Shared hosting is hard, and EIG owns a lot of shared hosting companies

Chris Lema recently shared his opinion on some hosting companies to avoid. Spoiler: generally he doesn't care for hosting companies owned by EIG. You've probably never even heard of many of the companies in the list — though you've probably all heard of their biggest brands like Bluehost and HostGator. While every host (Chris's recommended hosts included) has issues now and again, EIG does seem to have more folks shouting about issues with them versus their competition.

Matt Mullenweg commented on the post, and it's worth sharing in full, at least in part because there is so much speculation about Automattic and EIG's relationship and this is about as thorough of a response from him as you'll find.

I’ve heard some pretty bad horror stories about every host you recommend, as well as the ones we have recommended now and in the past. The more customers a host has, the more likely you’ll find people who had a bad experience or a bad server or network issue at some point — what’s I judge a host by is the direction the host is going in, how progressive they are in their approach to WP, and how they act when something goes wrong. (Which it inevitably will, and anyone who tells you otherwise is just trying to sell you something, a la Princess Bride.)

I would strongly disagree painting different hosts with a single brush just because they’re part of the same holding company, if you know how EIG works the bigger brands are actually quite independent, with their own CEOs. They can be totally different experiences. You have Typepad in the same list with Hostgator. It would be like avoiding Crest because of an issue with Old Spice (both owned by P&G).

You have an insinuation Automattic is working with EIG just because of their investment. Our last round of funding was $80M oversubscribed above what we raised, we haven’t and don’t need to take money from anyone we wouldn’t chose to work with independently. Automattic also, obviously, host more and bigger WordPress sites than anyone else in the world, so have our own horse in this race. If we recommend someone it’s because we genuinely respect them. (Much like I imagine your recommendations.)

Chris's reply to Matt is equally worth sharing:

These hosts may have individual CEOs, at least some of them. But that doesn’t mean their underlying infrastructure isn’t shared. In many cases it is. And if the challenge is with infrastructure (which it sometimes is), then that’s a problem that spans multiple companies at once.

As for my noting the relationship between Automattic and BlueHost, the main point was that there is a relationship. I find that most people don’t know of the investment. Just like they don’t know that all of these companies are owned by the same parent company.

Where it gets confusing sometimes is the exact nature of different relationships – from recommendations on the .org hosting page, to the Jetpack partner program, to investments, to the relationship between these hosting companies that appear (at face value) to be independent of each other.

Shared hosting is hard, no matter what. There are certainly ways to make shared hosting suck less, but you can always run into problems.

I think Chris's point is warranted, and Matt's rebuttal has its own merit. Beyond hardware, the most important thing to me with a host is competent support, corporate responsibility, and support of the ecosystems they market to. EIG gets some of that right and some of it wrong, just like any host.

In the end, if you're happy with a company, go for it. If you're not, try another. Chris is just putting a bit of light on the fact that in the hosting world, you may be trying someone different under the same corporate umbrella. That's fair to point out, I think.

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