Is There a Future for Small WordPress Businesses?

Mark Zahra asks if there’s a future for smaller WordPress businesses in the midst of all the recent acquisitions. One thing seems certain β€” if you’re a solopreneur or developer looking to make an exit like Pippin Williamson in 5 or 6 years, that’s probably not going to happen. πŸ™‚

Mark shares a possible future for WordPress as a platform and an industry that is worth considering deeply. Recent acquisitions may give some companies a unique advantage:

“…if you’ve opted into usage tracking, there are a few things that are tracked that can be used in market research… this potentially gives one company access to information about the WordPress market as a whole that no one else has.”

Pippin β€” referencing Kinsta COO Jon Penland in conversation with Anchor Hosting founder Austin Ginder β€” emphasizes the threats to WordPress as a platform and community as the WordPress experience fragments across many different hosted versions.

David Mainayar agrees with Chris Wiegman that acquisitions are happening because WordPress has lost its simplicity. This raises the related concern about fragmentation, especially if WordPress core suffers “decay” from a lack of community contributors.

We’re not sure the increasing complexity of the tech and the ecosystem are the major motivator for established WordPress business owners exiting in a sale. One could look at the glass half full β€” instead of losing something, WordPress has joined the modern web, and even if you prefer the old web, it’s hard to see how this progression could be avoided.

We do think Chris and David are right that web hosts will continue crafting custom experiences that target their own audiences. Echoing Jon Penland and Pippin, this seems to be the one thing everyone agrees on. How it is good and bad, and who it is good and bad for are the important emerging questions.

We think there’s always an opportunity for anyone to start small. These “big” acquisitions don’t necessarily close out a space β€” not forever. Smaller players can come in and move faster to niche markets than larger companies can. We’ve seen it before. Back to Mark who mentions this too:

“You could build something completely new or just take a new approach to an existing problem. Differentiating yourself from the existing, larger solutions out there will be key if you choose to do this, but again, it can pay off nicely.”

But for small, new players to have a decent shot at success, the WordPress platform has to be everyone’s playing field. As the hosted platform space gets more competitive and more refined in creating unique WordPress experiences, it could wall off certain segments of the market β€” niche products and their users as well as developers. This would complicate the cooperation needed to move WordPress core forward.

β€”David and Dan