plus ça change… April 23rd, 2009

The initial WordPress installs were basic, but clean and simple to use. They were an open source alternative to “open” systems that had opted to start charging fairly steep prices for the convenience of on-line blogs.

Since then, there have been many, many revisions. Even so, most of the revised code retained the backwards compatibility, the clean menus, the ease of installation, and the overall ease of use of the original.

Themes became easier, WYSIWYG editing improved, plug-ins added capabilities, and there was a sense that the system would actually work for novice users. You could install it for a client with the assurance that Word Press itself would not violate the trust that you put in its core values.

However, starting in late 2007- early 2008, they changed some of the core. They rearranged the file structures, reformatted menus (not once, but twice), disrupted backwards compatibility, and broke many of the old plug-ins and themes. The new installation process didn’t provide a simple way to repair old installations, the upload tool had difficulty in some browsers.

Even when old installations were updated and the “new” update system and upload tool were disabled, so former versions that had worked could be used, the sweeping changes in the interface were daunting to the clients who had signed on for the original tool.

Undoubtedly there were valid reasons that the file structure was changed. And without a doubt there have been improvements and extensions of the capabilities offered to users.
However, the appeal of the tool was its clean ease of use, and the feeling that whatever changes were made, the creators of Word Press would take care of the people who used it. They would value the intuitive clean interface, and make sure that updates to the code were painless and transparent to end users.

In any case, those clients who have had it installed are frustrated by the changes, which have become so complicated that they can no longer count on being able to update their site themselves.

I expect any day to hear that Word Press is no longer open source, that they are charging for it, or that they are monetizing it by licensing it to turn-key web sites who offer the public crippled versions of Word Press limited to cookie cutter theme and color choices. When that happens, the “clean, easy and reliable” niche that once belonged to Word Press may have an opening for some tool which honors the original concepts that made Word Press so attractive.

plus ça change, plus c’est la même