WordPress and walled gardens

Here’s a coincidence. Shortly after I decide to abandon my self-hosted WordPress instance for the safety of a site hosted on WordPress.com, John Beckett starts mulling over whether to leave the WordPress walled garden:

As we have seen in recent days with Tumblr, a shoe could come down one day, and change the rules that govern the existence of our words on the internet. If I choose to walk away from a hosted blogging service, am I really taking ownership though? I still won’t own or control the hardware — I still won’t own or control the connection between the hardware and the wider internet. I’ll just have moved the goal-posts a little closer to me — I won’t own them, or the ground they are planted in.

For me, there are two issues with walled gardens. Firstly, and most importantly, the owners of these networks tend to try and force people to sign up to their networks — I can’t see what someone has posted on Facebook, for example, without first signing up to Facebook. The second issue is one of exportability — once you have placed your content into the walled garden it can be difficult, if not impossible, to get it back out.

In the case of WordPress, neither of these issues apply. You don’t need a WordPress account to visit, or follow, this blog and if I do decide to self-host again at some point in the future, exporting and importing my posts is a very straightforward process.

Crucially, I do own this domain name and, if I did decide I wanted to self-host again, it would be possible to do so pretty much seamlessly. And because I can easily move the blog, I have much less desire to do so.

And by hosting the blog on WordPress, I can leave tasks like security, sizing and the rest to people who (should) know what they are doing.

WordPress may be a bit of a walled garden, but the walls are very low and the gates are wide open.

2 thoughts on “WordPress and walled gardens

  1. I think it might be interesting to find out how closely related Automattic, the WordPress Foundation, and WordPress.com really are. It’s obviously in the interest of wordpress.com to extract as much money as they can from you – which they do by limiting functionality within various “plans”. The more annoying thing – to me at least – is that WordPress.com has “likes” for posts that are only useable by other wordpress.com members. I’m talking myself into leaving again, aren’t I…


    1. It’s a good question. I’ve always assumed that Automattic is the company, WordPress is the product and WordPress.com is the value-added service. As a model for making a living out of open-source development, it probably is the best approach, although they do need to be careful about which options belong in which plan.

      Obviously, having recently moved away from self-hosting, the ‘likes’ are a novelty to me, A few years ago, I would have mentioned not being able to edit my theme as being an issue, but the built-in tools have now progressed to the point that I really don’t need to any more.

      At the end of the day, it’s a trade off. There are pros and cons both to self-hosting and WordPress hosting. On balance, WordPress.com feels like the right option to me at the moment. Obviously, that balance will vary from person to person.

      You pays your money, you takes your choice.


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