238 – ‘0’ is for Open Source

‘A-Z of WordPress’ with Nathan Wrigley and David Waumsley

Hello, It’s another A-Z of WordPress. The series where we attempt to cover all the major aspects of building and maintaining sites with WP. Today is for O for Open Source.


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This one could be more like our debate series. Let set this up:

Matt Mullenweg via the “State of the Word” often reminds us that Open Source is the main benefit of WordPress (General Public License – GPL – in this case). Indeed! We all own the WordPress software and any theme or plugin derivatives of it this does not automatically include design elements.

Defending Open Source is often a reason for certain actions – most notably the Gutenberg Project to defend against the mega budgets (greed!!!) of capitalists such as Wix, Squarespace and Shopify.

Although, not an easy position for Matt as the someone who owns WordPress.com, much of the WooCommerce premium extension market, and other proprietary software via Automattic (which in turn answers to venture capitalists).

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Even though the software is not owned, we have seen an increase in the acquisition of premium themes and plugins. Nathan’s tweet / FB post on this set off some debate, but perhaps only a few brought GPL into the equation.

Where WordPress and Open Source is now is a worry to me (David), but I’m sure we can sort it all out in a definitive chat here!!!

Q1. What are companies actually acquiring within Open Source?

  • Customers
  • Developer skills
  • Reputation
  • Something missing in their tool set

Q2. Is Open Source as good as it sounds?

  • Is it really ever free?
  • Is being free the thing that makes WordPress a success?
  • Is it the sense of control, ownership and maybe a sense of challenge too?
  • Who’s responsible when it goes wrong?
  • Does it really protect our commercial interest?
  • Paul mentions the valuation of companies like Wix (less 2% market share) compared to WordPress (nearly 42%).

Q3. Is Open Source a bit messy / silly?

  • Messy with multiple vendors (conflicts, multiple payments, advertising in the dashboard)
  • Concerns of one commercial body controlling an open source project (look at how the changes to WooCommerce creates a dependency on extensions mostly owned by the company)
  • WordPress has different rules for themes and plugins when it comes to using the repository for promoting premium

Final thoughts

Using open source only in my business has always been key. I don’t want to effectively be a reseller of someone else’s product in the process of selling my services and skills. But perhaps I have that all wrong.

I love the idea of Open Source and I always have. Sure it comes with some odd mental hurdles that you’ve got to accommodate in a (mostly) capitalist world, but there is something about being a part of this movement that feels very empowering.

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Transcript (if available)

These transcripts are created using software, so apologies if there are errors in them.

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Nathan Wrigley: [00:00:00] Welcome to the WP Builds podcast, bringing you the latest news from the WordPress community. Welcome your host, David Waumsley, and Nathan Wrigley.
Hello there. And welcome once again to the WP Builds podcast. This is episode number 238. Entitled O is for open source. It was published on Thursday, the 15th of July, 2021. My name's Nathan Wrigley. And in just a moment, I'll be joined by my good friend David Wamsley, so that we can have our chat about open source.
But before then a few short bits of house. I would really appreciate it. If you found this podcast useful that you go and review it somewhere, a typical place to do that would be on your podcast player of choice. If you feel that you want to give it a five-star review and a bit of a comment, that would be very nice.
Indeed. Aside from that head over to our website, which is WP Builds.com. And there's a few URLs, which I want to mention the subscribe link at the top. They will take you to a page where you can subscribe and keep in touch with all of the content that we produce each and every week. So that's a podcast that you're listening to now comes out on a Thursday as a Monday show called this week in WordPress, which I do each week with Paul Lacey and a couple of WordPress related people.
And we chat about the WordPress news from the previous week. It's a lot of fun. And if you join us in the comments. We'll be sure to put some of those on the screen. Also WP Builds.com forward slash deals, but like black Friday, but every day of the week, go and check that out. If you're in the market for something this week, and you never know, you might get 10, 15, 20% or more off a purchase.
Another one would be our new social network. It's a mastered on install, which is a piece of free open source software. Coincidentally, the URL for that is WP Builds.social. It's slowly growing, but if you want to add and swell the numbers and join the conversation over there, WP builds.social, and yes, that is a URL.
The last one is WP builds.com forward slash advertise. If you would like to have your product or service in front of a WordPress specific audience, a bit like AB split test have done. Do you want to set up your AB split test in record time, then you AB split test plugin for WordPress. We'll have you up and running in a couple of minutes.
Use your existing pages and test anything against anything. So that's buttons, images, how does rose anything? And the best part is that it works with element or beaver builder and the WordPress block editor, check it out and get a free demo. A B split test.com. Okie dokie. We're talking about open source today.
This fabulous movement of people who create things freely available for the rest of us to take and modify. And WordPress is one such piece of software. There are benefits to this model, and there's probably some drawbacks as well. And we talk about all of that on the podcast today. It's a really interesting subject.
It's a bit of a philosophical position. So we do go deep into the weeds on what it's all about and what we make of it. And I hope that you enjoy it.
David Waumsley: [00:03:14] Hello. It's another eighties out of WordPress, the series where we attempt to cover all the major aspects of building and maintaining sites with WordPress today is oh, for open source or perhaps for, oh my gosh.
What we opened up here
Nathan Wrigley: [00:03:30] with this one. Yeah. I'm going to say right at the outside, right at the outset. I should say that every opinion that I express is David's,
David's a finger. He owns all of it. Anything that we say?
David Waumsley: [00:03:47] Yeah it's such a key part of WordPress, isn't it? Every state of the word that Matt worked does certainly over the recent year reminds us that open source is one of the main benefits of WordPress, that license that comes to the GPL, licensed general public license, where we own. All of us, the WordPress software, Eddy themes or plugins derivatives of it is ours.
No one else owns it. And that gives us a lot of protection.
Nathan Wrigley: [00:04:20] Doesn't it? The most remarkable thing, in a sense, it's almost like philanthropic, just the idea that something has been made and is completely free for you to take modify, do what you like with it. Anything that you like with it and deploy it in any which way, shape or form with certain limitations on that, but not a great many limitations.
It's incredible. And I'm sure David you've had the conversation with clients where you, it's pretty clear that they've not really encountered anything open source before. We live in a fairly capitalist world where you pay for something and you get something in return. And that seems to be the model.
And then you tell them that you're going to use a piece of free software. And the silence is deafening, because what do you mean it's free? It's free. You don't have to pay for it. I don't want, that will be rubbish. Can we get a better one? No, it's really good. It's just a different mindset and one that most people are not accustomed.
David Waumsley: [00:05:23] Yeah. I wonder actually, to what extent people know the difference between the commercial side of WordPress and the non-commercial and because WordPress is the name, it's just a big brand. Now that I feel like I've not needed to explain it too much. In fact, if anything I've needed to explain, there are two WordPress is out there, yeah. That's good. Yeah. So I don't know. It, I think is interesting and again, really the whole of the Gutenberg project, as well as being open source has been one of the reasons for it, the need to create a product out there that is still open source, which can compete with the likes of Wix Squarespace and Shopify as well.
That was one of the opening gambits on the start of it. Yeah, good to boat project, at least, what Matt Malone work addressed anyway. You know, it's key to everything we do in WordPress. I think
Nathan Wrigley: [00:06:22] It is the bedrock of absolutely everything, but it's also held behind GPL licenses and things like that.
We've tried to tackle that in various other podcasts. And I think probably it's fair to say we failed horribly, but we at least gave it a go, but it is mysterious. There's an awful lot of mystery about what you're entitled to do and what you aren't entitled to do. But there is no doubt in my mind that the community that has grown up around WordPress, if it wasn't an open source model, then it wouldn't be the community that we've got in the software probably wouldn't have advanced.
But I think you've got to tie the two together, the.com side, the commercial side and the.org side, the free as in beer side, because I think without one, the other probably wouldn't have been successful and vice versa.
David Waumsley: [00:07:12] Yeah. Nice. And you put out, this is some time back now, a tweet and a Facebook post about the acquisitions that go on in WordPress.
And I thought we could just maybe tie this in a little bit with open source, because when you think about it, it's just seems crazy. It doesn't it sounds crazy from the beginning. If you've just grown up in the capitalist world, the idea that people come together and give their time up for free to create something for free for everyone seems incredible.
But now we're living in an age now where we see lots of acquisitions in the WordPress space. And
Nathan Wrigley: [00:07:48] what are your thoughts? It's really interesting. My as is so often the case I'm left, not really knowing what my thoughts are because I can see both sides of it. On the one hand, there are people who are saying, yeah, it's a maturation.
It, this is the, the, the WordPress project and maturing and the acquisition of smaller plugins and themes. And what have you by larger entities is just how, how industry progresses. It's just the nature of commerce. In the end. You got a few players who, for reasons of success in the past, and what have you.
They managed to have grown to a certain size where they can consume and acquire other things. So people are very sanguine about that, and they feel that this is just how it goes. It gives employees stability. Let's say that you're working for a company, a plug-in company, and they're acquired by a bigger company.
You as an employee might get some great benefits from that. You might, for example, receive healthcare, or you might get a greater job security or even increased pay and reduced hours. Who knows how that might go. But also it allows me. Plugin developers to have some sort of path to success. One of the, one of the metrics might be, I want to build this op doc too.
I don't know. Let's just make numbers of up to half a million users. And when I get to that point, I'm going to try and sell it. That is the goal. That's the roadmap. And when I get there, I'll be able to sell it. And that's my, that's the productivity that I want to get out of this. And it will change my life.
And I don't want to be the person who has built a plugin and ends up supporting it for 40 years or whatever that might be. So I can really see the benefits. On the other hand, we have a, an open source community and I think it's fair to say. On balance open-source communities are tend to be frequented by by people who maybe don't necessarily represent the, the broad spectrum of political thought.
If you know what I mean, I'm trying to be very careful in the language that I use here, but open source projects, th they are in a sense they are let's call it against capitalism. They have a different focus. It's not about generating as much revenue as possible. And so there's concern on that side that it the acquisition of these companies and the commercialization of all of this kind of goes against ethos a little bit.
And so people are concerned and they're worried that give it another five years. And most of the good stuff in there, argument, most of the good stuff will be owned by just a few giant companies. And that's their point of concern. So there you go. I've sat on the fence. Beautiful.
David Waumsley: [00:10:33] Yeah, you have no, I think it's, I just think it's so fascinating that it's going on the acquisitions, because obviously those people who say things are maturing and that's just natural.
That is capitalist thinking in a way isn't it. And how it sits in the open source, which seems to be everything against it. Why even work seems incredible. The, just this basic idea that people do stuff for free just is anti-capitalism and you're right. The people in the community, there are different, I guess the people who've given their time to work for the betterment of our world, but, you know, There was always a selfish motive in all of us, somewhere under that, maybe it just makes us feel better to do that or to have those beliefs.
But yeah, I just think it's fascinating, but also just from the side of the companies, who are, uh, there's lots of them now buying lots of software, which effectively they still don't get to own do they, they buy a company and their software, but that software is still owned by all
Nathan Wrigley: [00:11:39] of us.
That's the curious thing in that if you create software, which in any way kind of bolts into WordPress, then it, it has to have derivatives of it, essentially. You can fork it and take it off. So even if you're buying a plugin for the sake of argument, you're not really buying the code, you're buying it because you are, but you're not because anybody can just say I'd like to take that code and do something different with it.
And you're entitled to do it. That's part of the GPL. So what are you buying.
David Waumsley: [00:12:13] And also the interesting thing about it, this is, it seems strange to me because companies are buying these and it seems like they're having success with it. But, and I guess this may be just a little silo of our Facebook groups, where I hang out, but very few people are quite positive about the idea of an acquisition.
Um, but those who own the software already, or those who were considering buying the software, when they hurt head heard it's been sold, they tend, there tends to be more cynicism around
Nathan Wrigley: [00:12:44] that. Yeah, I guess it gets anything that, that upsets the normal running of anything is a cause for concern.
Isn't it. And in the case of certain notable plugins, which have been acquired recently, whose user base is absolutely massive, anything which, which brings into question how that will be licensed in the future and how that will be paid for in the future and what the license agreement will be in terms of the cost.
And so on, is going to concern you because some plugins your entire business, maybe enormously reliant upon it. So I don't, I'm not sure if it's cynicism in the center. This is all bad, more cynicism is, oh, here we go again. Now we've got to figure out what all this means. But I think, I guess so.
Yeah, but the, the, the recent, there was a recent WP engine piece, which came out, which valued the WordPress economy. I won't go into the details of it, but imagine everything connected to WordPress, basically, they, they think that economy is now worth over half a trillion dollars. So 500 plus billion dollars.
So that's a mind numbingly, large amount of money. And if we wish for things to progress and things to develop, then we do need to pay people to put their, put themselves in a, in front of a screen to organize community events, to do the full gamut of things, which an open source project requires to be successful.
And in many cases that requires finance. And so it is hard to ignore those arguments about acquisition, because there is a lot of money floating about, we got a lot of value for nothing as in, for no money down because we can download it. And what have you. But there is also the part of the commercial part, which makes it possible to have a career in WordPress and actually generate enough money to put food on the table.
And that I think is one of the, one of the reasons, some other projects haven't been quite so successful is because they didn't have the commercial bit, everything was free, everything was open source and it was very much. I've been in a variety of different communities and you've got the impression that if it had a paid component than it was in and of itself, anti the project and wrong, essentially.
And it turns out that over time they have become less dominant and WordPress has become more dominant. And maybe that's a key component.
David Waumsley: [00:15:15] Yeah. He said, with acquisitions, I think I'm lumping them all together, but they seem very different to me. The majority that we've seen have been larger hosting companies by in WordPress software.
So like WP engine, like liquid web, they've been buying up quite a lot of that, but then there are some which seem entirely different to me. Such as delicious brains acquire in the advanced custom fields plugin where they entirely taken on the project itself seems that it seems an entirely different type of acquisition.
Nathan Wrigley: [00:15:47] I think so. And in that case, I don't really have any insight to offer here, but I, my impression from everything that I've read around this is that Elliot Condon, the creator of ACF really did go out, looking for the. The candidate that he preferred and that he thought would be the best fit. And in this case, it was a bunch of very like-minded people who were keen on the quality of the code that they output.
And, obviously had a track record of creating some solid plugins and investing in support on all of the things that Elliot valued. So that was just a different one. I have literally no idea what was involved in that, but it was, uh, it felt different, didn't it? Because it wasn't a giant company acquiring a smaller entity to bolster its offering.
In this case, they all most are, could be wrong about this. They felt like almost like the underdog bought the big player, like the opposite way round.
David Waumsley: [00:16:47] Yes. Yeah. Generally the interest in full life just had not never had this before, but do you think maybe the Gutenberg project has changed the types of acquisitions we've got because really WordPress.
Really moving from a basic, simple CMS where everyone adds their own thing on top of it to become in a fully fledged site builder along the lines of Wix appealing to a wider audience. And do you think that's maybe why a lot of the hosting companies are going for that? It it's a way of being able to deliver their own wicks through their hosting.
Nathan Wrigley: [00:17:25] Yeah. Imagine a space in which over the last four or five years, if you've been involved in building websites on WordPress going further back then you either had to understand the PHP templating system, or more recently, you've been able to download a page builder. And so there was a cost associated with getting everything up and running either.
It was an intellectual cost and you had to devote the time to getting your PHP skills and learn the way that the WordPress hierarchy works and all of that stuff. Or you had to invest in a third-party solution and then you were siloed over there. Now it feels like the future is very much, most things built on top of blocks.
And so the, I think we've got to 42 odd percent of the internet. It only feels to me at the minute as if that's going to get better when more and more things can be done. In a simple way and everything can be done in that simple way. It feels like that 42% is actually going to grow potentially even more rapidly.
And when you can do all the e-commerce things in there, and so you can run a shop, not just a website and the conversation is bound to happen. Inexperienced people will say I need to get a website up and running for my business. What have you used for yours? And 42% of them are going to say I use WordPress.
Okay, I'll go and download that and use that. It just feels like that's going to snowball. And yes, I think Guttenberg is a big part of that because it's going to allow really simple things to be done by everybody. And you won't need to learn three proprietary different things to make it happen.
David Waumsley: [00:19:04] I think the hosting companies who are buying must be thinking about that. The things that they bought, they haven't gone out and bought independent page builders that we've seen so far. I can't think of a, an example of that. They bought something which helps you work with blocks. So in the case of WP engine, it's been the whole Genesis theme.
You have the Genesis blocks. Yeah.
Nathan Wrigley: [00:19:28] that they bought. I think it was something like that. Atomic. Yes, that's right. Yeah.
David Waumsley: [00:19:32] That's right. And renamed it to Genesis. So it does seem like when it comes to the big hosting companies buying the buy-in, I think into the whole site building. Gutenberg. That seems the way it's going.
Yeah. To me, so they can serve WordPress and serve these extra customers. So it makes sense. I never really thought about that until we started discussing that
Nathan Wrigley: [00:19:53] kind of acquisitions. And th just the fact that all of this is going to become free and freely available really well, make it a compelling rival for the outmatched commercial rivals, you Wix and Squarespace.
And what have you, what's interesting is that the only component which will always basically remain not free, no matter how good these builders become, the only component, which will never be free, will be the hosting. If Gothenburg delivers on the promise of having full site editing really capable, really easy to do WooCommerce it's translatable, and it becomes the operating system for the web in a way, the Gothenburg editor gets ported over to all sorts of phone apps.
The only bit, which you're going to need to pay for is still the hosting. So it does make a great deal of sense for these hosting companies to, to be hoovering up all of the, the bells and whistles bits, which make the editing experience. And possibly
David Waumsley: [00:20:56] as well, when I was thinking what they're acquiring and, the, the customers probably develop a skills as well and reputation, but I guess, yeah, thinking along the block editor and Gutenberg project, that kind of makes sense to grab either those customers also that we're interested in a good Timberg in the first place would be useful.
Even if the product they bought, isn't the one that they go with.
Nathan Wrigley: [00:21:22] Long-term it feels to me as if, obviously if you're acquiring a a plugin or a theme, or what have you, that is, you're not getting the code. As I said earlier, what are you buying? You are getting the customers, you're getting the email lists.
You're getting, you're potentially taking on board, the developers they're coming on and working for your team. Like you said, reputation and what have you, or you've you've also alluded on the show notes that we've got to something which may be missing from their own suite, but it feels to me.
If the hosting companies are aligning themselves to offer a particular way of doing WordPress. So it feels to me as if hosting company X over here is buying all the things which make e-commerce really easy to do. And you know, if you want a WooCommerce site, the default option will be this, do it through this hosting company, after all, that's the bit you're going to have to pay for anyway.
And they've got all these other things, which they can throw at you to make WooCommerce much easier to work with. If you're doing an LMS, haven't really seen a hosting company going down this route, but it maybe that would be a way to do it. If you want to do learning management stuff, go with this hosting company, because they've got, they've bought up all the good stuff around that as well.
And so little hosting company silos, developing.
David Waumsley: [00:22:42] There's one that does a YouTube video, humorous one about acquisitions, which should keep sharing. And this is characterized as acquisitions have always been failures. If you like the YouTube video feature, someone who's not invited to a party on a new acquisition and they go back to the last one, he went to where someone is saying, there's great news.
We've just been acquired this company, totally get our philosophy and it's going to take us forward. And then the guy interrupts and says, nah, it's not going to happen. Is it? You didn't have a business model in the first place. You couldn't make any money out of it. That's why you're standing up. And this company who made their money 20 years ago were just hoovering up anything in the hope that they'll keep going with new stuff.
And there is that other side of acquisitions, which I think about, which is true. A lot of the stuff is acquired. That kind of goes nowhere. It's just, people have got the budget and they're looking to increase their portfolio.
Nathan Wrigley: [00:23:41] Okay. The, the cost that brings the argument to mind of whether or not you're buying, just so that your competitors can't buy something, you're literally taking competition out of the marketplace.
Yeah. I can't honestly think of an example in the WordPress space where I could say that feels like that's what was occurring, but I'm sure that in the wider world, large companies do buy op companies all the time that they just perceive are going to offer a threat in the future. So you just buy them up so that they don't pose that threat in the future.
David Waumsley: [00:24:17] Yeah. Oh, and WordPress must be in we're in an age where this is all just untested. Obviously there's lots of open source software out there, patchy, things that huge, but you just don't see what's going on in the WordPress community. It doesn't serve the end user so directly, I mean, I use a lot of open source software, myself, just small tools you know, watch my videos on open source software. I'll do some of my editing on some of it, but I've, I've not seen have you anything in the open source world, which is similar to what's going on in
Nathan Wrigley: [00:24:56] WordPress at the moment? No, that doesn't, I don't really know because I don't really, I can imagine which bits of software you're talking about.
I imagine that you're talking about VLC as the sort of way that media, I don't really have any insight into whether that's the dominant thing, because over on the. On the computer side of things, if you buy an apple Mac or you buy a windows computer, or, you get a Linux box up and running, it comes with a default and the default is probably fairly good.
The windows media player. I don't even know if it's called that anymore, but in the case of apple, it's called QuickTime and it plays everything and it's perfectly all right. Yeah. It's difficult to know whether there is a sort of dominance there, but definitely we are experiencing dominance in the internet base.
I don't even know if that's helpful if you actually think about it this way. I was always told as a, as you're growing up, the competition is the sort of driving force of capitalism mean everything needs to be in competition with everything else. We are getting to the point where WordPress.
Almost doesn't really have a great deal of competition. The default very soon, once you flip over 50%, you're more than half of the internet. If you like, you do start to think, where is the competition? Is there competition? And of course the answer is yes, you can go out and download other stuff, but you get, you become the default and then you get the tyranny of the default is the default any good?
And so it goes, oh boy, you could really open a can of worms.
David Waumsley: [00:26:23] Yeah. It could flip, could net, the question, one of the questions I thought we should discuss is whether open source is as good as it sounds, is it really ever free as such, because most of the stuff, the reason why open source is populous because people are able to sell premium ad-ons to most of us,
Nathan Wrigley: [00:26:46] I would argue that it really is free in that I think I could put together a pretty decent website that would serve.
The majority of people's basic needs with utterly free things. So obviously we've got the CMS itself and there's contact forms, which are free. There's now ways of laying out websites, which are completely free. And even on the commercial side, you've got the free offerings from the, for example, the page builders and what have you completely free.
And they would do the job. The thing is most of the is to explore different options. And we are being told all the time that, you need to do this and you need to do that. And you need to make sure your SEO is taken care of. And unless you are prepared to spend absolutely ages, figure every F figuring everything out, we do just dip into our pockets now and again.
And and that's a good thing because as I said, we need to make sure these developers have got a career path, but yes, I think you could easily build a WordPress website, which was functional. Albeit probably not as complicated as other ones might be for nothing. Absolutely. No money. Just time.
David Waumsley: [00:27:53] Yeah. It seems to make sense. That's part of the reason for its success is that it's free, but I guess there are other products out there where the free option isn't, software itself, we were mentioned in Linux, most people won't go and install that they'll probably go for windows or, apple products.
And yeah, maybe free is a maybe what made it a success? I don't know. What's your thoughts
Nathan Wrigley: [00:28:23] on that? I think that in the case, the computers. So for example, windows, I think it's just familiarity. Windows really was the best thing for awhile and it was what everybody had and they made a bunch of software I'm thinking about word and all of their office products, which quickly became the default.
And there was no way at that point that the open source projects could keep up with that. And so it, there was clear blue sky between what Microsoft were offering and the sort of the quality of in inverted commerce of what the free stuff was. And so it became the default, but I'm now pretty sure.
Most people are quite willing to use in inverted commerce. I'm going to say free software offerings, like Google docs. I know that comes with many strings attached, it doesn't actually cost you anything. If you're not on a workspace account, you're just on a Gmail account. Most people have flipped over to that.
Um, I'm not really sure. I think I th yeah, I think if there was a fee attached to it, you would be far less than likely to give it a try. I remember. Do you remember a CMS called expression engine, which back in the day back in? Oh, I didn't, I'm going to say like 2004 or something like that. It was a total row.
Two things like WordPress and movable type and Joomla and all of these other ones, but it had a fee and I think it was $199 or something like that per install. And I never played with it, but even though lots of people were like writing fabulous things about it. I never played with it. Cause I just couldn't bear to, to put $199 down and then discover that I didn't like it or that it couldn't do the things that I wanted it to.
So I was always drawn to the free things because then I could experiment and play and up. Enough people experimented and played with WordPress and other things, and then decided I actually want to make this better. And so didn't just stop at the point of using it and consuming it. They actually decided they were going to get involved and become part of the community that built it.
But without any fear touch, they just dedicated some of their time because they could see that it was a better thing. It's really curious, isn't it? Because a lot of us are probably commercial rivals to, to, to some of the people that we go to word camps with. And yet we sit there and we talk about how to solve different things to our rivals.
And it's also very open and jolly and very nice. It's very strange.
David Waumsley: [00:30:57] Yeah, I think you made a really good point actually on the software. It's about what was established and the expectations. And I guess, going back, I was learning to build websites when it was just HTML and CSS was new and everything was free.
The internet, that basic code of the internet was free. So I guess it, it would be quite a jump to start building sites with a CMS then, and have to pay for it in the first instance where if I bought a computer, the software would come with it. I've already forked out some money. So
Nathan Wrigley: [00:31:29] yeah, I can see, I think one of the great successes of WordPress was back in the day was I think it was just easy to use and it looked good.
Which sounds ridiculous, but I'm sure it contributed. And what I see when I say it was easy to use, it did start out as a blogging platform and that was what it did. And then custom fields came along and people started to make use of that, but it re they, the project really did make it look fabulous.
And you look back at the time machine of how the admin UI has changed and you obviously go back and you think, oh, wow. How did we ever cope with that? That's so ugly. But if you compare it to some of the other ones that I was using it's, it's less ugly. And I think, although it's probably time for a bit of a reefer.
It's still, it looks really nice on the inside. You poke around and everything's fairly consistent and there's a consistent color scheme and there's a consistent way that the buttons look and so on. It just looks really polished. And I'm sure that had a great impact because people could instantly settle into it and start using it and understand it because it wasn't trying to do a billion, complicated things.
It was just publishing stuff and uploading images and putting things on the internet. And the complexity, to be honest, the complexity is why we've got jobs in WordPress still is because people want complexity. And the complexity is where it gets difficult. But if you just want a blog and you don't care about the theme, being anything other than some kind of default that you click and install and implement and activate, then you don't really need somebody like you, or like me.
You can just do all of that yourself, but luckily people. Hoping to have more functionality and different things built in there. And so there are careers for us, but I'm sure that the way it looked and felt was a big contributing factor.
David Waumsley: [00:33:21] Have you, do you make a stand on open source? Do you always use it?
If there was a, if a client came to you to build a site and would you just say I'm only going to work with open source or would you consider going off to a platform like Shopify, I'm working with a client now?
Nathan Wrigley: [00:33:41] In my case, I will literally only work with WordPress just because that's, I, for me, I feel that you might as well get reasonably good.
I'm not for a minute suggesting I'm particularly great or anything, but you might as well get better at one thing than trying to do a billion, other things. If you can make that work. And for me, that has worked. I was able to just contour WordPress and dedicate my time to it. So yeah, that, that is my position, but it's not an intellectual position, if it hadn't worked out that way and work was harder to combine, somebody said we'd like a Shopify thing implementing, please then.
Absolutely. I would have done. I don't really have any, I don't really have any constraints telling me, no, it must be open-sourced. What about you? Do you.
David Waumsley: [00:34:27] Yeah, I have made it my thing for the business side. I've got a rationale with it. So even within WordPress, we can end up not being in open source.
It technically it's disputable, but there are some premium software, which isn't fully open source, which works on WordPress. So you could end up without the protection of the GPL. So I've always stuck to that. And it's the same with, using any of the kind of images or anything, unless the client's buying it because I felt in my.
So I've not wanted to use any software at all within WordPress that doesn't have full GPL because I felt if I needed to hand over something to the client as their responsibility, I needed to give them full ownership of that rather than it be signed up with someone else. Or I didn't want to have the whole conversation that I feel to protect myself, I'd need to have with them.
You know, I've installed this plugin, um, it needs updating, and this is the commercial entity behind it, who to do that. And you don't because at least if I handover something that I know is GPL, even if it comes, which it does, in my case with BeaverBuilder with this ongoing updating, when I've handed over the site, it is technically theirs, legally theirs.
Nathan Wrigley: [00:35:43] Yeah. That's a good point. I hadn't really come at it from the, handing it over to clients angle, but that is a really nice and reassuring part of the jigsaw puzzle as well. Isn't it? You really can't. Give it to them. Uh, I guess if they start to pay for their own licenses and their GPL, then they really, really have ownership of that.
And, there are ways of going circumventing that and them using your licenses, if that's applicable in the case of particular plugins or not, but they do own it at the end. And that's a really nice thing to be able to say it's yours. And another nice thing to be able to say is that with WordPress occupying 42% of the web, if for some reason we part ways I've built this website for you, but if we part ways fee or not, there's dozens of people within a few miles of where you live, who can just pick it up and go running with it because they're also using WordPress.
So you've got this interoperability of people using it. So you don't just have to stick with this agency. You can grow to a bigger agency or just swap the agent that you're using in a particular town.
David Waumsley: [00:36:51] Yeah, exactly. I think that the thing about the open source, why I thought I'm going to make sure that everything I use really does have that, the legal is allowing me to give that to the client because then what they paid for me is it's just the service, my skills uh, I haven't up sold them a product as such, even though in a way I have, because I'm always using premium products for nearly all of the sites, lots of them as well.
But at that point, yeah, that's the key thing for me. I thought, you know what
Nathan Wrigley: [00:37:24] go on, sorry. I was just going to say, I also think that the whole plugin architecture of WordPress is a thing, which is really is a great selling point for clients because they can see that there's this massive marketplace and now we're really familiar with.
Phones that we buy, you buy the iPhone or you buy your Android phone and you realize that's basically a conduit. It does some basic stuff. It'll do a phone call. It's probably got some built in things that it'll do, it'll do timers and it'll got a clock on it and all that kind of stuff, but really you're buying it in great measure so that you can add things into it.
You can install your favorite health tracking app, or you can install your favorite to do list app. So the iPhone is a conduit to put other things into it. Apps and the, so are the Android phones and you could say the same for WordPress and I've really seen it on clients' faces when they suddenly realize, oh wow, it can do that.
Yeah, it can, it can't do it out of the box, but the way it's built is such that other people can develop things and you can go off and you can buy that thing. And it really doesn't cost a lot of money and it will do 95% of everything that you want. You might have to forego this little thing, but it'll do most of what you want and you're off to the races.
So that, that's a really great part of the project as well.
David Waumsley: [00:38:48] But I guess it leads us into where things can be slightly off with open source because isn't it a bit
Nathan Wrigley: [00:38:55] messy. Yeah, I mean, it's not, I don't really want to say this, but I guess it's not really got the capability to be as laser focused as a commercial entity where, a commercial entity, let's say they're producing a piece of CMS software for a giant blue chip company and it's bespoke and it's exactly what they need.
You know, you log onto any banking website. You're pretty sure it's not an open source CMS that they're using to actually handle the transactions and the money in the background. I'm imagining it's proprietary code. That's been inspected by countless different authoritarians from countless different countries and they're paying a company to do that for them.
And the great thing about that is if something goes wrong or needs updating, they can just do it right now and it's done and they don't have to worry about the capabilities of the project. So the th yes, the way that they can adapt and move on exactly what they need is something that we probably don't have.
And it's a bit of a slow moving beast, but I like that nature.
David Waumsley: [00:40:05] Yeah, I guess it's only when I've done the odd WooCommerce project where I start to get really nervous about the dependency on a number of different extensions from different authors. And I'm still actually gobsmacked by how well it seems to hold together.
You know, one of the sites that I've got has got busier and we'd put more and more stuff on it and it still holds together. But I always, I'm always feeling very nervous about the fact that it is kinda messy. And any site you build where you've got a number of plugins, talked about it.
No end of the times, the whole notification system, people putting their own advertising on it can turn your site, your backend of your site into an absolute mess with all these different people applying their own interfaces to the backend and yeah, the conflicts as
Nathan Wrigley: [00:40:58] well. That's the nature of the beast.
Isn't it. If you are going to use third party solutions to, to build out things which are complicated and mission critical, you are just to a certain extent, you're crossing your fingers and praying unless you've in every sense, gone through every line of code and seeing that it doesn't leak things it's built in a way to be extensible.
It works with the way that WordPress works and so on and so forth. You are just crossing your fingers and praying a little bit, but you are also probably paying a tiny amount of money for that thing to be on the website and that functionality to be available. Whereas if you had to build all of the bits that made up the interlocking plugins that you've got on that WooCommerce site, it would cost you thousands, tens, hundreds of thousands, but you would know.
What was going on and you would have people that you could go to, to fix things that broke with this. You are definitely relying on the developer to stick around the developer, be interested for them to be timely in their support. Yeah, it's a difficult one. Isn't it really difficult?
David Waumsley: [00:42:06] It is. And I think, one thing about going with third parties and proprietary code is that you'll you go to someone who you paid money to and expect them to give you the support for their entire system.
If you use a lot of different plugins, you've got a lot of different sources for that support. And it, this is one of the things that I think will be quite difficult for. Guttenberg becoming a kind of site builder is the fact who do you go
Nathan Wrigley: [00:42:32] to for support for that? Yeah. It's going to be community support.
Isn't it? It really will be just to support. Yeah.
David Waumsley: [00:42:40] Exactly. Previously before, if you just view it as a simple CMS, if you needed to buy your page builder on top, then your page builder was going to provide that support if Guttenberg becomes the page builder. Yeah. You're, you're stuck with the community for that, which is it's, well, of course it can be quite time consuming.
Nathan Wrigley: [00:43:01] Yeah. Unless the, again the, the community gets involved and commercial enterprises pop-up, so we've got lots and lots of different options now for website care plan maintenance companies. If you know, you basically pay them a monthly fee and they will offer you support.
They'll update things for you. They will troubleshoot things for you, figure things out. And and I think that's part of the whole hosting thing, although. It's not entirely the case that they'll fix every problem. A lot of the hosts, especially the WordPress managed hosts. They are willing to go the extra mile to try and figure out your problems.
But I do see that being a growing market as Gothenburg and the problems that will inevitably arise with its implementation of full site editing and what have you come along, it feels like those companies that do these maintenance packages will be able to take on that burden a little bit more.
David Waumsley: [00:43:58] Ah, yeah, that's a good point, actually.
Yeah, it will generate its own services to be able to help with support and maintenance.
Nathan Wrigley: [00:44:04] Yeah. In, in the same way, sorry, carry on.
David Waumsley: [00:44:08] No, I was just going to say, so you're quite optimistic about open source and where everything's going with
Nathan Wrigley: [00:44:15] WordPress. I think so. Oh yeah. Certainly. I D I just can't see at the minute, I can't see any impediment to WordPress becoming going busting through the 50% barrier.
It just seems like it's becoming the default and everybody's talking about it and it's growing and growing. Yeah, I am it never ceases to amaze me that the model works though. I'm always thinking this is it's, there's just so many things about it. If you look at it, if you're, if you only dealt with the commercial side of life, you must look at projects like WordPress and the open source, and it, you must be confused by it.
How does that work? What it's built by volunteers? Yes. On the whole it's built, but while it's not entirely, but some people volunteer that when they give their time for free. Yes. What do they get back? It's better. It's a better piece of software. Yeah, no, but what do they get back money-wise well, nothing.
What do they do it because they're nice. That can't work. It just logically it doesn't make any sense, but it does,
David Waumsley: [00:45:24] but it has taken a bit of a turn. Don't you think, in a way, because to volunteer for WordPress in the past, where it was a fairly simple platform that people built on the top part. So one, it was the basic CMS.
It wouldn't require much from volunteer workers who would then build their own stuff and have a reason they'd be invested in making sure that this basic CMS. Now what's different about it is that it's its own kind of big site builder, partly in competition with a lot of the people who would have contributed to it before.
And with all the acquisitions, it feels like things have changed quite a lot over recent years, I think, open source. I understood it in the early day seems very different now in a way it has to be financed a little bit by automatic. Doesn't it a commercial concern. Yeah. To get it to where it is now.
I wonder if it's not really the same open source that it used to be, that if you like the Goodwill of people doesn't stretch that far and it wouldn't be moving in the way that Gutenberg is. If it wasn't that it had money behind it from a commercial
Nathan Wrigley: [00:46:39] source. Yeah. I'm sure if you've been with WordPress since right at the very beginning.
And you were to chart how it behaved at that time. When, they, Matt, Matt Mullenweg and Mike Little fork to B2, and there was a handful of people involved and they did amazing things really quickly. I'm sure that was a very different feeling to how it is now. And it goes back to what we were saying at the beginning, in order to make a piece of software that can run 42% of the web, I could just keep saying that the, there really has to be some sort of commercial component.
There's no way that a piece of software that purports to do all of the things that it does could be done without some finance to pay people, to do it. And so I'm sure the flavor, the feeling of it has changed, and I'm sure that people have dropped out of the community because they've been disgruntled by the way that things have turned out and the commercialization of it all, there must be countless people.
Who've just said, Sianora, I'm going to go and use something else. And they have, yeah. But it doesn't concern me. I think at the moment, it all feels very healthy if slightly confusing, especially as we alluded to with all these acquisitions.
David Waumsley: [00:47:52] Yeah, it was likely, I would imagine it's just purely guests, that what what keeps the project running now and the amount of work that's got it.
Cause obviously it speeded up isn't it used to get an update once a year and it was be a fairly trivial update these days. It's huge site building with lots and lots of features coming in. And I'm sure the dimensions of that change the amount that's been funded commercially against what used to be just people turning up, the, the, the kind of different folks who talking about the anoraks, who would be into, I'm sure the percentage of those as reduced now.
So open source has changed it, but at the same I'm kind general. I'm really positive about it. I do. I do agree with Matt Mullenweg. That is the thing about a WordPress, that we do need to it's a good thing. That open source is leading the way when it comes to developing websites on the net.
I think it's just so important for that to be free.
Nathan Wrigley: [00:48:54] I feel that people are, there's a lot of people who are becoming more curious about open source as well in that I think 10 years ago, really only people who were into software would have known anything about what that even means, but I feel it's like a good badge to put on your product, that this thing is open source.
That seems to be you download software a lot nowadays, and they're making that claim and they're linking to their get hub repository. And it seems to be a, almost like a badge of look, we're building this out in the open. That's a good thing because it means that anybody can inspect our code.
And with modern concerns about tracking and collection of data, it's important that people. Can inspect the code to see where that data's going. And are you sending it where you say you're sending it, let's get somebody to look at the source code. Yes, they are. Look, there it is. It's in the source code.
We've downloaded it and we've inspected it. So it feels like it's a great way of instilling trust in an era where people are very concerned about what data is being used and how it's being used. And, companies like apple whilst none of their stuff is open source. They're banging that gong of data privacy and all of this kind of stuff.
And it just makes it more in the purview of ordinary people.
David Waumsley: [00:50:16] Yeah, I imagine it could be wrong on this, that things have changed. I think when I came into WordPress, I think there were, it was the general view I got was that larger companies looking to build a website that needed a CMS.
Wouldn't think about WordPress, not because where it was at that time, technologically, just because of the fact that it was open source and they wanted, if you're a large company, if you're like my former employers, the government, they weren't going to go, wouldn't even consider something like WordPress.
They needed to have a supplier who they had a contract with. Do you think that's probably changed now? Whereas larger companies,
Nathan Wrigley: [00:50:55] I really haven't followed this debate, but in the UK, I occasionally hear rumblings and I'm sure that somebody more knowledgeable than me about this could alert me to this.
There seems to be a lot of, so let's take the government as an example, we obviously spend a very large amount of money. On, for example, windows licenses. I would imagine that almost every company, sorry, almost every person sitting behind a government owned computer is probably running windows. And I think there's more and more voices saying, do you know what the open source alternatives would save the treasury, the UK?
This is the UK institution which controls the money. It would save us billions a year if we could use open source software. And honestly, folks for sending word documents around are things like Libra office and all those open office initiatives. Are they not good enough? Are we not just putting text and the occasional image and attaching a PDF and so on?
Is this not good enough? And it feels like those voices are getting louder and you know, the purse is that the strings on the purse are tighter than probably they've ever been before. And so you would hope that open source will come and. Become more mainstream. And you imagine if Linux was started to roll out into government offices, can you imagine being forced to use a Linux computer and realizing within about an hour and a half, that it's not as bad as you thought it was?
Sure enough. There'll be big humps to go through, you've got to click on a different icon. The desktop looks different, but it all works. Might not have all the flashy, bells and whistles, but it works. Imagine if government did that, how quickly it would, that, that tidal wave would just roll across the country as a whole because everybody a big polo.
No, I'll just, I'll get a computer with no software on it and I'll install Linux or I'll get a Linux software computer. So yeah I think it's going to be, I think he's going to be bigger in the future than it is. Yeah.
David Waumsley: [00:53:00] Yeah, no I definitely think views on open sources changed over the years. I've been using it quite considerably.
Yeah. And it's certainly WordPress. I think the nature of it has changed as well, but Hey, we managed to get through this without getting all political.
Nathan Wrigley: [00:53:16] We don't want to, we don't want to do the political section four. We really don't. We
David Waumsley: [00:53:22] not. We're going to stay away from that
Nathan Wrigley: [00:53:26] apart from WordPress.
What other open source software do you actually use? I don't mean on a daily basis, but that you may have come across at you that you saw. Oh, that's good.
David Waumsley: [00:53:36] I was using an escape the other day to do some of my vectors, so I owned a better software for doing that, but I still use that. That was free.
That was very good. It is very good. Yeah. I used to use open office before. Yeah. For a little while, but then I stopped using that. I in fact had probably just cause Google's taken over really for my needs, but
Nathan Wrigley: [00:54:01] yeah, I definitely, I use, I still use, I do use Libra office. I've got a, I've got a bit of open source software to it's called sync thing, which in my case is just really a way of sucking photographs off of my phone, onto a computer, which then can be backed up.
It's actually a windows computer, but I've got, I've got a variety of raspberry pies lying around doing various different things. And on the, on the computer, the desktop side of things, I've got a few open source things, which I use. So like you said, I use VLC quite a lot for basically playing any kind of means.
And I use a backup solution called spider out, which I actually pay a fee for, but I think the software is open source as well, but I could be wrong about that.
David Waumsley: [00:54:53] Oh, I didn't know that. And in fact, my voice is now being recorded by all Udacity, which is also
Nathan Wrigley: [00:54:59] open source. Yeah. Capable, but a software, it will do 99% of anything that somebody's making a podcast like we do.
We'll do. And it's completely and utterly free. I also in the past have used gimp to do images, but I've, I haven't used that in years, but I had absolutely no reason to move away from it. Except when I bought my Mac, there was this offer on a particular piece of software, which I am, which I bought. And then that just became the default.
I also use handbrake, which is a piece of software, which enables me. So for example, the AUD the video that we may make for WP builds on the Monday show this week in WordPress, I use that to squash what can often be a 10 gigabyte file. Push it through handbrake and it turns it into about a 10th of the size.
So it comes out at about one gigabytes remarkable piece of software, actually, because you don't notice any degradation in the quality. And it's a 10th of the file size. I dunno what I'm doing wrong, but it totally works. And there's probably a whole bunch of other stuff to be honest, but I can't think of any off the top of my head, but oh, I'll tell you what else I use.
I use signal on my phone for doing chat. So it's a bit like I don't know, like an I message or a Skype replacement and it's completely free and open source. And I use the brave browser, which is I believe that the whole chromium project is open source and it's based upon that. So Google's Chrome is also open source, but I think that Google's crime has a variety of different things in it, which brave have stripped out.
And they tout their privacy credential. I honestly can't say what actual benefit I get from that. But I've definitely adopted that as well. Yeah.
David Waumsley: [00:56:52] At the moment, I think with speed being such a focus on website, building the other open software, the open source software that I use the most at the moment must be lighthouse.
That's also, by Google isn't it and is open source. So people are doing stuff with that. I've noticed it's not just a Google page speed insights. There are some other online projects where they include in some of the other things that, that measure as well.
Nathan Wrigley: [00:57:19] So of course, there's my phone. I use.
That's open source. Yeah. Obviously there is a very sort of real similarity between it and WordPress in a way it's completely free to download it. Obviously, a lot of the OEM phone manufacturers, the likes of one plus and Samsung, and what have you, if I've really benefited off the back of Google's hard work there, and they've obviously implemented their own hard work as well to out their own features and services, but yeah, totally free open source yeah.
Operating system. And whilst you may not enjoy the tracking that would be switched on by default in many of the things that are shipped with an Android phone. My understanding is if you go and search hard enough, you can find OEMs where all of that is switched off. I'm not too bothered about it. So I just buy a regular Android phone over the counter, but you can buy more privacy, how to describe it.
Privacy focused phones. But I think you might have to go searching a bit harder for it.
David Waumsley: [00:58:21] Hmm. Lots. We've come off WordPress. I think we're probably must be
Nathan Wrigley: [00:58:26] near the end of our chat. Yeah. We've gone for close to an hour now, David, and we didn't know whether we'd have a lot to say um, yeah.
David Waumsley: [00:58:36] It's P for plugins, of course, but we
Nathan Wrigley: [00:58:41] had to do yeah, but what else could it be? He has got to be blogging, so that will be in two weeks time. Um, I look forward to chatting to you then. Okay. I hope that you enjoyed that episode. Always nice to chat with my good friend, David Wamsley about these things.
This particular episode brings a lot up, you're relying on free software and all of the things that go with that, but I think we can all agree that WordPress is a fabulous thing and we're all better off for it. The WP Builds podcast was brought to you today by AB split. Do you want to set up your AB split tests in record time, the new AB split test plugin for WordPress.
We'll have you up and running in a couple of minutes. You can use your existing pages and test anything against anything else. Buttons, images, headers, rows, anything. And the best part is that it works with element or beaver builder and the WordPress block editor. Check it out. Get a free [email protected].
Okay. As I said, at the top of the show, we shall be back next week for another episode because this week was a chat with my friend David. Next week. It will be an interview with somebody in the WordPress space. I did forget to mention that this week we also had a webinar with Leslie SIM from newsletter glue to, if you want to check that out, that's on the WP builds website, click on the archives menu and look for webinars and you'll find it in there.
It's how we send out our newsletters. And I would encourage you to go and check it out and see what you mean. Failing map. We'll be back on Monday for this week in word WordPress show, but I hope that you have a good week. I hope that you manage to say. I'm going to fade in some cheesy music and say bye-bye for them.

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Nathan Wrigley
Nathan Wrigley

Nathan writes posts and creates audio about WordPress on WP Builds and WP Tavern. He can also be found in the WP Builds Facebook group, and on Mastodon at wpbuilds.social. Feel free to donate to WP Builds to keep the lights on as well!

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