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Author Topic: How did WordPress win?  (Read 3732 times)

mouser

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How did WordPress win?
« on: February 10, 2011, 06:11:11 PM »
Interesting article from Movable Type, a blogging system that was once as popular as WordPress but lost the popularity contest..

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Believe it or not, members of the Movable Type community often wonder the same thing. Most recently someone in the ProNet community, frustrated by their experience with WordPress, asked the question: how on Earth did WordPress win the battle over Movable Type?" The question was rhetorical, but sparked a very interesting dialog in our community.

In the past I have refrained from answering such questions, or if I did, I would not respond publicly, for reasons I can only attribute to a mentality that was beaten into me while I worked at Six Apart.. This time however, "to hell with it" I say. Let's talk about this. Let's see what lessons can be learned from WordPress so that others seeking to build a successful product can learn from it.



from http://www.gadgetopia.com/

mouser

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Re: How did WordPress win?
« Reply #1 on: February 10, 2011, 06:15:02 PM »
This part really jumped out at me, as relevant for free software developers:

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What resonated with customers first and foremost however was not WordPress' license, but the fact that it was unambiguously free. Back then no one knew that much about open source, much less the GPL, but what they did know was all that mattered: open source means free. Period. Forever.

The fact that Movable Type was in all reality free for the vast majority of people using it was irrelevant because it was never clear when Movable Type was free and when it was not. And what users feared most of all, is a repeat of exactly what happened the day Movable Type announced its licensing change: one day waking up to the realization that you owe some company hundreds, if not thousands of dollars1 and not being able to afford or justify the cost monetarily or on principle.



But then this shocked me:

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One thing rarely cited by the outside world, probably because it was not visible or apparent to anyone, was the systematic targeting of high profile brands to switch from using any competing platform to using WordPress.  In fact, in the four years I was at Six Apart, if I had a dollar every time a significant and loyal TypePad and Movable Type customer confided in me that an employee of Automattic cold called them to encourage and entice them to switch to WordPress I would have quit a rich man. Automattic would extend whatever services it could, at no expense to the customer, getting them to switch. They would give away hosting services. They would freely dedicate engineers to the task of migrating customers' data from one system to another. They would do whatever it took to move people to WordPress.


I continue to feel like a naive idiot whenever I hear about some open source software company being so aggressive about trying to grab marketshare in order to make money in the long run.. My brain just can't quite wrap around open source as a cut throat business model.
« Last Edit: February 10, 2011, 06:19:41 PM by mouser »

Eóin

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Re: How did WordPress win?
« Reply #2 on: February 10, 2011, 06:41:57 PM »
My brain just can't quite wrap around open source as a cut throat business model.

Me neither, but then maybe it's not opensource which is the business model, it's probably the business men in the background, not the programmers.

wraith808

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Re: How did WordPress win?
« Reply #3 on: February 10, 2011, 07:34:22 PM »
My brain just can't quite wrap around open source as a cut throat business model.

Me neither, but then maybe it's not opensource which is the business model, it's probably the business men in the background, not the programmers.

When people talk about just wanting to make free software, its inevitably someone that hasn't been faced with the reality of justifying ROI to investors.  When any project that is not absolutely open reaches a certain point, someone is or perceives that they are that investor.  And that's when it gets ugly.  Information may want to be free, but money also wants to be made.

Renegade

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Re: How did WordPress win?
« Reply #4 on: February 10, 2011, 07:47:08 PM »
That was an excellent article. Thanks for posting it.

Regarding OSS as cutthroat, sigh... The thing about OSS is that it's only a software licensing model, and not a business model in the exact same way that the way I license my non-OSS software is only a license, and not a business model. There are many successful businesses out there that run off of GPL of otherwise OSS software. DotNetNuke has a BSD-ish license but still runs a very successful business.

People think that you need to sell a product to have a business, but that's just not true, now more than ever. Services and content are the big things now. Products are increasingly becoming commodities while branding becomes increasingly important. Why use X over Y? Because I know X and trust it. I don't know Y from Z or whatever, so it's out of the question.

WordPress won the mindshare battle, as he details in the article.

The part about Perl wasn't a surprise though. "Perl, the only language that looks the same before and after RSA encryption." While a joke, it's not far from the truth. PHP is the lowest common denominator language out there. It's relatively easy to learn and use and it's free. The barrier to entry is about as low as you get.





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Freedom is the right to be wrong, not the right to do wrong. - John Diefenbaker

40hz

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Re: How did WordPress win?
« Reply #5 on: February 11, 2011, 03:52:22 AM »
The thing about OSS is that it's only a software licensing model

+1 x 10!

No matter how many times the advocates of OSS and FOSS point that out, people still somehow have trouble understanding that. Maybe that's because the licensing employed by proprietary software products is part of the business model.

WordPress won the mindshare battle

Yes, and yes a thousand times more!

It's not about features, or technical excellence, or clean code, or any of the other critically important things software creators live with and by. Programmers constantly need to be reminded that it's not so much what they're interested in or believe. It's what the people in their deployed base want if they hope for their project to become popular.

Smart projects understand this and engage their community. And meaningfully interact with it.

People want to belong. Wordpress allowed them to do that. They got down with their users. They invited them in. They allowed them to play in the sandbox to a degree that was almost unprecedented at the time. And from that level engagement, Wordpress created a vibrant and vocal community that put it over the top.

It's not so much whether or not Wordpress is superior to MovableType. It's a question of which product, and company, and community the people like more.

GreenEyedMonster1.jpg

Byrne Reese's entire article seems to miss that point.

MoveableType didn't have its ball taken away from it. People simply found a different ballgame they'd rather play in.

And to characterize the events and actions that led to Wordpress trouncing MovableType in collective mindshare as a "war" further reinforces my belief that he still just doesn't get it.

And probably never will.

However, the article is his analysis after all. And as such it makes for an interesting read. Even if it does smack of 'green-eyes' from time to time...


I'm sure the Wordpress developers and community would tell the story very differently. :)
« Last Edit: February 11, 2011, 04:21:49 AM by 40hz »

Paul Keith

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Re: How did WordPress win?
« Reply #6 on: February 18, 2011, 07:07:05 PM »
To be a devil's advocate:

I don't know if you can be considered aggressive if you are keeping in line with the competition and if you hear about some of the things professionals do nowadays - this doesn't even come close to aggressive.

Posterous for example while they were selling importing features for other blogs got a lot of flack for being aggressive by doing a pure feature per feature article on a popular blog service that wasn't down. It was unanimously lambasted for being over-aggressive even though it's a feature for feature comparison of a blog writer who's clearly working for Posterous and isn't even an attack ad.

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No matter how many times the advocates of OSS and FOSS point that out, people still somehow have trouble understanding that. Maybe that's because the licensing employed by proprietary software products is part of the business model.

FSF promotes that most often but not FOSS as a whole. Even in this article, it's clear Wordpress wasn't branding itself as a business model OSS - it was branding itself as a cheaper alternative that won't screw you up in the middle of your usage. (hence the reference to the licensing debacle being a critical issue)

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It's not about features, or technical excellence, or clean code, or any of the other critically important things software creators live with and by. Programmers constantly need to be reminded that it's not so much what they're interested in or believe. It's what the people in their deployed base want if they hope for their project to become popular.

Smart projects understand this and engage their community. And meaningfully interact with it.

People want to belong. Wordpress allowed them to do that. They got down with their users. They invited them in. They allowed them to play in the sandbox to a degree that was almost unprecedented at the time. And from that level engagement, Wordpress created a vibrant and vocal community that put it over the top.

It's not so much whether or not Wordpress is superior to MovableType. It's a question of which product, and company, and community the people like more.

In this case it was. Just see the comments for reference. It's a lot like saying people like Facebook over MySpace. Not really.

It's more like MySpace did a lot more for people to hate them. Certainly companies weren't moving to Facebook when it was an isolated social network.

Even today there are still some saying that. See this article for example.

Wordpress doesn't have a mindshare monopoly. It has a community of early adopters because it was the superior product by a large margin for a long time. My bar may be set a differently but I dare anyone try to compare the history between Twitter and Wordpress and you'll see Wordpress remains as just another blogging platform but Twitter is a brand to itself and micro-blogging is only mentioned in the same breathe as a way to categorize Twitter.

This doesn't mean one is superior or inferior than the other (and certainly it's more like apples and oranges) but Wordpress right now is at the same position as Ning if they had a smarter less greedier team behind it and even at the peak of Ning - no one considered Ning to have won the mindshare as much as they were the best service of their kind.

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MoveableType didn't have its ball taken away from it. People simply found a different ballgame they'd rather play in.

And to characterize the events and actions that led to Wordpress trouncing MovableType in collective mindshare as a "war" further reinforces my belief that he still just doesn't get it.

No, I think he's correct.

If MovableType didn't do such huge critical mistakes - sure, different ballgame. Better model.

MovableType though wasn't a good alternative. It was just a leader in the same way Wordpress is the leader now. Only difference between the two is MovableType kept fumbling what was already an inferior service to Wordpress to begin with.

Let's face it - to ignore this is not a war is to ignore the crust of how services get ignored. Again to reference what someone said in the comments, how come Serendipity doesn't get as much press aside from those Wordpress vs. Serendipity articles? Little of that has to do with FOSS and more on how Wordpress wages a war while Serendipity doesn't.

rgdot

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Re: How did WordPress win?
« Reply #7 on: February 19, 2011, 12:12:26 AM »
As alluded to in the comments there some of you may remember blogger (pre-google) vs wordpress. I believe movable type had the same 'handicap' of having to reload/reapply (or whatever it was called, my memory is dead these days) for template changes to take effect.

Simple things make a difference as far as the ordinary Joe goes.