In discussing the Pressable story, a few folks have asked me about the WordPress recommended hosting page, and if Automattic’s ownership of Pressable will affect that page. The answer is that I don’t think so, but I don’t know for sure.
However, I did ask Matt about that page yesterday and it appears it will be a while yet before we see any updates; he said he wants to get more information from hosts before he chooses who goes on that page. And he’s done so. There is now a new link to the web host survey… again.
There was a similar survey (maybe the exact survey) that ran last July, and many hosts supplied a bunch of relatively sensitive information to apply to be on the page. Now Matt is asking for it again, presumably because the previous information is out of date.
There is so much ambiguity about that page, it’s frustrating. It’s also one of the first results when you Google “WordPress Hosting” and so the real estate (both due to Google position and being on the official WordPress website) is incredibly valuable. Right now, Bluehost is the only one up — on a “temporary” basis — and it’ been that way for 9 months. I’d be pretty damn happy about that if I were Bluehost — whose parent company EIG is an investor in Automattic.
Bluehost is also a recommended host on WordPress.com and WooThemes. WordPress.com also now lists Pressable as a recommended host (Archive.org shows it there since January but it could’ve happened late last year), and both WooThemes and WordPress.com have dropped SiteGround in the last several months. However, as WordPress.com and WooThemes are much more clearly “commercial” Automattic properties, I have less concern about those pages.
But since Matt Mullenweg owns WordPress.org personally and it’s not technically under the WordPress Foundation, there has long been suspicion about what it takes to be an officially recommended host on WordPress.org, and curiosity around whether it costs money or if affiliate fees are involved. The page itself does say, “If you do decide to go with one of the hosts below and click through from this page, some will donate a portion of your fee back[…].”
Honestly, I don’t care if Matt makes money on that page (he’d be silly not to honestly), but I would like more transparency around the page itself and the process. And what I really, really want to know is if the negotiations around WordPress.org placement are 1) managed by people at Automattic (Matt obviously, but specifically additional leadership there), and/or 2) negotiated as a “bundle” of sorts alongside other stuff that’s favorable to Automattic, like auto-installing Jetpack on new WordPress sites.
These are questions I really would like answers to. On the WordPress recommended hosting page, he calls the listing, “completely arbitrary” and therefore not based on the survey results, so it’s hard to determine exactly how this survey will influence Matt and how it will impact his decision. My understanding from some hosts interested in the page is that he’s truly seeking “partners” for the page; but the question is what makes a host a partner in his eyes. The rumor mill circulates constantly about this page and it would be really nice if it was more open.