GoDaddy Responds to Mullenweg’s Accusations: “We All Have the Same Goal”

In a recent Twitter storm, Matt Mullenweg characterized GoDaddy as “a parasitic company,” that is “an existential threat to WordPress’ future.” In a series of tweets that were subsequently deleted, Mullenweg contended that GoDaddy is lacking support for WordPress and WooCommerce, relative to how much the company is benefiting from the projects. He also said the company’s investment in proprietary website and store products is at odds with how much it gives back to WordPress.org.

This sparked a heated discussion across Twitter, the Advanced WordPress Facebook group, blog comments, and Post Status Slack. The most outspoken people were those who felt Mullenweg was arbitrarily disparaging one company’s contributions while commending another. There was also a significant group of people who vehemently agreed with his assessment.

“I think parasitic is the right word to apply to GoDaddy,” Boulder WordPress Meetup organizer Angela Bowman tweeted. “Taking something that is free and leveraging it for maximum profits by undercutting the very thing you are selling out of existence. Capitalism at its best, most ruthless, and short sighted.”

Bowman distilled it into a more succinct example:

GD: Why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free?

MM: Well, we need to feed and house the cow. Provide medication when needed. Or the cow dies.

GD: How long before it dies? How much $$$ can we make until it does?

I contacted GoDaddy to find out how many people the company sponsors and how much they spend on sponsoring events.

“Our company contributes to open-source in a variety of ways, including through dedicated employee roles, specific projects on which these employees work, and many employees who have a passion for the WordPress community and give back whenever possible,” GoDaddy Director of Public Relations Nick Fuller said.

The company declined to comment on specifics but pointed to its Five for the Future pledge page, which shows that GoDaddy sponsors 34 contributors for a total of 217 hours per week across 15 teams. With 9,000 employees, this amounts to a relatively small number of hours compared to other hosting and product companies, like Automattic (4098 hrs/week) and Yoast (250 hrs/week).

Compared to the other economy hosts listed on WordPress.org’s recommended hosting page, GoDaddy’s contributions are much smaller relative to its size:

  • Bluehost (750 employees) sponsors 6 contributors for a total of 102 hours per week across 4 teams.
  • SiteGround (500 employees) sponsors 12 contributors for a total of 58 hours per week across 7 teams.
  • DreamHost (200 employees) sponsors 3 contributors for a total of 30 hours per week across 4 teams.

While GoDaddy’s contributions may be smaller in terms of work hours, the company allocates hundreds of thousands of dollars for sponsoring WordCamps and related events. After another successful WordCamp Europe in the books, many attendees agreed that the value of these events cannot be overstated. Without corporate sponsors, WordCamps would not happen on the scale that they currently do.

“Beyond contributions to open-source projects, GoDaddy is extremely active at various WordPress events,” Fuller said. “In 2022, our plan is to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on WordCamp and other related events such as WordSesh and WordFest. Many of our employees will be active participants in these community events.”

When asked to comment on the accusations of being a “parasitic company” and “an existential threat to WordPress’ future,” Fuller would not address the complaints directly.

“We all have the same goal, to make WordPress better each and every day,” he said. “Our team is passionate about making WordPress better, both for the community and for our customers, and we greatly appreciate the support expressed by many in the WordPress community in recent days.”

Matt Mullenweg took to Post Status Slack today to clarify some of the opinions he voiced on Twitter yesterday. He hinted at strategies behind the scenes that even employees may not know about.

“Keep in mind that people might not be aware of actions happening in other parts of the company, for example the pressure from their new activist investors,” Mullenweg said. “As an example: I 100% believe the good intentions of the Google folks who were working on AMP, and of course we learned later it was part of a larger strategy they were unaware of that, after being disclosed in litigation discovery, appears malicious.”

Mullenweg also referenced the free-rider problem, a type of market failure where those who benefit from public goods do not pay or under-pay, which leads to over-consumption. This is similar to the Tragedy of Commons situation he mentioned in the past as a fate that WordPress is tying to avoid with its Five for the Future program.

“Failed open source projects usually succumb to the free rider trap — the parasites kill the host, which ultimately hurts the parasites as well but they can’t think beyond short-term,” Mullenweg said. “Successful open source projects escape the free rider problem, as WordPress has so far, largely because of awareness of it and people voting where to invest their talent and their dollars in organizations that contribute to the shared resource in a way that keeps it sustainable.”

If looking solely at the definition of Five for the Future contributions, GoDaddy may constitute a free rider. They are not conforming to what the project has requested from companies in order to keep WordPress sustainable for generations to come. However, highlighting GoDaddy in this fashion may not be the best way to extract more contributions or inspire others to be part of this initiative. WordPress needs to find a better means of dealing with what it deems to be under-performing contributors, because many well-meaning individuals can get trampled underneath the heavy tread of social sanctioning.

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15 responses to “GoDaddy Responds to Mullenweg’s Accusations: “We All Have the Same Goal””

  1. (Also for other hosting companies who use “managed WordPress”, WordPress hosting etc…. on their business)

    I think their contribution to WordPress should also be related to how strong the security they provide to their WordPress hosting facility.

    Remember the godaddy data breach a few months ago,
    when thousands of WordPress sites were successfully compromised? Without knowing the real problem people will think WordPress as a weak platform. Some may want to leave WordPress immediately

  2. “You’re giving us free labor, but not as much as we would like” is a hell of a thing to get upset about.

    From what it sounded like, part of the concern is that GoDaddy has a payment gateway that competes with WooCommerce Payments. Not a good reason to take a cheap shot at the entire company.

  3. This is such a WordPress thing, to count how much free labor it is entitled to from others.

    For most of Automattic’s existence it contributed zero to PHP (asked by me and answered before), just recently threw some money at the new PHP Foundation.

    So much open source WP relies on and the conversation is never about giving back to them. Just to WordPress. Give, give, give. Or Matt will be unhappy with you, you don’t want Matt to be unhappy with you.

    Parasite much?

    There is no such thing as “under-performing contributor” in open source. They don’t work for you.

    I don’t know is there sustainable model for open source, it is clearly in crisis, and corporate interests clearly warp it. But declaring one project’s special entitlement to specific amount of free labor and policing it by angry dude outbursts isn’t one I am for.

    • Well said Rarst.

      Now that WordPress uses React heavily, I wonder if Automattic will be dedicating 5-to-the-future for React development. If not, by the same logic are they (and anyone using WordPress) not all parasites of React? And Jquery? And PHP? And Javascript? And on and on for all of the open source projects that WordPress itself relies upon?

    • Agreed. I believe it would be far more profitable for Automattic to work towards further incentivizing their contribution programs rather than bashing those that “don’t make the cut”.

      For example, why not roll out an official and universal commercial plugin licensing/subscription service that directly supports WordPress development? Further, this could be restricted to those who actively contribute back to the core. This is something like what’s happening with Woocommerce extensions and WordPress.com plugins, but why not roll it out to all WordPress users? This could really help to simplify the tangled mess of commercial plugin distribution, and help to further sustain the WordPress.org open source project.

  4. Plenty of million-dollar companies around the WP ecosystem who contribute literally zero that Mullenweg could have taken aim at, but instead he chose GoDaddy who actually do contribute.

    A bit of an odd one, almost as if it’s personal …

  5. When you mention all the other hosting companies nobody mentions the subject of support and this is where GoDaddy exceeds all the others. Moreover it takes cash and commitment to adequately support customers. Furthermore if you participate in Go Daddy Pro, the support is unparalleled. Above all, a great product whether it be Word Press, Drupal, Woo Commerce, .Net SQL server, and so on is only good as the support behind the product.

  6. Why publicize the great reasons to use the top 5 companies who give back the most? Like publicize how Siteground gives a free SSL solution for all websites on a hosting solution, so the certificate matches all the domains. (And of course explain what that even means for newbies.) And a question, is branded swag counted as WordCamp “money”?

  7. GoDaddy sponsored WCTO for a while. Heck, they even hired one of it’s organizers after a WCTO. 2015-2022. That’s around 7 years. The years according to his blog post.

    I wonder how many people has Matt Mullenweg and his companies have hired from the WC Community in Toronto?

    Also, I am sorry Matt but people have bills to pay, like groceries and heating/air condition for our homes.

    It shouldn’t be about what we, as a Community, can give back to WordPress but what WordPress has given back to the Community.

    I commented in the other post about the free labour WordPress has been getting, it just makes WordPress more popular. What have you given back to the Community?

    People are entitled to give back to WordPress what WE want, you (Matt) don’t get to decide what WE give back.

    Nothing wrong with GoDaddy wanting to make a profit. We all do, we want to be able to pay our rents, be able to afford groceries and so forth.

    Without all the free labour thousands of people have given, you (Matt) wouldn’t be where you are now.

    GoDaddy has given a lot to the Community, Just because it isn’t 100% the way YOU see it…does not mean they are some evil creature out there.

  8. GoDaddy is an absolute trash company in all of the ways. This is just a tiny part of why everyone should avoid them. They actively scam people. After using probably 20 hosts, GoDaddy is the worst in every aspect – and that’s saying a lot because most of them are embarrassing terrible. SiteGround is supposed to be great and they just stole $600 from me – after their own dev team explained that the problem was unknown and their fault. If you’re a decent person out there who has the skills to start a hosting company with morals: please do it.

  9. I think the only free rider is Automattic. How much value do they derive from the WordPress trademark that we’ve all built up over the years without paying anything?

    Automattic is also the largest user of GoDaddy’s free site building plugin CoBlocks.

    The premise of this article also seems off. Automattic is a WordPress company. GoDaddy is not, WordPress is just a relatively small part of their business. That’d be like calling Google a domain company.

  10. I won’t judge anyone. Some actions are sad but, as you may have heard, we are the change we want to see. You don’t like GoDaddy’s or any other hosting provider actions/services/policies? Don’t buy their products and spread the word about the solutions you think deserve to be on the spotlight and need to get some attention. As simple as that. You can support and promote small hosting providers who do their best both for customers and the community in general. That would benefit the community, the industry, even the economy, a whole lot!

  11. There’s not much point complaining… the culture and values of an organisation determine how it behaves in the marketplace if it is allowed to. If you’re prepared to milk a ‘free good’ for maximum profit, just imagine what you’d be prepared to put your users through. Thanks but no.

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