This July, Andrey “Rarst” Savchenko, published a controversial article entitled WordPress crusade against technical responsibility, in which he makes the claim that WordPress, in its efforts to democratize publishing, has created a dangerous situation where people with minimal technical knowledge pose a security risk to themselves and others.
Obviously, we disagree with the basic premise here. A user shouldn’t have to know the fundamentals of how a WordPress site works to be able to publish freely on a site they control. Self-hosting a website is not easy. In fact, it’s hugely complex — we know, we do it every day. The technology stack required to successfully host WordPress is deep, and understanding it requires a long technical education. But that’s our job, not the job of our clients.
The alternatives to self-hosting a WordPress site are not really alternatives at all — they reflect an entirely different way of seeing the world and thinking about the internet. As Medium’s Ev Williams puts it:
“The idea won’t be to start a website. That will be dead. The individual website won’t matter. The Internet is not going to be about billions of people going to millions of websites. It will be about getting it from centralized websites.”
The drawback is that centrally controlled publishing platforms offer publishers almost no control over their content. They are held hostage to the business model and policies of the platform and the interests of the platform’s investors. Content can be removed without notification or feedback. It can monetized by the platform owner with no benefit to the content creator. That’s not the democratization of publishing; it’s something else altogether.
It’s our job, as WordPress hosts, to manage the complexity so that publishing can be truly democratic. I’m not suggesting that it’s a good thing if WordPress users know nothing about their platform. The more they know, the more powerfully the platform can be molded to their needs. They certainly need to know the basics of securing and updating their site. Education is good. But most people won’t and can’t become deeply expert in the inner-workings of WordPress, and that’s OK, because we are experts.
Savchenko uses the example of WordPress still supporting PHP 5.2, an old version of PHP that isn’t really suitable for use on the modern web. It’s a good point, but users shouldn’t have to understand it to be able to use WordPress to publish content. That’s the job of a responsible WordPress hosting company.
Nexcess WordPress installations use PHP 7, a secure, fast, and recent version of PHP. That’s great for our users, even if they don’t understand what it entails — and for those who do understand, it gives them another reason to choose Nexcess as their hosting provider.
Savchenko is claiming that publishers need to choose two of the following three things: an easy-to-use publishing platform that doesn’t require extensive technical knowledge, a publishing platform owned and controlled by the publisher, and a publishing platform that is secure.
We know that’s not right, because providing all three is exactly what our WordPress hosting plans do.