Without doubt, WordPress is the CMS of choice right now for most of the web. This has been true for some years now, and looks to be the case for at least the foreseeable future. This is despite competition from CMSs like Joomla and Drupal and other web-building platforms like Wix and Weebly.
But why is WordPress top dog? Why did you start using WordPress?
The WordPress core (on its own) isn’t the reason, so what is? In my opinion, WordPress’ success is down to the quantity and quality of the WordPress themes and plugins available. By installing a well-chosen theme and a few plugins, you can have a great looking website with all the functionality it needs.
Most of us would probably agree with this idea – it’s hardly groundbreaking, after all. However, it was recently suggested that the Jetpack plugin was strongly linked to the WordPress platform’s success. This claim was made by Matt Mullenweg of Automattic, the developers of Jetpack.
Matt’s quote was, “In the absence of Jetpack, I believe WordPress would be declining.”
This was later clarified with, “Naked WordPress (without plugins) is not competitive to Wix, Weebly, Squarespace, etc.”
Was this an almost embarrassing display of self-congratulatory behavior (as many on Twitter would have you believe), or was there some truth to his words?
Who Is Jetpack for?
Jetpack gets a lot of hate in the WordPress community, and these comments didn’t help one bit. Sure, the Jetpack plugin is a bit of a beast, about the same size as the WordPress core. And yes, there are probably better plugins out there for performing every single one of Jetpack’s functions.
But is the Jetpack plugin really so bad?
It’s worth pointing out that most of the hate comes from people somewhat involved with the WordPress community. At the very least, they’re passionate enough about WordPress to take to Twitter to voice their opinions in public.
These people are at least competent with WordPress. They can build the website they want with stylish contact forms, a functioning comments section, a related posts widget, and anything else they want to add.
But the average, newbie webmaster still wants all this cool functionality. The difference? They don’t know how to get it.
They’re not going to spend hours weighing up the pros and cons of the best image slider plugins – should they go with Soliloquy over Slider Revolution over LayerSlider?
But they do want image sliders. And they want to know how many visitors they’re getting to their site.
These people just aren’t going to go out and install 20 different plugins for 20 different functions. But when they see Jetpack – which is often pre-installed by some hosts during WordPress installation – offering over 30 different modules in one super-convenient package, they’re sold.
Although many experienced WordPress users will find something to like about Jetpack, it is the less experienced webmasters that the plugin really appeals to – and is targeted at.
Jetpack and WordPress
A chain is only as strong as its weakest link. And we already know that the WordPress core on its own isn’t as good as the competition.
By offering a capable all-in-one suite of functionality for WordPress, Jetpack makes that weakest link significantly stronger.
With this in mind, I like to think of Jetpack as a gateway plugin.
If you’re already running a successful website, there are probably better solutions out there for you. As you increase your skill and confidence with WordPress, you might uninstall Jetpack for more specialist plugins.
But for brand new WordPress users, Jetpack is a really good place to start.
Talking to a room full of experienced developers at Pressnomics, it’s easy to see why Matt Mullenweg’s claims were criticized. After all, how could a plugin not used at the top end be responsible for the success of WordPress?
But plugins like Jetpack get these newbies onto the WordPress ladder. After using WordPress for a few months or years, they move on to the more specialist plugins and services – the kinds that the top developers are selling.
Without an all-in-one plugin like Jetpack, that person may not have made it that far. Unimpressed with the naked core’s limited functionality, and overwhelmed with the number of plugins available, they might have jumped ship to a different CMS.
WordPress wouldn’t be where it is now without these people.
This brings us full circle to our original reason for WordPress’ success: the quality and quantity of themes and plugins.
With a much smaller audience, many of these themes and plugins would never have been developed.
But because the number of WordPress users grew, so too did the market for premium themes and plugins. As more top themes/plugins were developed, more of us have been able to build the beautiful, polished websites we see today. This is what continues to attract new people to WordPress.
With this in mind, I do think that a lot of WordPress’ success can be credited to the entry level plugins – of which, Jetpack is undoubtedly one of. They give new webmasters the website building capabilities that the WordPress core on its own can’t. These beginners aren’t looking for anything sophisticated — yet — they just want to have fun with it, but these people are a fundamental part of the thriving WordPress community.
So, while Matt Mullenweg’s claim was a bit of an exaggeration, there is certainly an element of truth there.
The Future of WordPress
So how does the future of WordPress tie in with plugins like Jetpack? Obviously, for the WordPress platform to grow and for the developers to hit their goal of a 50% market share, WordPress needs to constantly attract new users.
Let me side-step with a quick analogy.
Now, people might be attracted to a sport like golf by the skill and quality of the players at the top, but it’s the easy-to-use, over-sized, forgiving golf clubs that get people more involved in the game and actively playing.
This applied to WordPress, too: the top end, visually stunning websites built with WordPress get people interested in the platform. However, it’s the user friendliness of the entry level themes and plugins that get people started and actively involved with WordPress.
Therefore, it seems reasonable to say that the entry level plugins have as much of a part to play in the continued growth of WordPress as the uber-fancy, premium plugins.
Would WordPress be where it is now without Jetpack? Impossible to say, but Jetpack has certainly played its part, as have all the other plugin developers who’ve made the WordPress plugin architecture what it is today.
What do you think the future of WordPress holds? Let us know in the comments section below!
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