Last week, under its news section, The Next Web published what could only be described as a hit piece: Developers hate WordPress — and so should marketers. The claim was that, despite its current 40% market share, folks should start looking at alternatives for a better experience.
The first developer interviewed for this piece was the CEO of Storyblok, Dominik Angerer. Storyblok is a headless CMS, a competitor to WordPress.
The second person interviewed for the article was Doeke Leeuwis, the founder and technical director for Story of AMS. The agency focuses on headless eCommerce. What is one of the three platforms it uses? If you guessed Storyblok, you would have gotten it right. Bonus points if you predicted it was listed first of the three in their marketing material.
The third developer interviewed was Mitchel van Bever, who also works for Story of AMS. The company has been featured multiple times on the Storyblok blog and is a featured case study.
Are you starting to see a pattern yet?
If you read through the rest of the article, you will note that the post was sponsored by Storyblok. At least they were honest about it.
Somehow I believe most readers would have skipped the article if that was posted before the content.
It is easy to find developers who dislike WordPress. But, you lose credibility when writing a piece that features interviewees who are either directly sponsoring or benefitting from the story.
The centerpiece for the entire story hinged on the 2019 and 2020 Stack Overflow annual developer survey. There is a lot to glean from the data provided by over 65,000 workers in the field. However, the article merely focused on a single point: WordPress was voted the most dreaded language or technology at 67% in the last year. Everything else centered on what those with a vested interest in Storyblok had to say.
We could talk about scalability, but with WordPress.com as a prime example of running the WordPress software at scale, do we really need to?
We could talk about flexibility, but when WordPress has more free third-party plugins (59,000+) than Storyblok has in total live websites (500+ according to BuiltWith), is it really worth diving into?
As a writer in the WordPress sphere, you may think I am entirely biased. That is at least partially true. However, I have worked with multiple systems. Laravel is one of my favorites, but its beautiful architecture does not always translate to quickly getting a job done in the same way as WordPress. I have helped friends and family launch projects on several non-WordPress services. It all depends on what the best tool for the job is.
I have even created my own custom CMS for my personal blog. I felt like WordPress was overkill for what I needed. It is OK to use another tool even when you typically prefer working with something else. My custom blogging system was built just for me, but it now runs on two websites. I had another developer friend crazy enough to try it.
My love for WordPress is not absolute. It is not unconditional.
But I still love it. There are 1,000s of others who love working with it too, and these developers are more likely to tell you what the actual issues with the platform are. We can criticize it honestly because we are down in the trenches, working with the platform every day. We know it is not always the ideal programming experience. We know it has some legacy baggage. Despite its warts, we have built something that most others only dream of doing. We have created a vast community.
If you thought it was all about who had the shiniest code, you would be wrong.
It is about business competitors willing to communicate and even help others in their space.
It is about Five for the Future, a program where WordPress-related companies contribute to free software.
It is about support forum volunteers lending a helping hand.
It is about the 100s of folks on the Make WordPress teams who contribute to various aspects of the project, everything from code reviews to translations.
It is about sharing a drink with a years-long friend you just met IRL for the first time at a WordCamp, albeit mostly virtual for the last couple of years.
It is about the podcasts that people produce for the love of the platform and its surrounding projects.
It is about quitting your nine-to-five to launch a new business as a plugin developer.
It is about taking part in a movement that has allowed millions to publish on the web.
No, not every developer who participates in the annual Stack Overflow survey loves WordPress. Most of them may dread working with the platform, and that trend may very well continue. What we have is bigger. WordPress is its community.
This smells like just another hit piece from a WordPress competitor like we have seen before. At least some of the Wix videos were funny (come on, you know you laughed at at least one or two of them), and folks got free headphones from the deal. This Storyblok-sponsored post just leaves a sour taste.
Like my grandma — probably everyone’s grandma — used to say, “You catch more flies with honey.” This was an opportunity to sell potential users on Storyblok’s features. Maybe bashing competitors brings traffic, but I doubt it brings any goodwill or long-lasting benefits.
This is a hit piece no doubt. But is it also a wake up call? Is there a chance, however small, however unfavourable, that WordPress the software might… just might… be loosing its self awareness? If we recognise even an element of possibility in that thought, then a moment of objective reflection at the very least of our belief system for WordPress is a worthwhile exercise. Why? Because we love WordPress – the software, the community and journey so far.