Alright, “downfall” might be an exaggeration. Or is it?

It’s the end of August, which means summer vacation is winding down and the kids are getting ready to go back to school. This time of year, every year, is usually when I have enough free time to have an existential crisis about whether the current CMS I’m using for this blog is the best one.

WordPress, before the Block Editor fiasco, was my first CMS. I then moved on to Medium and then Ghost before joining the SSG scene with Hugo.

Anyway, I spent a bit of time reviewing the current CMS landscape this past week. I don’t really have an official process or framework for evaluating blogging platforms – it’s more of a gut feeling kind of thing.

Long story short, Ghost is now at v5.0 and has grown up a lot over the past year. I’d even go as far as to say that the current iteration of Ghost is the best CMS for most bloggers. That said, I’m going to stick with Hugo for another year. While Ghost can do a lot of things, it’s still missing a few key features that I rely on. For example, Ghost doesn’t have any way to specify additional key-value parameters on a post-by-post basis. Also, I really enjoy the data portability of SSGs, where all my content is stored on-disk and directly accessible as Markdown files instead of locked inside a database.

But what about WordPress?

My gut feeling about WordPress is that it’s completely lost the plot. To me, blogging and content creation in general is an art, and the best tools for artists are always purpose-specific. Artistically-driven photographers prefer purpose-specific prime lenses over multipurpose zoom lenses. Similarly, painters paint with multiple purpose-specific brushes. In 2022, I think WordPress is the multipurpose zoom of blogging – decent at many things, excellent at nothing.

Optics and brand recognition are important.

When I think of Ghost, adjectives like “fast”, “slick”, “efficient”, and “functional” come to mind. SSGs conjure up different adjectives like “raw”, “utilitarian”, “flexible”, and “portable”. WordPress, on the other hand, puts adjectives like “bloated”, “confused”, and “heavy” in my mind.

This is just me though. My views are influenced by my specific use case for a CMS (strictly blogging, no ecommerce) and a strong enough technical background that allows me to make judgements on the various contenders from a technical perspective.

A few closing thoughts on the downfall of WordPress:

I think the downfall of WordPress as a concept can exist in multiple dimensions. From an adoption standpoint, I don’t think WordPress is going to fall anytime soon. However, I think the quality of WordPress as a blog-focused publishing product has peaked, and is now on the decline. It’s just trying to do too many things, and none of those things optimize for people who write words – remember the brand name is literally WORD + PRESS.

With that said, WordPress is probably going to continue making all-time highs in terms of user adoption. However, it’s hard to say whether the adoption is due to actual technical innovation, or the fact that WordPress has cemented itself as a legacy player in the space. I suspect it’s the latter, and this does not bode well for WordPress.

In some ways, WordPress reminds me of America. Externally, especially in Japan, America is still viewed as the model nation for the world. Internally, and I feel like I can say this as an American citizen who recently visited the US for a few months, America feels bloated (physically and figuratively, I suppose), its public infrastructure is crumbling, its transportation options are horrendously outdated, and social unrest is trending up. Yet, people still love America because it hasn’t yet used up its PR juice as a legacy brand.

I think WordPress is approaching a fork in the road.

  1. WordPress should go back to its roots. Freshen up the site management experience, and pour resources into making the best possible experience for writers, and writers only. WooCommerce already sucks compared to purpose-built ecommerce solutions like Shopify, so why continue wasting manpower on it while relying on the brand recognition as an attention subsidy?
  2. WordPress should rebrand into a more generic name. When the word “word” is part of the brand name, it’s reasonable to expect a product that’s tailored towards the needs of people who work with words (writers). WordPress doing what its doing now is like a toaster that doesn’t optimize for toast. If WordPress wants to focus on blogging, ecommerce, forums, and a million other things, it should find a better brand name that isn’t at odds with the vision.

Realistically, WordPress will continue ignoring the signs of the fork in the road and continue to pave its own way.

Hopefully this road doesn’t lead to a cliff.