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Is WordPress.com Hurting the WordPress Brand?

Is WordPress.com hurting the WordPress brand? Mark Jaquith seems to think so, and I’m inclined to agree with him.

Here’s a snippet of his reasoning

I got a tip that Chris Anderson’s upcoming book Free has the following to say about WordPress:

2. Feature limited (Basic version free, more sophisticated version paid. This is the WordPress model.)

* Upside: Best way to maximize reach. When customers convert to paid, they’re doing it for the right reason (they understand the value of what they’re paying for) and are likely to be more loyal and less price sensitive.
* Downside: Need to create two versions of the product. If you put too many features in the free version, not enough people will convert. If you put too few, not enough will use it long enough to convert.

This is most assuredly not the WordPress model. Anyone and everyone can go to wordpress.org and download a completely free, completely unrestricted, and completely feature-complete version of WordPress to run for any purpose. There is no feature limited version of WordPress.

It seems that Chris Anderson has confused WordPress the software, with WordPress.com the hosted blog service, and he’s not alone.

I’ve seen many people comment on the limitations of WordPress when they were really talking about WordPress.com. Not a LOT (that I’ve seen), but certainly enough to show that there is a problem.

Chris Garrett posted today on blogherald.com about it, and also agrees there is a definite issue that should be resolved, though he isn’t sure how. Here’s what he has to say on the topic…

Now if you support the idea that WordPress.com is causing confusion for the WordPress brand, and I think many people will agree that it is, what to do about it?

Well, it is not like all those thousands of *.WordPress.com sites are going to be happily redirected to new domains. I can only think that rebranding the software would be the (inelegant, or even downright ugly) solution :(

I’m not really sure what the best way to deal with the problem is. It seems that a rebranding of either the WordPress software itself, or the hosted blog service, would no doubt anger many, and confuse many others for quite some time.

Seems like the WordPress brand is caught of the middle of a cliche about rocks and hard places.

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Comments

  1. Wogan says: 6/24/2009

    Understandable, really, how you could get those two confused, especially since even wordpress.org recommends hosting your blog on wordpress.com. I don’t know what the numbers are, but I’m pretty sure many more people host with WP.com than they do self-hosted.

    Automattic hasn’t really done a whole lot to break that opinion, either. WordPress the CMS is only really known to hardcore tech-savvy bloggers, developers and their clients. WordPress the Service is what the rest of the world sees – but maybe that’s what Automattic is gunning for?

    WordPress.com usage pays the bills – wordpress.org is really just their free gift to mankind.

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  2. Mark Jaquith says: 6/24/2009

    I don’t think that WordPress.com hurts WordPress. On the contrary, I think it’s great that there’s a canonical hosted WP solution that we can point people towards to get their WP “training wheels.” What’s harmful is confusion between the two and misinformation that spreads around about ways that WordPress might be limited (when they mean to say that WordPress.com is limited in those ways).

    I think the cat is out of the bag. I wouldn’t support a re-branding of WordPress and I very much doubt Automattic would ever consider rebranding WordPress.com. The best thing that WP or WP.com advocates can do is to always be clear to differentiate when appropriate, and to correct people when they confuse the two. Within the WP developer crowd, we’ve taken to calling them “dot-org” and “dot-com” to differentiate.

    I don’t know what the numbers are, but I’m pretty sure many more people host with WP.com than they do self-hosted.

    It’s just about evenly split at this point.

    WordPress.com usage pays the bills – wordpress.org is really just their free gift to mankind.

    As far as Automattic is concerned, yes. But WordPress.org is composed of much more than just Automattic. I’m not an Automattic employee, but am intimately involved in WordPress.org development and goings-on. That’s an important distinction. WordPress.com is an Automattic service… WordPress is a free, community-supported-and-developed publishing platform that you can install anywhere with no restrictions and can use for any purpose. Those freedoms and that community involvement is fundamental to WordPress. The community involvement level is a big differentiating factor between WordPress and Movable Type Open Source (as highlighted by the recent for of MTOS to “Melody”, intended to be a more community-driven platform than MTOS is).

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