ClassicPress On the Rocks: Directors Resign, New Leadership Installed

Recent turbulence in the ClassicPress community has resulted in the directors resigning and new leadership installed. The WordPress fork is run under a non-profit organization called the ClassicPress Initiative. It supports work on a pared back version of WordPress, based on version 4.9, that uses the TinyMCE classic editor as the default option with no block editor.

The project appeared to be on the rocks a week ago when its directors published their resignation with a call for replacements.

“Over the last few days it has become crystal clear that the community feels that the Directors of the ClassicPress Initiative are now hindering the progress of the ClassicPress Project,” former director Wade Striebel said.

“As such, Michelle and I have decided to resign our positions as part of the non-profit organization that oversees the ClassicPress community, the ClassicPress Initiative. This will allow others to step in and move the ClassicPress Project forward.

“Both Michelle and I have been here since the beginning of ClassicPress, back almost four years ago. While it is sad to be leaving the community we saw grow and evolve over time to be the most successful fork of WordPress in years, it is time for a new direction under new governance.”

ClassicPress’ monthly costs in 2021 averaged $99.74 USD with donations averaging $10.34 per month. When the directors announced their intention to resign, there was $352 in the bank account. The project published its 2021 profit/loss statement from its 2021 taxes.

Over the weekend Striebel identified Viktor Nagornyy, William Patton, and Tim Kaye as the initiative’s new directors.

Community financial support for the project does not seem strong, but the prospect of getting people to do the work of maintaining the fork in addition to managing its administrative overhead has been a greater challenge.

“We’ve had committees with elected members, we had team leads, and we ended up here because they failed to work, people failed to do the work they said they would, and disappeared,” new diretor Nagornyy said. “We reached this point after grueling four years, including pandemic.

“If we do the same thing again, we will end up with the same results. Nobody wants that. We want CP to succeed, so we need to make changes with community’s support and input. We don’t want to do it alone, we need community’s support. It’s a community project.”

Nagornyy published a new project plan today, confirming that the Classic Press Initiative will continue to be the owner of the project infrastructure.

“This ownership model eliminates any one individual from being in charge and prevents egos from getting in the way,” he said. “This model also provides limited liability to everyone involved.”

As the project is barely scraping by financially, Nagornyy identified fundraising as its top priority, along with cutting expenses, and simplifying server infrastructure. He was also adamant about not having the full responsibility of running the project fall on the directors again.

“We are not in favor of having a rigid committee (or ‘council) structure,” Nagornyy said. “ClassicPress did try the ‘committee’ approach between 2018-2020. Unfortunately, it did not work out as expected and caused frequent disagreements between the members. Voting on issues became divisive and was one of the primary reasons for project stalling.

“As members left or became less active with the pandemic in full swing, the committees were dissolved, and directors took on the responsibilities no one wanted to keep the project alive.”

ClassicPress appears to be in a tenuous position as its new directors assume responsibility for the organization. The project is struggling to get people to contribute and will need to hit its fundraising goals fairly aggressively to ensure individual members do not become financially responsible for its support.

“History should not repeat itself, and we must learn from it,” Nagornyy said. “Making decisions is worthless if those decisions cannot or are not acted upon. It is instead much more important that we focus on encouraging and facilitating people to actually contribute.”

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18 responses to “ClassicPress On the Rocks: Directors Resign, New Leadership Installed”

    • Thumbs up William! Hopefully, things will get going again.

      I’ve been reluctant to go full-on with CP themes, although my themes do work on CP; watching CP over the last year. I suspected something wasn’t quite right when I saw the CP’s Twitter account never really growing in followers…which seemed to hang around in the 1500 range for so long.

      I’d like to see CP get out of this hurdle and get to that next level. There is a lot of potential for it!

  1. Thanks for sharing and reminding your audience ClassicPress is still very much around. Work on the core continues. I love WordPress, but it’s also nice to have an alternative to Gutenberg/FSE that feels like home, lightweight (half the size of WP core), and reliable with SemVer releases 😀

  2. ClassicPress will live or die based on whether the plugins that people want to use will work with it.

    Now that WordPress is eleven major versions ahead, the selection of popular plugins that are still compatible has shrunk considerably.

    CP will say that there is a plugin for this, a plugin for that. Language management, as one example. But WordPress devs (CP’s target audience) have their own favourite plugins for each key purpose, most of which now require WP 5.x. To go back to the example: can I use Polylang Pro with CP? No, I have to use WPML (bleh!). There are many other similar examples, including SEO.

    Hardly any major plugin developers are committing to keep their plugins compatible with WP 4.9 (the core version used in CP), and that is a huge issue when CP only seem to have a couple of productive developers on board and their own plugin directory (not developed with CP!) contains a bunch of small, narrow-focus plugins but hardly any big hitters.

    CP 1.x was going to be the “LTS” version, where you could continue using your favourite plugins and expect no breaking changes. Trouble is, the plugins are all leaving it behind.

    A CMS fork needs to inspire other devs to come on board, and all the going-round-in-circles and pointless meandering of the last 4 years (obsessively debating the login screen, anyone?) doesn’t seem to be achieving that.

    4 years is a long time in software development and I would argue that remarkably little has been achieved in that time.

    • Changes are coming. Community wants to move further away from WordPress ecosystem. It’s not easy, but we’re here to see it through.

    • Agree. Plugins are an important part of WordPress / ClassicPress and they update frequently and thus leave CP behind. It’s hard for CP to keep the same functionality or maintain a fork for CP for users.

      • Getting plugin developers to develop for ClassicPress is difficult, but maintaining a fork is not that difficult. It is stable, and we use SemVer to ensure releases are predictable, unlike WordPress. Version 1.x is an LTS version, so there are no breaking changes. A lot of backports, some new features and improvements. The core is half the size of the WordPress core, which makes things easier and improves performance.

        We have a team of core developers doing the work. Small but growing userbase that loves it. Plus, have plans to extract certain features such as XML-RPC, comments, customizer, etc. into core plugins to make core maintenance and development even easier. Not everyone needs those.

        Not easy, but doable.

  3. While it is sad to be stepping away, I am excited about the future of ClassicPress under new leadership. I look forward to seeing what the new directors can do and hope to support them as we all work to grow the ClassicPress community.

  4. ClassicPress has Opportunity to do better than WordPress as it listens to it’ Users.

    It need to move away from WordPress Cuckoon and be the self-sufficient ClassicPress what community want

    Implement the things that WordPress has been Stallings for years and you will notice a increase in number of users.

  5. This seems to happen to a new fork every few years.

    Until someone comes up with something significantly better, the momentum of WordPress seems likely to crush it’s opposition going forward.

    I think it’s good that people keep trying though. Competition improves the breed :)

    • Our goal isn’t to compete with WordPress. Many of us still use WordPress. ClassicPress is another tool in our toolbox when we don’t need block-bloat. WordPress stopped believing in it’s own philosophy 🤷‍♂️ core needs to be clean and slim. ClassicPress is half the size of WordPress. Advance functionality belongs in plugins, that’s literally what they’re for.

  6. We’ve been moving clients away from Word Press and over to Classic because Guten. is just too steep a learning curve from them. People are used to a word-processor editing interface which is what the old editor is.

    I don’t see what FSE brings to the table except more complexity.

    Since many of our clients have sites that hardly ever change, we’ve been writing those with Bootstrap. WP (and Classic) is just overkill.

    With the tons of free code available “out there” you can create a nice parallax scrolling site like https://radioqsl.com or a more traditional layout like https://radioqsl.com/radioclub without the ‘bloat’ of a CMS and database.

    Then, of course, there is JAMStack… but I don’t see wide adoption of that platform anytime soon.

    Lots of options out there.

  7. Contrary to being “on the rocks”, I believe ClassicPress is now ready to move forward, and I’m backing that belief with a monthly contribution (and I’m calling on other CP users to join me).

    It’s the end of the beginning, but the beginning of the work of becoming a solid developer platform.

  8. I’m getting out of small-client website work after 22 years. It made no sense for me to learn the Block Editor since there are very few small clients these days. I just sure hope Classic Press stays alive a bit longer, while I take care of my last few clients’ Classic Press websites. If it doesn’t, it will be pretty hard to explain to them that WordPress basically abandoned us.

    • It’s not going anywhere 🙂 We’re starting a fundraising campaign, and users are already contributing to help us pay the operating costs.

      With the new leadership, we’re starting to push ClassicPress forward.

    • People like Jeff Star will keep the disable guts plugin, I nearly quit myself over all this. Defo was just done with WP. But you can ignore Guts and its so easy. Its never going to take over, its getting worse every iteration.

      • I am using Disable Gutenberg plugin by Jeff Starr as well with better options compared to the Classic Editor plugin. The way I see it, it’s really not about WordPress vs ClassicPress. It’s more of WordPress + Disable Gutenberg plugin vs ClassicPress. As a developer, if one decides not to use Gutenberg, it would be a question of – Do I use Disable Gutenberg plugin or shift to ClassicPress?

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