Almost exactly three months ago I wrote how WordPress sold us out with regards to their web hosting 'recommendations' which were (and still are) just advertisements (now a single ad for BlueHost). So what changed?
It appears that WordPress.org is going to change their web hosting recommendations and acknowledges that the industry has changed (dramatically I might add). They left the nonsense text at the top about how BlueHost is the best and brightest while the new text at the bottom admits that isn't the case at all. I will assume it was a minor oversight in the updating of the page.
So what appears to be changing? They are taking requests from companies to be included with a very long survey which is fairly comprehensive covering demographics, staff, usability, technology, financials and more. It looks like it's either designed for a very thorough vetting process or to prevent companies from signing up because of the amount of disclosure required.
Questions like How many net paying customers are you gaining/losing each month? and Approximately how many 30-day-active paying customers do you have? are pretty revealing questions for private companies. Especially considering that there are potentially two competitors that have a strong financial relationship with the murky organization structure of WordPress Foundation - Automattic (WordPress.com) and Endurance International Group (Investor in Automattic, parent company of BlueHost, the primary affiliate of WordPress.org).
There doesn't seem to be any details about how this process will work, who will be managing it, or when the community will get to have any input.
It looks like a step in the right direction, because any direction is better than the current one. But I'm not sold yet.
What I would like to see is actual community input about how recommendations should be made. The current survey is for hosting companies only and doesn't cover the quality of service actually experienced. It asks very detailed questions about what the company says they are doing, but we all know that is the best case scenario that's communicated publicly. Naturally, as a web hosting review website, I think reviews are an important feedback and decision mechanism for making informed choices. There are other ways to evaluate companies like performance benchmarking as well. The community may or may not agree with any of these methods, but they should at least be given a chance to make their voice heard in this discussion. It's the people who know the least that are going to be reading and making decisions from WordPress.org's hosting page, it's our responsibility to help them as much as possible.
I would like transparency on how the companies are going to be evaluated. The black box magic that has given us BlueHost as the best WordPress host for a decade needs to end.
Proper disclosure is a must. The wishy-washy these companies donate a portion of your fee back to us crap needs to end. If you're going to run affiliate links, be up front about them and don't pretend it's something else. This ties back into transparency. If you're going to use affiliate programs and get kickbacks it needs to be done honestly. People have a right to full information about the relationship between WordPress.org and the companies it recommends.
In conclusion, I'm glad to see that changes might be forthcoming, but I urge WordPress.org to do it properly and provide something that is honest and transparent.
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This is a welcomed announcement! Hosting technology has evolved since the page was first posted on WordPress.org website. Curious to see if any of the big players like WPEngine, etc. make the new cut.
This is encouraging news. Their recommendations probably produced a good stream of commissions for the WordPress Foundation, but wasn’t helpful to recommend hosts that are poor to mediocre compared to others. I used to recommend the hosts they did BECAUSE they did (I trusted them), until I learned how the game is played.
I hope they look at ReviewSignal and a certain other site. The folks on Twitter are a better indicator than any information that the hosts themselves provide. This should be a good opportunity for SIteGround and some of the managed WordPress hosts.
I didn’t know EIG was an Automattic investor. I wonder why they kept Bluehost but not Dreamhost, who it seems has happier customers.
It’s not a probably Steven, look at the other post I made digging through their 990’s https://reviewsignal.com/blog/2015/03/31/drupal-and-wordpress-have-sold-us-out/ it was something to the tune of $850,000. It’s an absolute sham they’ve been pulling for years. I hope they do it properly, but until some actual details emerge it’s really hard to not to skeptical given their past motives which they’ve pretty effectively hidden in the past.
As far as your question goes, I’d guess it can be answered in one character: $
Well, given that EIG (Endurance international) is an investor in WordPress (&, coincidentally owner of bluehost), what they really need is a reference that their recommendations have a slight hint of bias 🙂 Otherwise, I can’t blame them for wielding affiliate links.
The FTC has some fairly thorough guidelines on the topic:
EIG isn’t an investor in the WordPress Foundation (which doesn’t really do outside investment), but they (as Bluehost) (along with many other companies) are Community Sponsors of WordCamps —
This sponsorship helps make WordCamps (which are non-profit events) cover their bases when getting venues, printing swag, providing food and afterparties, etc — and as a WordCamp Organizer myself, I can say without a doubt that the vast majority of WordCamps would be deeply in the red without their generosity.
EIG invested in Automattic, run by Matt, who also runs the WordPress Foundation. That murkyness of who is running what and representing who is concerning. EIG have a pretty special relationship with WordPress.org that is material enough to mention in their 10-K filings with the SEC. It’s very much going both ways.
I understand that the WordPress Foundation is spending it on things that some people see as valuable. But it doesn’t make how they got that money right.
Checked some entries in the Wayback Machine and there is no evidence that they were using affiliate links.
BlueHost can track referrers and give credit to them without issue. WordPress.org says they are tracking it with the ‘donation’ language. EIG SEC filings discloses it. The WordPress Foundation 990 mentions it. You can see it historically here: https://web.archive.org/web/20090721160413/http://wordpress.org/hosting/? before they implemented transparent tracking.