The Week in Analysis

Post Status Slack: Does Five for the Future Work?

Post Status Slack was busy this week with a discussion surrounding financial support for volunteer contributors in open source — and Automattic's Five For the Future program. A number of Post Status members participated along with Matt Mullenweg in a conversation opened up by Joost de Valk. If you are a Post Status member you can start in the #club channel to catch up on the discussion in context. Here are the highlights:
  • Joost de Valk shared a story about Rankmath taking unattributed code from Yoast SEO as an example of the vulnerability that exemplary open source companies have, no matter how much they give back. Then he focused on the problems he sees with Five For The Future as a tax without any reward:
    "We’re not rewarding people who do Five for the Future work.... right now is basically a “tax” that is fully optional and leads to very little benefits... so the most rational thing to do is to not pay that tax and just ignore the program entirely."
    Joost notes that his personal preference would still be something like an app store on .org that "takes a cut out of all plugin and theme sales, and uses that money to pay for contributors to core."
  • Matt Mullenweg has long opposed the idea of an app store for .org, and he maintained that position this week. Matt argued that if everything is an app store, people would "just make more apps instead of collaborating." He noted that non-commercial plugins make up the vast majority of the WordPress plugin directory's listings:
    "The top ten plugins, including Yoast and Classic editors, are only about 21% of total active plugins tracked. The long tail of plugin distribution is longer and thicker than most would suspect."
    Matt  also shared some apparent frustration with certain members of the community taking advantage of WordPress:
    "Every day I see web hosts spending millions of dollars a month on advertising and not contributing anything back to WordPress (or even worse thinking they're god's gift to WP because they signed up some customers or ran a conference), and it can be frustrating."
    Whatever method might be used to bring in revenue on .org  and distribute a cut to contributors, Matt holds the opinion that this isn't as simple as it might seem:
    "Donations are incredibly hard to split equitably... even in the super early days of WP I could never think of a fair way to split donations, even among the code contributors, much less those contributing in other less countable but equally crucial ways, like support, translation, testing, documentation."
  • Lesley Sim doesn't favor the app store solution but thinks there are ways to reward contributors and create incentives to contribute with badges and other rewards. (See her Twitter thread.) Leslie says she thinks, "at the platform level, it needs to be a blend of financial and reputational incentives."
  • Yvette Sonneveld acknowledged discussions like this need to start leading to actionable goals:
    "I think this is really a case of what got us here is not likely to sustain us in the future. Our ecosystem feeds millions of people and offered thousands a chance to get to a position they never dared dream of. Just dismissing ideas offered is not getting us any closer to a sustainable solution."

Concerns about the lack of support for open source contributors have existed for a long time in and beyond the WordPress community. Several events in the last few months have made this problem a prominent news story and target of government regulatory action. There is no easy solution. The sheer scale (and sadly greed and selfishness by bad and ignorant actors) is unprecedented.

Five For The Future is a worthwhile endeavor to support WordPress, and companies like Yoast and WebDevStudios have been successful in doing this. But WordPress — pressed by increasing demand for high-quality, polished products and functionality — has grown to a point where this may not be enough. I agree with Matt that spreading out donations — real money — would be a challenge and unlikely to be seen as fairly distributed by everyone involved.

The first episode of Post Status Comments took on compensation for plugin developers and the idea of an app store. If you haven’t heard it, I highly suggest you check it out. Cory and I were joined by Joe Casabona and Joost de Valk for this conversation.

This year may see the peak of the conversation about open source sustainability. More of the general public and even the White House now are a part of the conversation. WordPress has the chance to contribute to the solutions that will emerge. This is a chance for the WordPress community to lead.

— David


One of the most interesting and practical things to come to light, thanks to Lesley, is Elinor Ostrom‘s Nobel prize-winning research in economics on the solution to “the tragedy of the commons,” which is often referenced by Matt and lies at the heart of this discussion.

Ostrom’s research into communities that effectively manage a commons showed that the “tragedy” is actually a “myth” that “blurred the idea of a resource system (the pasture) with resource governance (open access), and at the same time, confused open access (no constraints) with commons (sharing among community members on terms set by the community)” (Scientific American). Viewed correctly, the community attached to a commons is part of the commons and plays a key role in managing it.

— Dan

Woo Snippet for January 10

WooCommerce Blocks, Admin, and Action Scheduler updates were included in the latest release of WooCommerce 6.1. Preceding that release, WooCommerce Blocks 6.7.1 brought a patch release and a bug fix. On the Gutenberg side of things, Jamie Marsland from PootlePress shared an encouraging sneak peek of his WooCommerce BuilderBlocks which bring Gutenberg Full Site Editing to Woo product pages. Lastly, what is someone thinking when they release a plugin in a saturated market? Mark Westguard not only brought no-code to his form plugin but expanded it to bring customizations to WooCommerce. Crazy! You can hear his story here at Do_the Woo.

— Bob


This is the first weekly Woo update from Bob Dunn at Post Status. Welcome, Bob!

(If you’d like to become a Woo Builder Friend and join the Do_the Woo community, you can get $50 off if you’re a Post Status Member. We have a reciprocal deal for our Woo friends.)

— Dan and David

Yoast SEO is Coming to Shopify

Yoast SEO will release a new app for the Shopify platform later this month. Joost de Valk explains that "similar to our WordPress plugin, it helps you optimize your pages by giving you feedback on the findability and readability of your pages." Thijs de Valk, who recently took over as CEO of Yoast, wrote a separate post explaining why writing an app outside of the WordPress space (specifically Shopify) was the right move even if it's closed source:
"We think that Shopify is making the web better. We strongly believe in Shopify’s mission to bring small businesses online."
Robert Jacobi reflects a bit on this move with a response from Joost about how the company reuses large sections of code: "We’ve created a new settings app for the Shopify application and we’ve built it in such a way that we can re-use that on our other platforms too, which we intend to do soon." magnifying-glass

This is a logical move following Yoast’s acquisition by Newfold Digital. I suspect the growth in market share for Yoast in the WordPress ecosystem has reached a point where it is necessary to grow into other markets. I won’t be surprised to see a few more WordPress plugins and services cross into Shopify territory.


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News for the WordPress Professional

WordCamp Birmingham Postponed

— Due to rising COVID cases in the area, WordCamp Birmingham 2022 has been postponed with possible new dates in April or May:
"The WordPress community is bigger than any single WordCamp. We cannot in good conscience continue forward with our event, given the current risk, since this decision could negatively impact other in-person WordCamps currently in the planning stages."

Comparing .com to .org

Daniel Schutzsmith did a comprehensive breakdown of the WordPress .com versus .org onboarding experience in a Twitter thread. Daniel noted in Post Status Slack that he was "VERY surprised to see so many features built into .com." The ability to add (and pay for) plugins has existed on .com for a while — at least on business plans — but you may be surprised at what else has emerged at .com. I wish this was a blog post! 😉 Responding to Daniel's comparison, Matt Mullenweg explained one goal for the new, more polished .com admin interface "was to show .com did a ton better on user tests and then use that to advocate for that design becoming the new wp-admin." However, there is no "data that shows it works any better than wp-admin." Matt added, "We'll probably do some tweaks on both sides to bring learnings from each design. I don't like that .com has a separate design for some of the same screens right now." magnifying-glass

2021 Year in Review: Tripled, Acquired, Reborn, and Humming

Brad Touesnard reflects on the past year for Delicious Brains which saw a major acquisition in Advanced Custom Fields, and big changes to their team, products, and projects:
"We experienced healthy growth again this year with total revenue up 13% over last year. This is a drop from last year’s growth rate, but I’m still very happy with it."
About ACF in particular:
"The difference between a one-time sale and recurring revenue is on display here. The situation is looking much healthier in 2021, with revenue up 47% over 2020."

PHP versions in WordPress

Alexander Goller notes how WordPress lags behind minimum required PHP versions and offers an explanation:
"Automattic never seemed to have an interest in PHP, the ecosystem or the broader community even though they are the stepping-stone into PHP development for many people."
Although WooCommerce has upped its minimal version to 7.2, Alexander feels it was an overly conservative choice:
"Instead of trying to push the adoption of “modern” PHP, they move to something people are already using. In my opinion, the right move would have been to move to PHP 7.4 now."

Lessons Learned about SaaS pricing

Lau B. Jensen, CEO of  Zimtik, shares some lessons learned about pricing his invoicing SaaS for freelancers, including some faulty assumptions about Zimtik's customers work:
"Once your business is up and running, we wanted a natural ramp that would distinguish those who work internationally with many clients and those who are local. For a few reasons, this was a mistake."

All I Want for Christmas is Faster Webhooks

Jack Arturo talks about webhooks and improving webhook performance in WP Fusion. He also notes this change in the product:
"WP Fusion now ships with an api.php file inside the plugin folder. You can POST your webhooks directly to this file, and it will validate them and save them directly to the database, bypassing the normal WordPress load process."

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