The Recommended Hosting Page is Revamped, Features Flywheel for the First Time

DreamHost, Flywheel, and SiteGround have joined Bluehost on’s new recommended hosting page. In mid 2015, Matt Mullenweg, co-founder of the open source WordPress project, announced the page would be revamped. To have a chance at being listed webhosting companies needed to fill out a 40-question survey.

2016 Recommended Hosts Page
2016 Recommended Hosts Page

This is Flywheel’s first time on the page. Flywheel, launched in 2013, is a managed WordPress hosting company with an emphasis towards designers and agencies. I asked Dusty Davidson, co-Founder and CEO of Flywheel, what it means to be included on the page. “We’re obviously excited to be included, and think it really reflects on the work we’ve done to create a great experience for WordPress users,” he said.

The recommended webhosting page on is incredibly lucrative. Based on conversations I’ve had with employees of hosts listed, it can generate millions of dollars in revenue. I asked Davidson what impact this will have on his company, “I’m sure it will undoubtedly send a good deal of traffic, but honestly we’re just humbled and excited to be recognized,” he said.

A New Round of Controversy

Over the years, companies have come and gone from the recommended hosting page. However, Bluehost in particular has consistently appeared on the list, including the most recent iteration. Bluehost is owned by Endurance International Group who invested in Automattic in 2014. Because Mullenweg is the CEO of Automattic and controls who is listed on the page, it’s easy to see why it regularly generates controversy.

Kevin Ohashi of, criticized the lack of transparency regarding the process for how hosts.

Who is responsible for this revamp? What were the selection criteria? How often will it be updated? Will existing companies be continuously re-evaluated?

These are important questions to ask and there are no publicly documented answers. In a follow up post, Ohashi investigated what criteria needs to be met for being listed on the page. The post contains a number of screenshots of his private conversation with James Huff, who has volunteered for the WordPress project for 12 years and has worked at Automattic for five years.

Huff was directly related to the project and influenced who was chosen thanks to his involvement on the WordPress Support Team. Within the conversation, he shares details of the process and mentions that no money exchanged hands. Early in the conversation, Ohashi tells Huff that he wants to learn and publish how the process works. However, Huff had no idea that everything he said would be made public.

“I was invited to what sounded like a friendly chat over direct message from a concerned community member, after he was referred to me by a friend,” Huff said. “At no point was it clarified or even implied that anything discussed would be made public.”

Conversations held in a private matter should remain private unless given permission to publish them, something I discovered the hard way. Unfortunately, the post comes across as a public interrogation of Huff. I asked Huff, who was shaken by the experience, how it has affected him moving forward as it relates to the WordPress project.

“I’d be lying if I said my feelings weren’t at least shaken by the experience, especially considering how polite he was to my friend and how hostile he was towards me apparently just because I work for Automattic, but this isn’t the first time that has happened to me and I don’t expect it to be the last,” he said.

“There’s an usually prevalent negative bias against Automatticians who contribute to WordPress.”

Mullenweg Provides Clarification

Mullenweg commented on the post where he not only sticks up for Huff, but answers some of the controversial questions raised by Ohashi. Mullenweg explains how the applicants were chosen, how the criteria is weighted, who makes the final decisions, and how much money is involved. Here is his comment in full.

‘I would like to see some transparency in the process’

As stated on the page, the listing is completely arbitrary. The process was: There was a survey, four applicants were chosen, and the page was updated. That might repeat later in the year, or the process might change.

‘how criteria are weighted’

There is no criteria or weighting. It ultimately is one person’s opinion. Information that is important is reflected in the questions asked in the survey, but that is not everything that is taken into account. (I have looked at this site in the past, for example.)

‘who is making the decisions’

I am. James helped in sorting through the many submissions that came in, doing additional research, and digging on finalists, but ultimately the decision was mine. You can and should blame me fully for any issues you have with it. I appreciate James’ help in this go-round, but he will not be involved at all with any future updates. (So, please leave him alone.)

‘how much money is involved’

There was no money involved. Obviously being listed on the page is hugely valuable and impacts the listed (or unlisted) businesses a great deal. This is why I take full responsibility for the listing, now and in the future — I have been fortunate to be extraordinarily successful and no financial or business consideration any of the applicants could offer matters to me. A host could offer $100,000,000 to be listed on the page for 1 day, and I would say no.

It’s unfortunate that the information in Mullenweg’s comment is not published in an official post announcing the changes to the recommended hosting page. If an official post was published that included the same information in his comment, it’s possible it would have eliminated most of the confusion, uncertainty, and doubt surrounding it.

Should Have a Recommended Hosting Page?

Due to the investments EIG has made in Automattic, Mullenweg’s role at the company, and him making the final decisions, there will always be a potential conflict of interest despite taking full responsibility of the page and the processes associated with it.

Should have a recommended hosting page? What if the page was replaced with information people could use to make informed decisions on choosing a host? It would eliminate potential conflicts of interest and if there was a host Mullenweg felt strongly about, he could label it as a partner of the project. This would make it clear that any financial connection with the company is a business relationship.

Are you hosting with any of the companies listed on the recommended hosting page? If so, tell us about your experience in the comments.


70 responses to “The Recommended Hosting Page is Revamped, Features Flywheel for the First Time”

  1. I host my site, WinningWP, with Flywheel: they’ve been great hosts so far: performance is awesome and I’m super impressed with their user interface. I’m stocked for them that they made the grade and are now listed on the official site too. I do so hope they don’t drop the ball as they grow larger – if you’re reading this Flywheel, please continue to maintain your current top-notch standards! Well done to SiteGround too: great for folk just getting started and/or on a tight budget!

  2. Yeah, this one has been beaten to death. For me it’s whatever. I know this page has the potential for influencing, but from my experience, working with beginners, most often they ask around and don’t just jump on something. And if they do, it can go either way for them.

    FYI. My host WPEngine is not listed, and I’m sure they are more concerned with that than I am.

    My take on hosting. You can sit down at a table at a conference with 12 people. If you are brave enough, you can bring up hosting. But likely you are going to get 12 different perspectives on popular hosts and many times, little agreement.

    Didn’t someone say that the four things when talking you should stay away from is sex, politics, religion and hosting? :)

    Ending it with a congrats to the new additions!

  3. Was hoping to see my hosting “kinsta” on this list. I believe they should make the hosting recommendation page cater towards different kind of blogs:

    New blogs
    Blogs with high traffic
    Massive blogs with high traffic

    and so on..

    After all, one size doesn’t fit all!

  4. How a beginner can end up on that page is beyond me. Believe me I have known hosting, web, etc beginners and it is a huge stretch to claim that page can influence beginners. So in that sense it is irrelevant in my opinion. The so called controversy, if any, should be why that page exists at all.

  5. I don’t understand why there should be a recommended hosts page at all. Just have a page with some pointers. on host selection, that is enough. However Matt goes about putting a list together there will only be disagreement and critique. Better just skip it altogether unless it’s about sponsorship money but then it should just say so.

    Also I don’t see any hostility in that published conversation all I see is disagreement and bewilderment on the part of Kohashi. And it’s apparent in the conversation exactly who Huff was talking too and he knew it as well. But publishing the whole conversation was not necessary in my opinion.

    • Not doing something because there would be potentially disagreement and critique doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.

      As part of the Support Team, I can give you first hand experience the amount of threads that we have to moderate because people argue over what makes a good host. It’s a lot.

      The consistent list of host gives moderators and volunteers alike a link to post to people who need some guidance.

      Not to mention, even with the moderators, we would have differing opinions on what makes a good host.

      I’m happy the list is now updated with more than 1 host

      And I’m sure that page will receive more attention and be updated in the near future.

      • Not doing something because there would be potentially disagreement and critique doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.

        Depends on the case. There is no actual need of the list so the pushback etc can be avoided.

        The consistent list of host gives moderators and volunteers alike a link to post to people who need some guidance.

        A list of hosts without transparency in the selection is not guidance. Guidance is what I suggested.

        Not to mention, even with the moderators, we would have differing opinions on what makes a good host.

        Have not said anything about having a list of what makes a good host.

        I’m happy the list is now updated with more than 1 host
        And I’m sure that page will receive more attention and be updated in the near future.

        You assume a lot given we don’t know anything but are at the mercy of Matts whims. Your expectations are not very high if you are just happy the list is more than one. Better skip it all together I think why create unnecessary problems. A list of things to consider or ask is less likely to cause grievances and accusations of favoritism etc. Don’t understand why having those issues is preferable to not having them.

  6. EIG and all the hosting companies it owns is and has been the worst ever. This has been frequently reported by WordPress users across the board, with servers down and bad service.

    Why BlueHost is listed is beyond belief, but obvious.

  7. Are you hosting with any of the companies listed on the recommended hosting page?

    We have a lot of clients on DreamHost. A few are on the shared plan but most are on the managed VPS at $15/month. For higher traffic they also offer DreamPress, which stands out from the managed WordPress hosting crowd by not imposing restrictions on which plugins you can install.

    There have been glitches along the way, but overall, it’s been a very good experience. From time to time we check out other hosts, either out of curiosity or because we’re asked to take over site maintenance for someone who is hosting elsewhere. So far, we haven’t seen any compelling reason to go elsewhere.

  8. On a salient point, I would just like to say that it is utterly underhand to have a private conversation and then quote from it, and I feel terrible for James Huff.

    If newspapers and broadcasters are not allowed to do it unless they can show it’s in the public interest, then why should bloggers be?

    Gross invasion of privacy.

    And finally, if there is to be a hosting page, SiteGround deserve to be on there.

    • As someone who’s jobs have been in IT and media (newspapers, tv and radio)… that’s not a gross invasion of privacy.

      there is nothing that says we can’t publish whatever content. Privacy varies depending on the country, and in USA/Canada it also varies depending on the state/province.

  9. I’ve updated the post to include information where Ohashi did inform James early in the conversation that he wanted to learn and publish the information regarding the process. I’ve also semi-removed my statement on private conversations. Although correct in general, it’s no longer directly related to this story.

    I initially thought the entire conversation was shared without the other party’s consent. This isn’t the case.

      • Siteground has multiple types of hosting; shared, cloud and dedicated. All of which you can host WP on. I haven’t used a lot of hosts, but I agree with Ismail, I’ve found their support and speed to be the best by far.
        Any time I have a question or an issue, I pop on to their livechat, which usually says I’m around 29th-30th in line but someone’s chatting with me in literally seconds, and the problem gets fixed either right then and there or within a day max if it needs to be escalated.
        The only issue I’ve ever had with them is that they don’t support ASP.NET sites as well, but can you blame them?

  10. I moved to cloudways a year ago and they not mentioned.

    Yes a lot of commenters on here are using web hosts not listed and have many reasons why they use that host and recommend it to there followers. I have never paid attention to the recommended hosting list.

    I have many online friends who have business’s online so long time ago when I decided to get in the blog scene I ask for there opinion’s on what they would look for in a web host since they get huge traffic and learned how to pick the host that works for me. I have been with 3 other web hosts before I decided to stay at one for a very long time and those 3 not ever made it to the recommended WordPress list.

    Still I can name 4 hosts that should be on there and remove 4 of them to send into the trash can. Some mentioned in the comments already. lol

  11. Unless the criteria for getting on the list includes user feedback/reviews, the list is meaningless.
    I understand the need to ask companies to answer questions re technical things in order to inform website owners , but as a criteria to be recommended? Useless. They’re trying to sell hosting, they’ll say anything. And WP is trying to make money from their recommendations page, so the list is tainted by the need for profit.

    • And WP is trying to make money from their recommendations page, so the list is tainted by the need for profit.

      And of course you have proof of this right?


      I didn’t think so. That makes your comment “meaningless” as well.

      • I think her comments are very meaningful. Between the arrogance of Mullenweg’s reply, the obvious conflict of interest, the common knowledge of Blue Host’s horrible service, and the money to be made by being on that list, it shouldn’t be taken seriously by anyone. Yet, beginners who see it will no doubt think it’s good, solid information based on reliable data. So the people it purports to help (beginners) are the very people who will get burned. I agree with Vivian. Without some kind of user rating, any site list is meaningless.

  12. Ouch. After looking at Flywheel’s pricing – just wow.

    They are completely out to lunch.

    They need a section on the hosting page for “hosts that charge WAYYYY too much AND have the nerve to limit “Monthly Visits”.” O_o

    What is it – 1997 again?

    • I always find it interesting that people will pay $15 for a McD’s trip, or $100/mo for their cell phone, but when it comes to their company or organizations web-presence, they suddenly think $20-50/mo is ‘just wow’ or ‘outrageous.’ :)

      I’ve been with WP Engine for several years now (used to self-host on a friends monster server for FREE) and it’s the best money I’ve ever spent (unless my time is only worth like $0.50/hr).

      • Clearly you haven’t looked at Flywheel’s pricing.

        My sites are hosted on a crazy-fast host with incredible service ( if anyone cares) – just not at stupid prices like that.

        I spend well over $5000/month for my web ventures. I just choose not to overpay for hosting. If I felt it was worth more I’d gladly pay it. :)

        • Sure, I did, just before I posted, as I wasn’t familiar with their offerings.

          They look a bit more expensive than WP Engine, depending on how they measure ‘visits’ and for what they include.

          To each their own, I guess… but I don’t have 4 or 5 $six-figure tech-gurus sitting around to manage WP hosting, and I’d rather focus on other things, even if I had the same level of skills.

          Like I said, I had a better server (than what Nexcess seems to offer) than that for free for years before moving to WP Engine. Having some hardware hooked to the Net is the easy part. People who really know their stuff in security, infrastructure, caching, etc. isn’t.

  13. Can’t get what is the drama about. Matt sponsors the site (and probably the foundation, but lets stay focused here), and therefor obviously can and should be allowed to have some personal calls for whatever reason that he may not disclose as long as it doesn’t hurt the core of what site does.

    We all (should) know by now that Matt can be petty against people/organizations he dislikes, but any business that depends on Matt liking it much, is in a problem whether or not it gets itself to be highlighted on

    The real lack of transparency here is from the wordpress foundation. I am sure it files all the legal documents required by law, but the community never hears abut its balance, plans or basically anything as far as I remember. If Matt is still directly paying Otto, then the question is why does it have to be that way, why it is not the foundation paying him.

    Once the foundation is responsible to and gets money from more then one source, we can as “shareholders” demand transparency, till then the answer to all questions about is “because” and it is a totally valid answer. It will be nice if Matt would have shared more of his reasoning (to satisfy curiosity), but he surely do not have to do that.

    • mark k.,

      WordPress is supposed to be about the community, so many developers around the world contribute to the code, I question how much of the code Matt still contributes but that’s another comment on it’s own, so why is Matt making the decision instead of the community.

      Community can’t even make a post on hosts they recommend, technically speaking it would be a spam s—fest.

      It IS a humongous conflict-of-interest for Matt to allow ANY of EIG’s hosting companies. Not because EIG ruins hosting companies (look at reviews in many sites about EIG’s hosting companies they brought) but because they gave money to Automattic. It’s like if you give me a million dollars cash RIGHT NOW with condition that I think you are an excellent human being, I will say that no matter how horrible or excellent human being you are.

      I would never EVER put a company as recommended if they gave me money. Technically speaking that list is breaking FCC regulations about disclosure.

      I wonder if the other 3 recommended companies ever sponsored or presented at a WordCamp.

      • WordPress is about web publishing software, nothing more and nothing less.

        Matt has many conflicts of interests between all the hats that he holds, as a CEO of a company that competes with other wordpress centric companies, and many others.

        But this is far from being new so why the drama? Matt is the de-facto dictator of the wordpress comunity and people that don’t like it can just do what many others have done and stop participating in anything that has to do with Not participating in the community do not prevent anyone from using wordpress so it is not that a big move to do.

        People that prefer to stay…. well as Matt said there isn’t enough money to make him change his mind, so instead of ranting maybe someone should try to present an argument to him as to why being more transparent about this issue and the favorite/recommended plugins should be in the greater interest of him.

        And about FCC, you actually got full disclose, they are there because that is what Matt thinks is the best thing to do. No hard to understand double talk here.

  14. My site is hosted with Flywheel and definitely there was a large boost in performance when I transfered my site to their servers. I’m never looking back.

    Although they don’t have an around the clock support, their team’s expertise is better than the rest of the flock.

    • Although they don’t have an around the clock support

      So they’re ultra-stupidly-expensive/restrictive as to what they offer AND their support availability sucks?

      It just gets better and better…..

    • Why should being a “volunteer” shield anyone from “taking shit”?

      Common decency, I suppose. If someone is giving up their free time to do something for you at no cost to you (offering support, for instance), it seems like a nice thing to do would be to at least not expect them to just submit to you and quietly “handle the heat.”

      Of course, there are plenty of entitled individuals who feel otherwise.

      There is no absolute answer that question, it’s just a matter of opinion and character.

      • It has nothing to do with entitlement.

        I has everything to do with real businesses using WP.

        If WP didn’t exist and there were only paid options – then we’d use paid options. End of discussion.

        Individuals CHOOSE to volunteer.

        If someone volunteered at a hospital and their job that day was to deliver meals, would you let them off the hook if someone had a diabetic seizure because they didn’t bother to deliver that patient’s meal? Does being a volunteer make it ok? Would you say, “Oh well, they’re a volunteer so you can’t expect much”? Of course not. If it was one of your loved ones that happened to you’d rip that “volunteer” a new one.

        Use your head James. Suck it up or move along. There are lots of people that would gladly take your place.

      • Generally speaking, I’ve tried to not reply to this post for a few reasons. Ron’s comment is the one I’m replying to. There are some points I’d like to directly address.

        Ron, you compared volunteering for an open source project and community with volunteers in a hospital where some patients may be terminal. I’m going to just go with “He got caught up in the discussion and carried it too far” because that a ridiculous comparison.

        Obligatory disclosure: Kevin’s blog post made me angry. It would have saved James some grief and much drama had Kevin simply stated at the beginning that there’s no way James or anyone could placate him. He and others don’t like the hosting page. That’s acceptable. I just don’t think there is any excuse for his pushing James in an online interrogation.

        Which is beside the point; I want to focus on Ron’s other statement. An individual choosing to help a community doesn’t grant anyone the right to harass or corner that person. Speaking just about the WordPress Support Team, the team is expected to treat everyone with respect. It’s not a stretch to expect others to reciprocate that.

        Upon reading the replies here, most of them are on point. But saying “It has everything to do with real businesses using WP” isn’t correct. That hosting page like the other pages on the site are about helping the WordPress users.

        Please do not read into some hidden or nefarious secret hosting plot. Some thought went into that page and yes, Matt got the final word. That’s just how that page works. Is it perfect? Of course not. Would it help if there were hundreds of host recommendations there? If the page was on a host review site then sure. But it’s not and sometimes concise is good. Four host providers isn’t a bad number.

        Remember, if you attend a WordCamp you’ll see that all of the volunteers are helpful and respectful. We all have a lot of fun. I look forward to volunteering at the Happiness Bar (if they’ll have me). Treat the volunteers online the same way you do in person: respectfully and friendly. That’s not a big ask.

        Online discussions can be dramatic but this one does not have to be. Maybe the next iteration of the hosting page will satisfy more people. Probably not. I don’t think it ever has. ;)

        Now… my comment here is way too long. ;) I hope everyone gets along and stays on topic. Let’s keep it about the hosting page content, OK?

  15. I have been at BlueHost since forever. They provide me inexpensive shared hosting that performs very well, they are continually improving hardware & software, and their phone-in support is always spot-on and very knowledgeable. So, I have WordPress, phenomenal _and free_ software, that runs on a host I pay a small amount of $ to each year, and damn(!) things are good…

    And Jeff, I appreciate how well you and Sarah often walk the line of writing/working for WordPress & “under the Automattic umbrella” and also responsibly critiquing all that goes on in that realm. The Stay-Puff Marshmallow Man is out there somewhere, please keep on keeping us safe. Thanks, and Root on!

  16. Thanks for highlighting this Jeff.

    I had a hard time choosing the best managed wp hosting not so long ago. In the end, I’ve decided to go with WPengine for hosting WPWarfare and never had a problem. Performance and support have been excellent. But now that Flywheel is listed on the official site looks like I should have gone with them. :)

  17. @Jan Demowski

    #1) At no point did I mention anything about “terminal” patients. I stand by my original analogy.

    #2) I disagree with your other points 100%. Being a “volunteer” doesn’t shield you from taking crap. Period. Live with it or get out.

    • It’s a shame my message wasn’t understood.

      Ron? Let me ask you a different question.

      Would you feel cornering and abusing volunteers is acceptable in real life?

      If so then yeah, there’s not much more to discuss with you.

      The expression I jokingly use is “people should be raised by a family” and no, that’s not a jab at non-traditional family units. That just means some basic human interaction skills are expected from others.

      If you really feel that’s appropriate and you’ve made it clear that you do, then frankly you’re just trolling and nothing you’ve got to say has any value.

  18. I recommend SiteGround to my theme customers and was going to add “SiteGround is recommended by” to give the recommendation some extra weight. But then it occurred to me that my customers might also think Bluehost is a great option. So I didn’t do it. is losing some credibility with the community over this. And I wonder, how can that be worthwhile?

    What I know is this. There is already enough of a problem created by sham review sites without’s continuation of this surprising recommendation. And nobody has done more than Kevin to try and turn that massive tide by shining a big light on what customers say about their web hosts.

  19. I have 1 client that uses FlyWheel and they’ve been pleased with the performance. I’d love to see a head to head comparison with WP Enginge and some of the newer WP managed solutions. Also interested in a new company called Crucial which does WP hosting. I wonder how it stacks up against other diy setups like Digital Ocean and Ramnode which is what I currently use.


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