48 Comments

  1. Richard A. Muscat

    Thanks for the write up Sarah. Very extensive!

    I would like to follow up with Ionut Neagu about the issue raised about receiving a cold email about the affiliate program.

    Ionut, if you’re reading this feel free to respond in comment or email me personally on richard.muscat@jetpack.com — I would like to ensure nothing untoward is happening.

    Report

    • Michael

      Hi Richard,

      we’ve received such a cold email as well (to three different email addresses…not sure how they got these addresses). It’s being handled by a 3rd party company (if you need the company name – just let me know) and the person sent two emails, apologizing for a cut and paste error as he forgot to replace the company name in the first email. :-)

      The email at first seemed to be spam, but the links in it were all pointing to Automattic services (without redirects or else) so we moved forward and applied for the program which has been approved by Automattic in the meanwhile.

      Seems Automattic has hired a marketing firm for this to contact theme developers and marketers in order to apply for the affiliate program. Nothing wrong with that, but it probably would have been better to send the emails from a Automattic company address, rather than a 3rd party.

      Report

  2. John

    I’m probably missing something but don’t well understand what’s “new” in this move and the purpose of this announcement.
    All Automattic themes are already listed here and accessible for everybody with a few clicks in a matter of seconds. So, what?

    Report

    • Richard A. Muscat

      Hi John, it is true that a lot of free Automattic and WordPress.com themes are available directly from the WordPress.org directory and that will not change.

      What is particularly new is the method and interface used to browse, search, and install themes. For the (many) users who manage WordPress sites both self-hosted and on WordPress.com the experience is now streamlined and consistent and as we improve our customisation and design tools both types of sites will start to benefit in tandem.

      Report

  3. Nathan

    This is the oxymoronic closed garden of open source IMO.

    Report

    • Richard A. Muscat

      I should clarify that this is not the case.

      The source of the themes themselves is always available to the user — and has always been as pointed out in the comment above. I’d argue that this makes it easier to gain access to the code for certain types of site owners.

      Additionally, both Jetpack and the WordPress.com admin interface are open source projects available on GitHub — and always will be.

      We welcome and include contributions in the form of bug reports, issues, feature requests, and pull requests on a daily basis.

      Report

  4. David

    this is hilarious :D

    Report

  5. Michael

    I think for Automattic it’s just the right thing to do and it makes totally sense from a business perspective. In the end Jetpack is a WordPress.com marketing tool in order to get people create .com accounts and make them familiar with their products and offerings. Automattic is still a company and not a charity organization, although it’s bit of a special situation because of potential conflicts of interests when it comes to WordPress.org.

    However, what worries me more is that Jetpack replaces more and more plugins from independent developers and now is trying to push themes as well. It’s possible that the goal is to make people either create a site on .com or have a self-hosted site with Jetpack (which does basically everything) leaving not much room anymore for products from independent developers. This approach of course makes sense from a business perspective and increases the influence of Automattic on the WordPress ecosystem as it’s obviously hard or near to impossible for smaller companies to compete with that, especially if they are being hold back by draconian requirements on .org.

    All of this wouldn’t be much of an issue if WordPress.com would be more open for products from independent developers. But unfortunately they are still looking only for specific themes (which is understandable due to their standardized approach) and it’s a bit funny when Matt is talking about draconian requirements on .org while the list of requirements on .com is even longer and highly subjective as well (e.g. design).

    I hope that we won’t see a world where Automattic makes it very hard to launch products on .com while pushing with Jetpack more and more into the .org space, making it harder for smaller companies to compete with that. That would obviously lead to a market where Automattic rules the WordPress ecosystem, which by the way makes sense to compete with Wix and others, but killing the open source spirit where independent developers have freedom and a chance to make a living as well, without asking Automattic for approval first. :-)

    Report

    • Matt

      However, what worries me more is that Jetpack replaces more and more plugins from independent developers and now is trying to push themes as well. It’s possible that the goal is to make people either create a site on .com or have a self-hosted site with Jetpack (which does basically everything) leaving not much room anymore for products from independent developers.

      This.

      Report

      • George Stephanis

        I’ve heard this argument for some time — what Jetpack typically does is provide a base level of functionality that’s enough to get people started and going with, but if they want to really dig into it, they may need to grow past what Jetpack provides.

        For example: Contact Forms.

        Jetpack provides Contact Forms, but it’s a limited implementation. There’s a lot of form stuff it doesn’t do. I don’t think anyone’s going to argue that it’s a true competitor to Gravity Forms or Ninja Forms or whatever the latest one is — because it’s not. It’s a base level of functionality that plays nicely with others and is actively maintained — enough to get folks started, but easy to grow out of.

        By providing that base level of functionality, we’re making it easier for the user to stick with and invest their time, money, and energy into WordPress as a platform, so they’re more likely later to see a commercial plugin purchase as a worthwhile addition when they need repeater fields or custom field types or SalesForce integration or something that Jetpack’s contact forms don’t offer.

        Jetpack tries to go broad but shallow. We do a lot, but none of what we do is all things to all people. That’s where commercial plugins that offer those tailored experiences can really shine.

        In my opinion, anyways.

        Report

      • Alec

        For now, George. A frog boils slowly.

        Your employ seems to be to keep telling we frogs that the water is cool. The water feels pretty warm to me. Tropical even.

        Report

      • WPezDeveloper

        This is more of a last mile, or more like first mile, issue. Automattic is exploiting its position – both in the market and within the broader product ecosystem – in order to gain what feels like an unfair advantage.

        That said, the WP market is overly fragmented and too often filled with noise and nonsense (crap code, buggy products, wonky UXs, etc). How past “leadership” decisions helped foster this is another chat for another day. Let’s not go there right now. Perhaps this will lead to a better experience for the majority of users? But at what cost to everyone else? If new devs sense the best opportunities within the World of WP are past then they will look to other platforms, platforms that apprear to have more longer term up side.

        So yeah, this might be good for Automattic today but over the longer term it could be a shot in the knee – the foot already being long gone :)

        Report

  6. Ryan Hellyer

    Perhaps what we need is a plugin which allows you to select from themes outside of WordPress.org?

    It could be a list of only good quality themes which are maintained by community members and have the same selection interface as the built in theme selector.

    Report

  7. Steven Gliebe

    All power to Automattic / WordPress.com. They’re just doing what they think is best for their business, same as everybody else. No reason to be afraid of competition. It’s a good thing.

    I’ve thought for a long time that WordPress.org should consider taking a page from WordPress.com’s playbook and act as a commercial marketplace. There are some things that would worry me about that (having a central entity with power to pick winners and losers) but I think it would make a lot of sense from the WordPress user perspective.

    At the very least, we need better .org theme demos and perhaps some way to help fund faster theme reviews.

    Report

  8. Emil Uzelac

    At first, I misread the article, then I read it again and it this makes full sense for me from both users and business perspective.

    Now the question is: what are the requirements to submit a theme and how does the overall process look like?

    Report

  9. Brad Williams

    Why wouldn’t Automattic release these themes on WordPress.org vs serving them up from WordPress.com? Seems like a decision made solely for the benefit of Jetpack/WP.com, which ultimately leads to upsells of premium services, instead of the WordPress community.

    WordPress.org is a backbone of the community and should be fully supported. Don’t fragment the audience and send them away to get the “good” stuff.

    Report

  10. bamajr

    Not sure why this is such an issue. Must be missing something.

    -> Is JetPack built-in to the “self-hosted” version of WordPress (.org) now?
    -> Can we (WordPress Community) still elect not to install the JetPack plugin?
    -> If we (WordPress Community) decide to install JetPack, can we not elect which features to enable/disable?
    -> Did we (WordPress Community) loose the ability to upload plugins/themes?
    -> Can we (WordPress Community) choose not to use this new functionality?

    Granted, there are not any plugins/themes on WordPress.com nor .org written by our company and BAMAJR LLC doesn’t depend on either repo to be profitable, but why can’t the company responsible for WordPress (and JetPack) make their plugin easier to use and more intuitive for a specific group of users, while at the same time positioning their platform to be more marketable to the likes of Wix and Squarespace users? Not sure why anyone would use Wix and Squarespace, but if Automattic is loosing marketshare to them, why not create/improve something to make it easier for Wix/Squarespace users to return?

    Report

  11. Gary

    Theme authors with functionality plugins in the repo are probably going to follow Automattics example; it’s a convenient way of bypassing the TRT guidelines and review times.

    Report

  12. Jeffr0

    Well hey, if you’re Automattic, at least you don’t have to worry about going through the theme review process anymore since they can publish their own themes to their own repo and make them available for users whenever. I imagine that at some level of the decision making process, this was brought up as a benefit.

    Report

    • George Stephanis

      We’re still going to be going through the Theme Review process and getting our themes up on WordPress.org — but because of how long it takes, and that we can only have one theme under review at any point, we wind up with a pretty big backlog that are waiting to be submitted (considering the rapid clip with which we release new free themes, for every one that’s reviewed, we have a handful of others waiting to get in line)! This way folks don’t need to manually download zips or snag them off our svn server.

      Report

      • Poena

        First, I don’t have any problem with the new addition to Jetpack.

        But it is dissapointing and discouraging that people feel that they need to come up with other solutions, rather than work with the Theme Review Team to improve the .org submissions for all theme authors.

        Whats hurtful is that once again the TRT are portrayed as the “bad guys” that stand in the way. This is not what we want.

        Report

      • Anh Tran

        But it is dissapointing and discouraging that people feel that they need to come up with other solutions, rather than work with the Theme Review Team to improve the .org submissions for all theme authors.

        Agree with this. The way Jetpack provides themes via its own channel looks like a trick to bypass the theme review process.

        Report

  13. Gavin

    Themeisle should focus on their terrible customer support. I had an extremely straightforward refund (theme was removed from site) and it took 10 days to get the refund correctly applied.

    During that time I was monitoring their twitter and looking at what other people’s issues were…most of us in the same boat. Needed refunds and repeatedly being told day after day that help was “coming soon ™.”

    Themeisle’s terrible CS system (it’s woefully obvious that it’s understaffed and poorly trained) is the sole reason I’d never consider any theme from there.

    I for one gladly welcome Automatic venturing into the theme marketplace. At least it will be run professionally.

    Report

    • Ionut

      Hey Gavin,

      I am sorry to hear about your experience, I won’t say we are under-staffed for support, we are just people and we do mistakes, is not an excuse, you are obviously right to be frustrated.

      In this case the issue was that we had only one person with access to the billing details, so we realised that this one person is not working the delays can go quite long, so after the last issues, we gave access to more people to this part, so this won’t happen anymore :).

      Report

  14. Andreas Nurbo

    JetPack could be the death of WP for quite a few devs, and Calypso will be pushed onto devs so they will make addons for that instead of WP itself. Thats what Matt says we should do anyway. Thats the real reason for the whole “learn JavaScript deeply” skit.
    Automattic seem to want to kill off the competition by using a thousand cuts. Create a closed Apple system. So I suppose the competition needs to step up in order for that to not happen.

    Report

  15. Matt

    You can’t make an add-on for Calypso without also making it for WP itself — the key is that WP will be more of a API provider, and the UI will live in Javascript that can live inside Calypso, or embedded in wp-admin before we transition to a full JS interface.

    I’m surprise the themes in question are a big deal because (1) they’re all GPL and open source (2) they’re all available publicly already (3) they’re all on the directory or in line to be submitted.

    A big goal of Jetpack is to make it smoother and easier for someone leaving WP.com to have the same experience, and using the same theme is part of that. I don’t see how making it easier for someone to go from .com to self-hosted is shrinking the market for anybody. :)

    Report

    • Andreas Nurbo

      So what plugins have you launched that work both with and without Calypso( and JetPack)? Looking at plugins tagged calypso and result is zero on .org.

      A big goal of Jetpack is to make it smoother and easier for someone leaving WP.com to have the same experience, and using the same theme is part of that. I don’t see how making it easier for someone to go from .com to self-hosted is shrinking the market for anybody. :)

      A even bigger goal is to increase the dependence on Automattic for endusers even if they leave or not even come to wp.com. There is nothing wrong with that business wise but saying a big goal is to make it easier is not the whole truth though :). The primary goal is to make as many users dependent on the services that Automattic provide. Again nothing wrong with that, but don’t make JetPack some noble thing, it’s just business.

      The more features you put into JetPack given your marketing resources etc the harder it is for other devs to compete. Same goes with WooCommerce. The strategy looking from outside is to replace as many offerings currently in the market with services that are controlled by Automattic. Soon we will probably see even bigger focus on a page builder solution. It will be on wp.com first I suppose, then in JetPack. Don’t think it will be included in Customizer in core.

      Report

    • Michael

      I’m surprise the themes in question are a big deal because (1) they’re all GPL and open source (2) they’re all available publicly already (3) they’re all on the directory or in line to be submitted.

      It’s not really about those themes. It’s about this whole approach. The more you integrate .com into .org, the more people will need to create .com accounts to use Jetpack properly and the more potential customers you get, who possibly will leave .org at some point (especially if not tech-savvy) to create a site on .com where they basically can log in with their existing account and start building their site.

      This wouldn’t be much of an issue if .com would be more open to developers to participate as well, but as it is now, it’s quite an exclusive party where it’s extremely hard to even get a theme launched. That means users who leave to get a site on .com are lost users for indepenent devs that build stuff for .org.

      Another thing is that the more functionality is built into Jetpack, the harder you make it for plugin devs to compete with that. Sure, they can cover a niche that isn’t (yet) covered by Jetpack or build a massive plugin that by far exceeds what Jetpack offers. But in the end this leads to a higher entrance barrier for devs because basic plugins for related posts, infinite scroll or whatever are no longer really needed. Who wants to install xx plugins if just installing Jetpack is enough? Most people will go for Jetpack, especially the ones that are not tech-savvy as they won’t be actively looking for an alternative plugin (which even may be better).

      A big goal of Jetpack is to make it smoother and easier for someone leaving WP.com to have the same experience, and using the same theme is part of that. I don’t see how making it easier for someone to go from .com to self-hosted is shrinking the market for anybody. :)

      This is funny. :) I would argue that it’s either the other way around. In my opinion SaaS is the future and so you already have lots of benefits with .com over .org. It’s of course much easier to compete with Wix and others if you run a company where you just can get things done than having endless discussions in the open source community before things happen (if they even happen at all) and if something happens, then it’s also not sure if that really is what the market needs.

      So .com is already in a much better position than .org and when comparing the UX of .com with .org, it’s a lot different and more convenient. That in combination with the SaaS approach makes it much easier to attract users, for example through Jetpack or the new affiliate program, which both goes in the same direction, user growth, which both makes absolutely sense of course.

      But saying that this whole trend isn’t affecting independent devs or smaller companies who are working hard (and not have the budget of Automattic) to launch their products for .org is not accurate in my opinion. Of course there is a competition with Automattic and it’s a bit like David vs. Goliath. This isn’t much of an issue yet as the .org market still is big enough to run a very healthy business.

      But it would be interesting to see how that will be in a few years from now when SaaS is the key to success. Of course you can argue that anyone can create a SaaS business, but I doubt that any sane person will invest tons of money to create a SaaS business and compete with .com – good luck with that on the long run.

      Of course niche SaaS businesses can be very successful, but that usually still will only be suitable for users that run self-hosted sites (e.g. theme or plugin as SaaS) but I doubt that anyone with a simliar WordPress business model like .com can compete with Automattic, at least not without an insane budget.

      So basically the more you put Automattic in focus to people who run self-hosted sites, the more you’re basically killing .org. It’s not much of an issue today, but in my opinion we’ll see that coming. Unless we’ll see a complete turnaround on .org with completely different onboarding process and UX, but honestly, I don’t see that happen in the near future, especially because people still won’t have a one-stop solution like on .com. But we’ll see. :)

      Report

      • Hoa Si

        So .com is already in a much better position than .org and when comparing the UX of .com with .org, it’s a lot different and more convenient.

        IMHO the UX of .com could use some improvement. Even though familiar with WordPress.org I find the WordPress.com interface confusing.

        Report

  16. David McCan

    I’ll admit I’m a little confused by this. If JetPack can basically give you access to a marketplace via a plugin you install from WordPress.org, why cannot any theme or plugin author do the same thing?

    I’m not comfortable with “marketplaces” being provisioned via a WordPress.org theme or plugin. There are too many ways that could be abused.

    What am I missing?

    Report

    • mark k.

      They can and kinda do, (which is why in another comment here I called it a very mild issue if an issue at all, but guess tavern has rules against critisising their titles and tht comment was zapped lol). Theme forest has a plugin that enables you to auto update from there and theme shop do similar thing.

      Now the difference is, that till this day it was all “pull” and sometimes required extra effort while this feature is “push”. To have this kind feature you need some personal information on the user that other players just didn’t imagine they should ask for.

      I can see themeforest imitating such a feature, same with plugin that sell extensions…. maybe even some debugging facility dropped in to ease support.

      But I do hope no one will actually go for the remote install option as it is just insecure to have such a feature, as any automattic employee can now install whatever he wants on their server. The themes probably are not even tested to work with old PHP versions or funny server setups.

      It is just one (big?) step into the “you think it is your blog, but it actually belongs to automattic” future jetpack tries to bring upon us.

      Report

  17. chuck

    “Today’s announcement is the glue that holds together Matt’s vision for the future .org experience, delivered via Jetpack,”

    What does this mean, exactly? How is the .org “experience” going to be “delivered via Jetpack”? Does it mean that any WP site in the future will be required to use Jetpack?

    Report

  18. Mike Ritter

    The big glaring monster here is theme Forest and code canyon. When was the last time I can remember using a theme from the general repository? Don’t recall. My projects and clients almost always require something I’ve developed from _’s or something from theme forest. Now, plugins are still quite competitive. But not themes.

    Report

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: