Apple has discontinued the iPod. When the iPod came out in 2001, it literally changed the world. And I don't mean “literally” like “figuratively”. I mean, it shifted how people consumed music on the go.
Another thing that happened recently was that WordPress lost a market share for the first time ever. How are these two events related? They both happened this week, of course. But what does one have to do with the other? And what does this mean for freelancers? Well, I don't really dive into that in the main article, so I'll just let you know, not much. If you want to keep using WordPress, you can keep using WordPress. But there are a lot of similarities between the iPod and WordPress. And that's what we're going to talk about in this week's episode.
Welcome to WP Review Review, a show that provides an analysis of what's happening in WordPress and what it means for users and business owners in the ecosystem. This podcast is brought to you by GoDaddy Pro. My name's Joe Casabona. And today we're going to talk about what WordPress has to do with the discontinued iPod.
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Now, I was an Apple hater for a long time. I didn't get my first Mac until 2008 and I didn't get the iPod until much later after it came out. Once I did get it, though, I gotta say the nano and the shuffle were incredible. The fact that I could leave everything except this tiny square in my car when I went to the gym was amazing.
What I do remember is a time before the iPod. I remember what it was like carting around a Sony Discman (which you can see the one I had in the show notes) over at [wpreview.io/49]. I remember what it was like carting around a Sony and a booklet of CDs. I still have that booklet of CDs in a giant binder. These devices touted shock and skip protection, and impossible promises to keep, especially if you tried any activity with them.
Now, mix CDs made having CDs slightly better. But you'd still need to carry around a bunch of disks. I have dozens of playlists. And God-forbid, one of those discs got scratched. I can still hear the gnarly skip in one of my favorite songs, Above Me by Rufio. And I even expect that skip when I'm streaming the song.
Anyway, portable CDs or portable CD players were not ideal, but it's all we had until the iPod came out. The iPod told the story of putting 1000 songs in your pocket. It made listening on the go so much easier as did the clones that came out trying to copy it. I had a creative Zen M or something like that. And I still believe that Microsoft Zune was grossly underrated.
But after 21 years and two dozen iterations, the iPod has been discontinued. And it makes sense. The iPhone and other smart devices make the iPod obsolete. The Apple Watch has replaced the iPod Shuffle as the tiny device that you can take with you on runs or to the gym. In other words, Apple's products have evolved beyond the iPod, while recognizing the iPod was an important step in the evolutionary process.
But what does this have to do with WordPress?
Well, as you may have heard by now, especially if you didn't skip the intro, WordPress's market share has decreased for the first time ever. From 43.3% in March (that's also where it was in February) to 42.9%. earlier this week, the week of May 2022.
This feels like a big deal to everyone who thinks that the market share is the be-all-end-all. And it's really easy to think that when the number is going up, it's always going to go up.
But as the saying goes, “Winning is a great deodorant because it covers up all the smells.” In other words, when things are good, it's easy to overlook the bad. When the market share for WordPress keeps going up, it's easy to overlook the complaints of the entrenched community.
But the fact of the matter is that people have been leaving WordPress for a while now. March was just the first time the number of people who came and the number of people who went matched. In April, more people went than came.
The Block Editor and Full Site editing are being widely attributed for the reason and this is speculation. But there are also competitors improving their products, especially when it comes to performance (this is also speculation, but at least it's provable) or there's evidence to back that one up. Hard evidence. The fact that WordPress performance has decreased in the era of the Block Editor for example.
One year after the Wix controversy, Wix’s gained on WordPress. Their headphone blitz doesn't look so bad anymore. And full disclosure, I was a recipient of a set of those headphones. I've since gifted them to my brother. When I see these numbers, I can't help but think that WordPress is a lot like the iPod. And if we're not careful, it might suffer a similar fate. The only difference is where Apple decided to discontinue the iPod. WordPress's discontinuation won't be up to us. It'll be up to the market.
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Now let's look at a brief history. When WordPress first came out, it was to vastly improve upon previously existing solutions. And it did that incredibly well.
As a result, the platform grew and evolved, responding to the market's needs. Much like how the iPod revolutionized portable music. WordPress revolutionized blogging platforms and content management systems. Much like how the iPod came to support video, shrunk in size and gained more storage, WordPress similarly evolved by adding pages, content types, and a standardized way of customizing themes. But when Apple was ready to create a phone line, they didn't just shove a SIM card into an iPod. They made a whole new product: the iPhone. And they released the iPhone when it was ready to be released.
I think Full Site Editing today and the Block Editor back in 2018, were rushed, half-baked, and should have been their own products at least in the beginning. Because it's clearer than ever now that Gutenberg is still not ready for prime time.
When the iPhone came out in 2007, two things were true:
1. The iPhone was ready for market and immediately became a revolutionary product. The story told here was “full websites on your phone”. Before that, you could not get anything remotely close to a full website.
2. iPod users were unaffected. When the iPhone came out, people could still use their iPods. New iPod products came out and the iPod continued to have an incredible run until at least 2014.
When the iPod touch came out, it was the iPhone's form factor without the phone. This was one of many options (I'm emphasizing the many options iPhone and iPod users have). Because we talk about in the WordPress space, decisions not options.
But you can't hide behind decisions not options as a way to justify bad decisions. Imagine if, to use your iPod starting in 2007, you were required to have a cellular plan? The iPod would have been discontinued a lot sooner than this year.
Now imagine this: Instead of rushing Gutenberg into 5.0 just to say that it happened, the release team and the core team waited...keeping the Block Editor as a separate plugin for much longer. Maybe the plugin comes bundled with core instead of Hello Dolly, and maybe it's enabled by default on completely fresh installs. When it's ready to be used.
And imagine that it has a story to go along with it. Instead of that story being, “Hey, we cherry-picked a bunch of user tests and new users like it. We really promise.” It's this story:
The Classic Editor has gotten us far because it's familiar. We've built empires upon that, and it's not going away.
But times are changing. Page builders have made it easier than ever to build out full websites without code. We believe that Core WordPress should be able to do that too, and we're starting today with blog posts.
What an incredible presentation that would have been. Then, instead of showing user tests, you could show lots of examples of in-depth immersive blog posts written with the block. Then that playbook could be replicated for full site editing. You have a story and you have a slow rollout to make sure it works properly.
Earlier this year, I tried to answer the question: Who is Full Site Editing For? And I came up empty. While we were more cautious in rolling out full site editing than the block editor, it's still not even remotely ready. And it doesn't have a story. Unlike the block editor, we can't say full site editing is for new users who want a better experience because it's not for new users and it doesn't improve anybody's experience.
Apple played the slow game and it took nearly 15 years. Maybe this was their plan from the beginning, or maybe they fell into it. But now they have a product line that can fully replace the iPod. Enough people have phones and watches that the demand for the iPod has gone away. At least enough for them to feel good about getting rid of the iPad. I probably bought my last iPod in 2013, just a couple of years before I bought my first iPhone.
Gutenberg and WordPress could have eventually merged into one product without alienating a large portion of the user base without breaking important functionality. Once it was mature. Once it was ready.
Evolution takes a long time, especially when you have such a vast user base. Over 40% of the global market is a huge user base. For comparison's sake, in the United States, Apple commands 50% of the smartphone market. But globally, it's only 18%, and it's behind Samsung's 23%.
WordPress will likely survive this. It's certainly not going to disappear tomorrow. But if it continues to merge breaking changes into the core, and as competition gets better, we are going to see the market share continue to decrease.
Phases 1 and 2 of Gutenberg were rushed and half-baked when they went into the Core and it cost us. But if we learn our lesson, perhaps we can right the ship for phases 3 and 4.
As always, I would love to hear what you think about these thoughts: Is WordPress going the way of the iPod without us being able to tell the story we want to tell? Who is Full Site Editing For?
But that's it for this episode. Thanks so much for listening.
To get even more WordPress insights and to subscribe to this show, head over to [wpreview.io/49]. You can also get all of the show notes over there.
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Thanks to GoDaddy Pro for sponsoring. Until next time. I'm Joe Casabona, and I'll see you out there.