Post Status Draft Podcast: Jake Goldman of 10Up on Merging + WP and the Web

https://youtu.be/LzNgiEPwkmI

Transcript

In this podcast episode, Cory Miller interviews Jake Goldman, the President and Founder of 10Up, a WordPress company. They discuss the progress and good work that 10Up has done in the WordPress community over the years. Jake talks about his experience in web development and the journey leading up to forming 10Up. They also discuss the recent merger between 10Up and Fueled, and the opportunities it presents in the digital transformation space. Jake shares his thoughts on the future of WordPress, including exciting projects like their AI plugin called ClassifAI. They also discuss the challenges and tensions faced by organizations using WordPress, the changing landscape of open-source software, and the importance of maintaining an open web. Overall, they express optimism about the future of WordPress and its ability to adapt to the changing needs of its users.

Top Takeaways:

  • Challenges in Open Source vs. Closed Platforms: Jake highlighted the challenge of open-source platforms like WordPress in competing with closed platforms like Squarespace and Wix. While open source provides transparency and flexibility, it can be harder to deliver seamless user experiences for consumers and prosumers.
  • WordPress’s Positioning: Jake expressed concerns about WordPress’s positioning in the market. He mentioned that WordPress seems to be trying to cater to various user segments simultaneously, from beginners to enterprise-level users. This could potentially lead to being less competitive in specific use cases.
  • Accessibility and Approachability: Jake raised the question of whether WordPress remains as accessible and approachable as it was in the past for newcomers. He emphasized the importance of ensuring that WordPress continues to be a welcoming platform for those who want to experiment and build websites without extensive technical knowledge.
  • The Evolving Open Web: The conversation touched on the changing landscape of the open web, especially in light of the dominance of social media platforms. While open-source technologies remain strong in certain areas, the user-facing experiences on social media have evolved significantly, making it more challenging for open-source solutions to compete.

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Transcript

Cory Miller (00:00:02) – Hey everybody welcome back to Post Edits Draft. I’ve got a really special interview from a very long time friend, colleague in WordPress, Jake Goldman. We from Tena Fame, Jake and I’m going to let you introduce yourself and we’re going to talk about really great news we’ve heard on this in our community or space or industry about 10Up specifically the company founded over 12 years ago. But I was just thinking, as I was saying, all that, I think we actually met before you started 10Up in Boston when you were running WordCamp Boston. So like I think you’re in a relationship predates 10Up days. But I’ve I’ve seen over the last 12 plus years whatever it’s been this very strategic progress and good work in WordPress over the years Now we know it as 10Up. But anyway, Jake, would you take a moment and tell us a little bit about yourself?

Jake Goldman (00:01:01) – Yeah. And got I guess I’m still settelling into how I introduce myself now. So, so I think I’m probably known in our community as the president and the founder of 10Up, the digital agency that does a lot of professional services, especially in the enterprise and sort of the larger business space where we have been about 300 people. (00:01:20) – We’ve sort of crossed over in the last year, $40 million a year in revenue over again, overwhelmingly services with a lot of like little open source projects on the side, a lot of popular plugins and solutions, a couple of like little SaaS services we’ve developed along the way. Some people might know us for elastic Press. If you’re into Elasticsearch in WordPress, I’ve been I like to say I’ve been making a web since there was a web to make since the sort of mid 90s when I was in high school and tinkering with making club websites as the nerd in my school and then went into services doing work for contractors, whatever you want to label them, working for very small businesses, some larger businesses doing services from from an engineering standpoint, from sort of like a user experience design standpoint, from a business and sales standpoint. I always got pulled into those conversations because I guess I’m I guess I’m good at listening to myself talk, which is a guess, part of sales. And so that entire journey leading up to forming 10Up in 2011 and spending most of all of my professional energy over that last decade, the last 12 years within the company. (00:02:23) – And now I am trying on the title of Partner at 10Up Plus Fueled, which I guess is the big news we’re talking about. And I’m still not sure. Not sure I’m quite yet used to what to call myself or calling myself just partner instead of president. But that’s where I am today.

Cory Miller (00:02:40) – That’s fantastic. Well, I wanted to talk about the merger. There’s a LinkedIn post that will be on the show notes. You can read Jake’s background there. I wanted to get that is the the big the big news of merger with Field. We’ve talked a little bit before this just how that all happened and what you’re looking forward to, but could you share that big news?

Jake Goldman (00:03:03) – Yeah. So the big exciting news is that we are merging in with a company called Fueled. Fueled is a company that makes some of, in my opinion, the best mobile apps for like iOS and Android out there also has done some pretty impressive custom web applications and web experiences for companies like even New York Times and Wall Street Journal. (00:03:21) – Not usually as much like in the publishing enablement kind of space, but in sort of the user experience, like an event site or Wall Street Journal. Like I know like my eyebrows went up when we were having conversations with them because I’m a big Warby Parker fan. I wear contact lenses usually when I’m on things like podcasts or out and about, but I have absolutely terrible vision, like a negative five and best glasses I ever bought, best experience buying glasses ever bought like they made that application. You can go to their website. You’ll probably find a lot of applications you’ve used or you’re familiar with, and there’s a ton more that they don’t even put on their website that they can’t even talk about publicly. So we’ve been working together for a little while. We got to know them earlier this year. We both had this immediate sense of not only do we have this very organic chemistry where it feels like we would welcome any of these people that we’ve been meeting with into our own homes and to our own houses and feel like they were great additions to our team, but really had this moment of we’re both trying to build something bigger, we’re both trying to add on more value or both cognition of a changing landscape.

Jake Goldman (00:04:17) – We both feel like the targets we want to go after are like the Deloitte’s and the Accenture’s and the coding theories that really, you know, they’re not like the app company that can push into other solutions. They solve a part of the problem. We’re sort of like the CMS and WordPress and you know, side of the equation. But from a full digital transformation, we’ve long felt that we sort of were missing some components to really aggressively go after the we just saw the entire digital problem for you. So I think it became pretty clear pretty quickly that there’s a really good fit here that we could really help each other go up to the next level. I for a lot of reasons, we’ll probably get into felt like it was a good time for me to think about not being a sole proprietor, having other partners that I could work with. And so, yeah, we’re, we’re now there about 125 or 130 people as of the date of the merger. So combined or about 420 or 430 or so, it’s a full time staff and yeah I’m I’m energized.

Cory Miller (00:05:13) – Yeah. As you should be in congratulations again and for the space I feel like I know maybe outside WordPress you know agencies merging or being acquired is is is definitely is a thing in our space. It’s one of the most significant I’ve I’ve known about in my time in the space. With agency so those and then you unpack and what field does it and understanding a little bit of what 10Up does it totally make sense to to to be able to offer a complete package But yeah. Hey you touched on something I’d love to know, like the why, because you’ve ran 10Up and grown 10Up to a point as the sole person I know you pulled on John Eklund years ago, which by the way, I thought was brilliant because of the of the self-awareness I could anticipate of going, maybe somebody else could do this instead of trying to do it all yourself. And I feel like having known John to like that, that seems to have really worked out well. But a lot of founders go, okay, I’m just going to do the I can’t get past probably their own self.

Cory Miller (00:06:25) – And you did with John. Um, but I’d love to hear a little bit about that. The why so proprietary for this great company that was doing really good revenue and work in the world that and then get into the what does that future hold for you Tina and the bigger enterprise.

Jake Goldman (00:06:46) – Yeah. I mean, the John McMahon, who was still our CEO some nine years later, bless his soul, still puts up with me as a working this business together is a good one to bring up. Just I think plant the seed because I think the immediate reaction can be, you know, the founder wants to take some step back, wants to relinquish some power. Clearly that guy just is ready to go out the door. And that’s not at all where my headspace has been. The way that I think about it, maybe it’s a little too pop psychology, but like I think of myself as a probably if you say you had to choose like one definition of yourself in terms of career, like what is your skill set? What do you do? You pick one word.

Jake Goldman (00:07:22) – I don’t think I pick entrepreneur, maybe tempting now as being a little closer to what I actually do with my time, but think of myself as an engineer, Sort of like where I got into the space was tinkering with making websites. What I did in my first years doing consulting was programming. Now back then I think it was a little bit more into like UX design. There wasn’t these sharp distinctions we have now is a bit of like the webmaster kind of days to solve everything. But more than anything sort of engineering. I’ve always thought like, what a great what is fulfilling about engineering? What a great engineer does is they make something, they make it really good and it does not depend on them to keep running. So one of the most fulfilling things to me outside of Building 10Up are like the plugins that I built that I know in some cases millions of people are using and that I don’t even touch anymore. To me that’s success. Somebody is somebody is day is made a little bit better by something I made by something I built and it doesn’t require my time and my energy for them to have that fulfillment, have that success.

Jake Goldman (00:08:18) – So that’s all very long prelude to. I’ve always felt the same way about what it means to be successful building a company. The perfect company, the perfect larger business is one that is not depending on its founder to keep running it. It’s one that can thrive and succeed well beyond the ego and the you know, of that founder. So when I brought to you go back to your example, like when I brought John John on, that was not me saying I don’t want to be involved anymore. Do you do this anymore? That was me thinking. That was me recognizing what are the limits of my capabilities, Where do I need help? Or do I recognize where this business will be held back if I think I can just do it all? And and I very much see this in the same light. So, you know, no surprise didn’t wake up in August and be like I want to merge with and months later happened. This has been a journey for me. So I’ve entertained these conversations going back years and years.

Jake Goldman (00:09:08) – I would say the last couple of years I started getting pretty serious about that conversation. I mean, I could probably overthink like the 2020s have not exactly been the, you know, there’s probably been some influence of events over the last few years. And one sense of what do I need to do to keep changing? How do we keep evolving? But I very much had this palpable sense of like in many ways, particularly in those years, like being in business, being in a competitive space is getting even harder and we keep growing. We’re now breaking through 40 million. We’re now breaking through 300 people coming up. And I have this real sense of like, I am fairly financially conservative. I am, you know, was not particularly wealthy outside of like paper wealth outside of 10Up. I’m not the guy who’s going to be like, let’s restructure and do different kind of equity programs and let’s go make acquisitions to get us to the next stage. Like I needed partnership to do that. I also felt like to keep competing, to keep growing, we really needed to transcend beyond being one of the biggest, maybe arguably the biggest WordPress, very centric, focused kind of agency, really needed to go beyond there to like just how do we get to that? How do we get to those conversations with some of those biggest players are in that is not I have decided maybe WordPress is one of the tools I want to use.

Jake Goldman (00:10:22) – Now let’s have a conversation about whether you’re the best one to make it. Have more conversations that are. All I know is my digital experience isn’t working for me anymore. I’m no longer feel like I’m competitive. I’m not doing something right in the digital space. Maybe I you know, and not just people that are web only, but people that have in store experiences, people that are thinking about like, you know, we’re working right now on a project for like a large with fueled on a large like amusement park group. And like the question is not I don’t want to be at the table when it’s okay maybe WordPress, who do we talk to? I want to be at the table when they’re asking it. We’re not keeping up. How do we rethink top to bottom digital experience? I felt like we needed to add more capabilities. We need to be a little less of a one trick pony in terms of our experience to be able to get from here to there. It’s like I’m probably rambling a little bit, but I guess the point here is like I was starting to really sense my own limits.

Jake Goldman (00:11:14) – I was starting to get a real sense again, just like nine years ago when I brought on John, a real sense of ten. It’s going to be held back by me getting to say, 50 million to 80 million, maybe 100 million some days keep growing and keep giving opportunities to this team to make sure this team is secured and take care of. As you know, technology preferences changes as larger projects come on board. And so to me, it just felt like the the most natural answer that would also keep me motivated, engaged, inspired feeling like I’m enjoying my life was not to become the finance guy, not to become the legal guy, not to become the like, the professional businessman that it takes to do that, but to join forces with some organizations that could give me that partnership, share some of that ownership and that risk taking with me and get me from point A to point B.

Cory Miller (00:12:01) – Yeah, that’s awesome. No, and I think you’re sharing your thought process too, which is awesome.

Cory Miller (00:12:05) – And when you said, you know, I think of myself as an engineer that totally tracks with who I know of you. When I ask you a question, I’m always going to get a really good, balanced like answer about it. And you’re not you’re not afraid to be honest either. And but I see that too, when you’ve kind of, in fact a little bit more fuel does. And the capital partners that were part of the the deal and you have a feature that you’re a part of and invested in personally because something you create from your own to grow to that it takes something pretty significant, compelling, wise to, to make those decisions. Yeah. Um, well, tell me about some of the work because I know you’re doing some you all have historically, from my recollection, please correct me, you know, worked with a lot of publishers over the years taking WordPress to the Enterprise and at scale. There’s a big conversation about AI today. I know you all have done some work over that.

Cory Miller (00:13:07) – And so tell me about some of the things that are exciting to you about what you all are doing today to and then going forward at 10Up in the bigger the bigger.

Jake Goldman (00:13:16) – Mean there are there are so many exciting projects that 10Up. I mean I’ll sort of list off a few, maybe tickle your fancy to dig deeper into. We can spend more time on them. You mentioned AI for sure. We have a plug in called ClassifAI spelled AI at the end and drop it in your show notes or something like that. Um, it’s probably 10Up and AI it will probably pop right up. It’s a free AI plug in. You have to pay if you want to plug in, pay the end service providers if you want to get all the features. So for example, if you want to take advantage of some of the like image generation features or advanced ChatGPT features, you have to pay them to get an API key that you can plug into. We don’t we don’t make any direct money off of the solution.

Jake Goldman (00:13:52) – It’s a free open source solution. That is our sort of R&D experimentation space for how can we take advantage of these AI technologies to really enable publishing workflows, content creation workflows inside of WordPress? Um, one of the things I worry about in general in this space, which is I’m sure a conversation we might get to later is can, can open source platforms keep up in this rapidly changing computing world with cloud and SaaS services that can just throw more hardware and solve all these complexities of how do you bind complex hardware requirements to software. That’s a lot trickier. When you’re downloading a zip file, you can upload your upload to any host in the world. So I worry about problems like in WordPress, be competitive in a new world or it’s not just a full stack but solved for you. So in addition to solving problems for our immediate customers, classify is really a contribution back to the community in the sense that I want anybody to be able in the WordPress space to be able to say, when your customer says small company, large company, your friend next door in their coffee shop, what do you do? Are you doing anything with these new technologies, taking advantage of anything offered by ChatGPT or OpenAI services? I want them to be able to say, Yeah, no problem.

Jake Goldman (00:15:01) – There’s a free plug in, there’s some free services we can tap into to do things. If you’re not doing it at huge scale, there are some pretty reasonably priced paid services. If you want to do cooler things like generate your images and say, I have to go buy a bunch of like copy stock photography or do you pay a photographer? So that’s a very long winded way, I suppose, of saying what we’re excited about there. It’s not only what it’s doing for our customers, but that I hope this is the kind of solution, the kind of solutions we like to build where it solves a problem. Facing this software, I think in the future provides a solution.

Cory Miller (00:15:32) – Yeah, well, I want to. I want to. You. Kind of swayed into my next question. You’ve got a lot of experience in WordPress on the web doing digital work at scale, and I want to I want to transition just to ask that question and reserve the right to ask you to come back about more.

Cory Miller (00:15:52) – I too, because there’s, there’s a lot of change in innovation happening that doesn’t always feel if you’re a business in the space. Okay good at the moment. But there’s something happening. Right. But specifically, I want to ask you about you’ve been in WordPress so long, you’ve been in part of the community, like I said, like we go back to when you were organizing working at Boston back in the day. Yeah, but you’ve seen this growth. You work with these big companies and your company specifically, you’ve dedicated resources in your post. You mentioned you’re the your company is number two contributor behind Automatic. And that’s really compelling me to ask the question, what are you seeing with WordPress specifically with your clients overall in the bigger landscape? I’m really curious to hear your perspectives on on WordPress and where we’re at today.

Jake Goldman (00:16:45) – Yeah, we’re recording this podcast for the next three hours, right? So we can get Right. Good. Sorry. Yeah, I’ll try. I will define my nature and try to be a little concise about it.

Jake Goldman (00:16:55) – I think there are things that have me excited about WordPress. I see a lot of innovation in the hosting space around tools and solutions. One of the wonderful things that remain about WordPress is it is so popular that there’s a bit of like let a thousand flowers bloom. So some of these large providers and hosting platforms in particular are doing really innovative things and sort of choosing your flavor of WordPress, whether that’s a full, headless, complete solution. So for example, one example that springs to mind is if WP engines your flavor, they have a whole Atlas stack. So if you’re trying to use WordPress as an open source and sort of free CMS and you need to figure out how to use your front end react developers, there’s a solution for that. If you’re more of a prosumer, I want to build my own site. There are solutions for that. Being on WordPress or be it some of these larger hosts that are adopting some tools other people are making to sort of streamline how Gutenberg works, give you more templated setups, more use case based templates to start with.

Jake Goldman (00:17:55) – So the thing that makes me bullish about WordPress is there’s clearly a lot of buy in from a lot of large organizations, and because it is not centralized, you can sort of have dozens of experiments running with what does this need to be to different audiences and still have the software bloom and grow up? I also think it is a positive. Things are probably the conversations we had back in that 2009 2010 timeframe. I also think it’s a positive thing that I think WordPress has moved beyond what I would say is an over commitment to Don’t Rock the Boat with version releases. And what I mean by that is there is a stretch of time for me, I would say maybe more 20 doing. We’re doing our old guys archeology here, 2012, 2016. We’re just felt like we’re so afraid to make any change. I might break something somewhere in someone’s workflow that we’re going to stagnate. So I’ve written posts now like let’s be a little less timid about, you know, let’s not just throw away the importance of accountability, but like some sites somewhere might have had some function that expected to behave some way.

Jake Goldman (00:18:51) – Let’s get a little bit less timid about those kind of situations. So while you can certainly look at things like, you know, certainly look at some of the major changes in WordPress, particularly editor and certainly feel a different kind of sense of fatigue of one of my would expect next release. I think ultimately the software needed to move into that mindset of let’s change quickly, let’s iterate quickly, let’s add new features if we’re going to be competitive. And I’m glad to see that in energy, in the software, things that worry me about WordPress, I think I mentioned a little bit in the conversation. I worry that as the as the end user experience gets easier and easier with some of these platforms. The things that make it easier and easier or harder to replicate with open source. So I is just the was the example that I used. You can’t just build a whole machine learning AI generative model inside a piece of PHP software that you can install in any host and expect that it’s just going to run.

Jake Goldman (00:19:45) – It’s just going to work from the bottom of the market all the way to the top of the market. That’s a very hard problem to solve. Whereas if you’re just running on a cloud like Squarespace or Webflow or even Wix or something like that, you just bake it into your SaaS service, just add it on. You have the computing hardware, you add the configuration, you don’t have to worry about anybody. Somebody might be running this on a shared server doing 100 page views a month and it’s just there. And you as the consumer probably may not care much about all the philosophy about GPL. You know, all you know is that your experience is this just got easier and better the next day. It wasn’t a problem for me. So I is just one example. I mean, there are many other examples of like the performance and the kind of computing hardware you need to do things like what we’re trying to do with Gutenberg real drag and drop with animations and transitions and have that perform well on the front end.

Jake Goldman (00:20:36) – So I do worry about for the Open source project, can we stay relevant in ten years if the kind of like hard things that people, consumers who don’t care about the back story or the community that consumers care about that are hard to do with downloadable open software? I think another challenge for WordPress, and I’ve probably been on this boat for a number of years, for a long time, is I think it still struggles a little bit for all of the great aspirations of we want to, I don’t know, 80%, 100% of websites. I don’t even know what our target is anymore. At 43%. We want to be majority of websites running WordPress. I think one of the challenges we still have is, you know, an old mentor of mine used to say one size fits all. If it’s No. One particularly well, that worries me a little bit as well. Maybe apropos of the same point I was making earlier of the kind of features you need to build in. I worry a little bit sometimes when I talk to other groups and go outside of our WordPress community, talk to just Enterprise, CTOs and Enterprise CMS groups and go to these, you know, there are these like industry events that are not just WordPress but like business and CMS business and Dhcp kind of events or just web builder kind of events.

Jake Goldman (00:21:49) – I get a bit of a sense of like if what you want to. Two different parallel directions the industry is taking. Okay. If what you want is this should be easier and simpler, but I don’t have as much control. I should be able to go in and my today, my web building experience should be something like Adobe InDesign or do you know or Photoshop Plus plus you should be able to create something without having to write code or advanced JavaScript. I should be able to create what 80% of websites want and need on their website and do so without a degree in how to write computer software, without having to understand server side code or security risks. Maybe have to know a little bit of front end, but maybe not all the sass preprocessors and all the ways we’ve made front end complicated to. I think if you want that solution, make this easy, make this simple, make this repeatable. What Maybe the front pages of or dream readers of your wanted to be. But just the technology wasn’t ready.

Jake Goldman (00:22:45) – Technology feels more ready. There are some pretty impressive solutions out there. If you’re trying to build a one pager, if you’re trying to build your coffee shops website, you get something pretty damn good looking without putting a lot of effort. I don’t think WordPress is very competitive in that space anymore. Could I earnestly step back and say, You just opened a coffee shop, you want to spin up a website, you want it to look pretty and have some pictures and have a menu on there and have a contact page and get some analytics about who’s visiting it. You don’t have a budget to hire a programmer to do it, or maybe your nephew’s tech savvy. Would you recommend WordPress? Right. Not sure. Maybe because I have a certain set of values. I’m not sure I could easily do so. Then on the flip side, there’s the other extreme end of the market. Another major trend going on right now, which is like CMS as a very decoupled, very structured data like the head or the front end, very much detached fully from the back end with the full suite where the back end is not like layout, a page like that other extreme we talked about but is more like I have a menu for 100 restaurants and I need very structured data that’s not making 100 page layouts to say these are the prices, these are the dates where prices change.

Jake Goldman (00:23:59) – Right? Very structured content coming on to your screen and very structured. And there’s a lot of CMS and a lot of platforms doing good innovative work in there. And there’s without getting into the weeds, there’s a lot of arguments, there’s a lot of good arguments for that kind of use case, especially when you’re talking about the biggest companies, right? Not there, not their blogs, not their newsrooms, not their little content marketing side pages, but their main enterprise presence on the web where there’s a good argument for that. That is a popular belief in the CTOs, kind of like the page building WordPress can do that has a restful API, has an ability to be headless. Is it the best solution if you’re a CTO for going full decoupled, full structured data? Once again, I have to be honest. Like there are cases where the answer might be yes. It’s a hard argument to make. And so WordPress I still feel like has this kind of like funny positioning where it’s a little bit of trying to have its foot in each camp.

Jake Goldman (00:24:53) – It’s a little bit of what we can be a headless CMS and platform, it can be a page builder experience for those who want it, but it’s so sort of thinly spread in terms of trying to roll up everybody that it’s I worry that it’s not becoming the best solution for the CTO who wants a modern decoupled platform. It’s not the best solution for the small business owner or the people that whom WordPress really served a decade ago. The what’s the easiest, fastest way to get something? Soap is quality. I worry in that dynamic that it can get squeezed as a platform. I maybe worry frankly. I worry for 10Up about the the high end of the market. It’s probably partly why we want to merge. We want to be at that table where we can bring WordPress into more conversations because it doesn’t we’re not waiting for the decision to be made about technology to make a case for our platforms short term. Worry a little bit more about that in terms of, you know, the agencies and the enterprise agencies and WordPress base continuing to thrive and grow ten year kind of vision for WordPress.

Jake Goldman (00:25:50) – I worry more about the former case. I worry that so many people in this WordPress ecosystem found their way here, built a passionate career here because WordPress provided such an easy ladder to climb for people, professional programmers and professional engineers and professional developers to get in, to experiment, to build something on a tight budget, on a shoestring without a lot of licensing fees. I’m not as sure we have that ladder anymore. I’m not as sure if you’re starting out and you’re a tinkerer and you’re an experimenter and you’re the person that maybe didn’t go to school or couldn’t afford to go to school for four years, but you kind of learn your way through it. I’m not quite as sure that WordPress is as approachable and is the default option you go to and the way that it was ten years ago. So sorry if I warned you about the three hour thing rambling, but that’s I guess my my lens on where we are today.

Cory Miller (00:26:39) – It’s it’s really good perspective. And why I want to ask that question too is there’s so many people in our post community and.

Cory Miller (00:26:48) – Then the broader WordPress that are in spaces I’ve never dwelt, which is what does it take for New York Times, Washington Post to or some other organization to get what they’re trying to get done with WordPress and what are those unique. And and I’ve heard and I agree with this and I see it even if I haven’t experienced it myself, I go, oh, I get it. That’s the tension we’re going to have to figure out and navigate through as a broader open source. Software community is okay. We have a broad vision. Everything has changed and evolved from when it was because I started out was one of those people coming from Dreamweaver or whatever, over into WordPress. Being able to use that and seeing that. I’ve kind of looked at it as more of the down, you know, the bottom of the market. I’ve got a business and I want to put my website up. There’s really compelling options of each indicated and I think there are these threats at these different levels. Specifically, when we think about web development work for clients that we need to be talking about more and more.

Cory Miller (00:27:56) – So I appreciate your perspective on that.

Jake Goldman (00:27:59) – Yeah, you bet.

Cory Miller (00:28:00) – So my next question is more broader, and it is the concept of the open web that, you know, we see billionaires buying big social media companies making some decisions that we don’t always agree with and go, oh, wow. But there’s this premise, particularly the process of myself is in all of us that embrace and love WordPress contribute to it is we want the web to be open. There’s good, really valid reasons for the web to be open, for someone to be able to share their thoughts, opinions, however crazy or sound or whatever in between. It might be out there that we want that for future generations. But if you just as someone has been in this field for a very long time, seeing these types of changes, been involved in them, we’re not just say the word open web, even decoupled from WordPress. Where do you see the web today and where is it going? You mentioned I. That’s a big conversation.

Cory Miller (00:29:03) – Social has within our careers alone become a dominant force in the web, which are mostly closed dictated by other people with with business interests. What are you seeing there in the open web?

Jake Goldman (00:29:19) – It’s such a good question when you say that what I’m reflecting on is like, I Damn it, I tried, Mastodon. I wanted to believe and I just couldn’t. All right. In terms of like the complexity of what it was trying what it was trying to solve and just like the overall experience, I mean, mind, you know, shock probably the listeners of this podcast, I’m not the most social guy on social channels. So the effort I put in might have been somewhat lacking. But I think what it speaks to when you talk about those social platforms is very, again, relevant to my point about like bigger, harder expectations that are harder to achieve with things that are open. Social is a great example of where there are benefits you can achieve when you are closed and at scale and controlling everything end to end software experience to the hardware underneath it.

Jake Goldman (00:30:03) – That a remarkably hard to do when you’re very when you’re entirely open source and it’s a bit of cobbling together every different piece that you want to use in terms of like, you know, I’m trying to think about the answer to your question. I mean, it’s hard not to be of two minds. On one hand, it’s hard to we are in a renaissance, I would say, of open source in terms of the most low lying technologies that enable developers. Like Linux won the game, right? For the hardware of the. I’m sorry. Not the hardware. The OS layer. Right. Closer to the hardware. You know, almost all of the major platforms that you use now are using open source. I mean, even Apple, open sourced swift. They’re developers. We have to be careful because. Relevant to conversations that always go on and often go on in WordPress. Open source and community owned are different concepts. So I don’t want to necessarily say like community owned projects are thriving in the same way, but truly open source software solutions in the sense that the code is truly out there.

Jake Goldman (00:31:07) – Anybody can do a pull request, anybody can see how it was built, anybody can see how it works. You can go into the code, look deep and figure out what’s going on. When I try to compile this part of my software, what’s actually making this thing show up on the screen? At the low level of the developer. Developer enablement level. There’s more open source than ever, I think. I think if I, I think if the conversations you had back in 2004 to open source, that’s a security threat. And so businesses will never do open source because you can find the holes in the software and Right. You’re exposing to everybody how your whole soft mean. That’s just dead right as an argument. Nobody I mean you look at any major company Microsoft which owns GitHub right and puts tons of open source has won in terms of the argument of like this is safe. This is good for low lying super geekery like low lying, you know Linux nginx Apache right like you know mostly runs its most popular services are open source solutions running on top of their hardware.

Jake Goldman (00:32:02) – I think when you go up the next layer, which is like UI facing experiences built to scale, the things built on top of that technology, I think that’s where I would get more concerned. When you talk about that, that like something like WordPress, something at the actual end consumer experience of using software, that’s where I think the future is shakier because it’s harder for that stuff to scale. If you’re ultimately trying to solve the problem, say with WordPress, I want to make it easy to make a website that is more a consumer professional prosumer marketer kind of problem, not the crowd that probably wants to hear a lecture from me about the importance of GPL for the future of humanity. If in fact, if I gave them that lecture, they’d probably run faster to the other solution or just fall asleep. They just want a solution that works. They don’t want to have to get into the weeds. And it is harder to scale, harder to explain, harder to give that audience something that’s just open and say run with it.

Jake Goldman (00:33:03) – The super nerds that are actually building those platforms are happy that once they get it, are happy to use open source at the next layer down. Again, the like, you know, PHP, Node.js react like the developer toolkits because they’re the smart people that actually have to understand what they’re building. So I don’t know. I feel like I’m rambling a little bit, but I guess I’d say in the big picture, bullish on open source. In fact, maybe you could even argue open source has taken over in many ways, certainly far more popular, accepted than it was 20 years ago. But for the most consumer prosumer marketing face marketer facing of experiences, maybe the place where WordPress sits in some use cases, I think getting increasingly harder to scale those solutions to meet that market.

Cory Miller (00:33:48) – Yeah, I mean I totally see it and there’s a differentiation in you’ve been able to clarify within me here too is from a tool and building something. But when I go back to, you know, when I started my company in 2008, it the Wix weebly Squarespace is these other tools didn’t exist and no one cared about what was underlying those.

Cory Miller (00:34:13) – They just were trying to get I want to get a website up and this is the best way to do it. Things have changed. The web is involved as life will. And it’s a it’s a question I continue to ask myself. And then others, smart people like yourself, have like, where do we go from here? That it did. Like you said, it enabled a lot of the business industry within WordPress to thrive, to grow. The thing I kind of come back to is that open web that in user experience now there’s plenty of people with those platforms we talked about that aren’t on the front end, open source, their paid things you get into, they promise really great experiences for those people to get that end result in that day has changed. So you’ve kind of come up a question I’m trying to think for myself now, which is what are we really trying to preserve in the future? You know, I always give my kids this. The best example is I want what the spirit of these things to exist for them.

Cory Miller (00:35:18) – Business for sure. But that’s not WordPress. That’s everything. The ability to put your shingle out, roll out a service, be your own boss, quote unquote. But then, you know, when we get into free speech and openness of the web, that’s a whole host of other conversations in there. So that’s a really.

Jake Goldman (00:35:41) – It’s a degree to a degree. It’s hard not to feel like the ship may have sailed. So it’s sort of like probably a terrible metaphor, but it’s the one that springs to mind. It’s like I’m thinking of like Second Amendment arguments, right? Like we could get real hot button issues here, right? Like if you’re a theory on Second Amendment gun ownership rights, I’m not going to even start my own amendment. If you’re just say if you’re theory on gun ownership rights is the government. When the Constitution is written, the government may get out of hand, may get corrupt on its people, and we have the right to overthrow a corrupt government. Makes a ton of sense when it’s written in first comes out.

Jake Goldman (00:36:16) – Why couldn’t. There’s no special power the government has in terms of its muskets and horses compared to the you know, and at some point you turn a corner where you’re like. There. That’s not a thing anymore. Nobody’s going to overthrow our government military force because they own personal handguns and rifles. We’re not going to think we’re going to let people own personal nukes on their yard. We’re not going to let people own tanks. Right. Like armored tanks. Right. Right. In their house. There’s no cobbling together a force that’s going to overthrow our military. And that’s a very terrible metaphor to say, like the ship is kind of sailed on like open source is the answer to free speech. I think maybe in the extreme. But even if you can have a piece of software like WordPress that is open, like we have seen cases where WordPress sites have been shut down. Whatever you think of this hat, because they’re on a host, those hosts are not open. So the hosts are not. You know, I guess what I’m trying to say is like, name somebody for me.

Jake Goldman (00:37:10) – That’s like spitting up servers in their garages, running open source software to reach a mass market message. It’s just not I guess you could say not really a thing anymore. So there was a huge I mean, whatever your opinion is on this, I don’t really want to wade into like I know my personal beliefs on like there was a huge kerfuffle with like Pantheon a while ago running WordPress free open source software. Supposedly we’re going to argue the free speech software. Nobody can just shut you down and you could argue that they could shop. Those owners could shop it around. But there was a huge controversy as the host, should they shut down sites? That are hosting in WordPress. I mean, the other host said we wouldn’t want that. We wouldn’t take those sites. Is WordPress really solving that problem? I’m not I’m not sure. I’m not sure. Saying just like open source solves the free speech problem. Like content ownership? Yes. Right. Ability to fork away or, you know, not be beholden to what the.

Jake Goldman (00:38:08) – Even if not upgrade your version or something. Not be beholden to the central. Yes, lots of good reasons for open source software, but I think we maybe want to I think we maybe want to be a little bit more. It’s the wrong choice of words, which is thoughtful about whether about the notion that open source equates to free speech control. Is Mastodon more free speech center than as a decentralized platform than X or Twitter or whatever it’s called now? I’m not sure it could be, but there’s also plenty of instances that are very heavily moderated and much more aggressive.

Cory Miller (00:38:44) – Well, like, put the mastodon. You mentioned something here and help me clarify it. My mind is, you know, in 2008, 2010, whatever was your expression was probably putting a blog out or something, let’s say blog post Now it’s it’s definitely changed and evolved where a mastodon or a Twitter or some social network like I can put my thoughts out there. And I think what you help crystallize for me is that things have changed and evolved as it has, you know, where stuck in those that’s where mind is.

Cory Miller (00:39:20) – It’s going back there and go, I need to update that today and go, What is it today? I wanted to mention this when you said Mastodon, you know you have technical background experience. Whether you feel you can do some of those things today or not. I never had, but I go it’s the barriers to hard there. Now we’re kind of getting into this more social side of the open web perhaps. But my hope is that continues on and I hope WordPress can contribute to it. We have like when you say the percentage of the web that runs WordPress and and I do in my everyday life, you know, I go, there’s got to be some potential there. And I hope we continue to ask that question because of our past in WordPress, we have contributed to this idea of freedom. Now it’s morphed. Now we need to take that spirit, that contribution, wherever it goes next. And somewhere in this space over here, I think there’s still a place for that. Yeah, and I hope we’d lead as a community.

Cory Miller (00:40:31) – It’s our background, it’s our history. I would even dare say heritage of doing these things that enabled the others to go, Wow, we can come in, we can do something maybe better than what WordPress did at that time. Now we have these competitors, but yeah, I just. I just. Go ahead.

Jake Goldman (00:40:50) – I was going to say, I think that’s true. I think. I think we can I think there’s a you know. I sort of inhibit my hazard. But I think there is a world where WordPress becomes a bit, dare I say, IBM about itself, which is to say like if you if we think WordPress is going to go back to 2011 and be for the hip new developer or the easiest way to launch a website, I’m not sure I bet on that. In terms of the way do we think WordPress can be a lower lying, maybe less interesting platform? Going back to the beginning of this conversation that the big hosts, the big nerds providing solutions can use as a platform to do at a at a more effective cost basis in rewriting their own software.

Jake Goldman (00:41:39) – To do some really interesting, do a really interesting and really good job of serving different use cases there. I’d be more bullish. Do I think like these different hos, WordPress.com, WP engine, all these different GoDaddy. Do I think all of these different hosts in the same way that. Uh, hosting companies could use Linux versus, say, licensing is to have a much more cost effective way to get to all of their own. 1000 flowers blooming. Most people aren’t interested in talking about Apache or Nginx versus IIS, but has become behind the scenes a critical tool. I feel like I’m rambling a little bit, I guess. But I guess what I’m trying to say is like I can see a very I can very much see a world where for large enterprises, large platform companies, large hosting companies, WordPress is less interesting, less talked about underlying infrastructure that powers all kinds of different web building experiences, some targeted enterprise and decoupled use cases, and focused on that experience, some targeted at the best page, best block components and the best pre-built themes for those components and very targeted at those use cases.

Jake Goldman (00:42:44) – I think that’s a world where WordPress can keep thriving and keep pulling in different directions. I just don’t know that it’s, you know, the future is people are excited to, you know, I guess they think about it differently. They think about it more as I go to. You know go to WP Engine in Atlas to use that example. Again that’s my brand experience happens to use WordPress as its underlying technology, right? I go to the GoDaddy page builder, you know, or pick your host, pick one thing of clients and park them to mine first. I’m going to go to those platforms, right? And but that relationship is maybe more with GoDaddy, who has a whole page builder experience and has a whole theme experience. Then particularly being interested in the fact that it’s WordPress.

Cory Miller (00:43:34) – Well, thank you, Jake. This has been compelling. I’ll be chewing on some of these things, too. And I go back to where we started the conversation, which is your merger. Congratulations again. Looking forward to hearing what you all will do as even a bigger entity will be doing in on the Web and in our world.

Cory Miller (00:43:54) – Anything else that we left out that you want to share?

Jake Goldman (00:43:58) – I think we covered covered all the bases. I’m grateful for your congratulations. I know you’ve been through that experience and went through your own journey on the product side. So it means it means even more coming to me from those entrepreneurs. And congratulations, by the way, to yourself or bringing on a new partner in your business.

Cory Miller (00:44:15) – You bet. You bet. We’ll go far together, right?

Jake Goldman (00:44:18) – We do.

Cory Miller (00:44:19) – Well, Jake, thanks so much for being on and sharing your perspectives and then the news of what we’re doing and we’ll be watching as everything goes forward. And again, you know, and one more thanks to is and I want to accentuate this. You made a decision early on. Sure. And I know it affected and helped with the business. But you made a heart centered approach to me to contribute to WordPress. So and this thing reason that it brought all of us together. Well, thanks, everybody, for listening in today. We’ll see you next episode.

This article was published at Post Status — the community for WordPress professionals.

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