This is managed WordPress hosting — and has been all along
I’ve been delinquent with posting on my .blog blog on WordPress.com for about a year, so when I bought into the Pro plan after the first recent price change the new stuff really stood out. I’m also pleased I upgraded then, because after they reverted to the original price structure I realized I’m getting every feature of the old and new Business plan at about half the current price, although the storage is much lower.
I’ve dug in a little more since then, and this is clearly the best WP.com so far. Apart from some P2 demo sites, I’ve never had much going on there. I have a second work account for “self-hosted” sites that use Jetpack, and it’s still annoying to switch between them and manage subscriptions to comments and posts. You can only be longed into one .com identity at a time, and there’s no way to sharing access with team members or clients except as admins of individual sites.
The most surprising thing to see develop over the last six months or so is access to premium plugins — including Elementor and the Classic Editor, which are among the 36 “top premium plugins” listed. If you dig into the functional categories of plugins you can install, there are thousands. (I’d love to know how these are being selected, or if all plugins in the .org repo are automatically included.)
I haven’t explored how I’d go about adding “third party code” or installing any of the 50,000+ plugins in the .org repo, but that’s allowed on my “Pro” plan.
I can see it would be relatively easy to set up a Substack-like site at WP.com because I know the plugins you’d need, but for the average user they’d really have to dig into some docs and do the work of educating themselves. What’s badly needed are something like “blueprints” for instantly installing typical configurations of plugins and themes for a common use-case.
Several years ago I mapped out how I would strip down WordPress and turn it into a Substack-like membership site that used wp_mail / php_mail properly to see if I could get good deliverability with 100+ subscribers. (This is not a huge feat but a good exercise to get habituated to proper webmail/email practices that are mostly ignored, abused, or outsources as a problem for Mailgun, Mandrill, etc.) I should still do it, if I ever get the time, but it’s cool to see a fully Open Source and better-than-Substack site becoming possible (and maybe preferable) at WordPress.com.