board member. But it's not really clear aside from Matt being the founder, and presumably, the CEO based on what I've seen listed in other places. Who else is part of the WordPress foundation specifically? So maybe the WordPress foundation is the era parents to the seat at the table. I'm excited and interested to see how things transpire. As always, I want to hear your thoughts on this. You can continue the conversation at (@jcasabona) on Twitter, or you can always head over to [wpreview.io/contact] to get in touch with me. Now, I have not prepared a recommendation for this week. Honestly, there's been a lot going on. But what I did do is release a new YouTube video that I will link in the show notes where there's also a written to be read version of this episode over at [wpreview.io/37] for episode 37. And I attempted to take full site editing or to take my website, [casabona.org], and convert it to full site editing in a staging environment. So I took a few pages. I used only core WordPress in 2022 and full site editing. And I tried to recreate all of the content using just the default blocks. So check it out. I'll link it in the show notes over at [wpreview.io/37]. You can also find it over on YouTube, on my YouTube channel, which is just titled Joe Casabona. But that is it for this episode of WP Review. I hope you liked it. I always want to hear from you, like I said. To get even more WordPress insights and to subscribe to this show, head over to [wpreview.io/subscribe]. If you want to get behind the scenes content on how I'm using WordPress, how I prepare these episodes, and more, you can become a member over at [joincreatorcrew.com]. And finally, you can find all of the show notes over at [wpreview.io/37]. If you like this episode, share it with a friend. Thanks to GoDaddy Pro for sponsoring this episode. Until next time. I'm Joe Casabona, and I'll see you out there.

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