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I found myself making an interesting Automattic omelet of thoughts this week. 

The changes to Tumblr, like cutting back on staff versus rolling out new features. The acquisition of the Texts.com app. Personally, I started to use more Automattic products like WordPress.com for my Podcast Setup newsletter and their P2 product for a new way to communicate to WP Minute annual members. 

Prices are rising at page builder companies like Elementor last week, Bricks is dropping lifetime pricing come the new year, and Breakdance is prepping for their new adjustment. Some folks are speculating Divi won’t be able to maintain lifetime, and analyze their existing “lifetime + annual” plans. 

And to make this the most interesting thought omelet you’ve ever had — Basecamp’s Once.com first product is set to take on Slack. 

How will this all come together into a savory dish? Maybe it won’t. Carry on to find out. 

The current issue

There’s a cohort of people that think the inclusion of Gutenberg turned block-based editor and the site editing experience in the open source version of WordPress is just free labor to enhance WordPress.com’s offering. 

I can tell you with certainty, if that was the strategy, it’s about 5 years out from reaching that goal. I started a new account so that I could fully immerse myself in building on that platform. Using pretty much all of the features they are throwing at me, except for the free domain. I’ve found that WordPress.com struggles with the same onboarding and learning curve issues open source WordPress has. 

Same with the P2 product experience. It’s headlined “The New Working” and as far as I know, used across the entire org at Automattic. At least for the asynchronous comms. It’s nice, but it’s far from polished or ready for any non technical business or a business with more integration needs to invest in. 

Automattic’s challenges are the same that you and I face: not enough resources, not enough people, not enough time. 

Too many products, too many problems

Once.com will be interesting to me because I think a one-time fee for a Slack competitor might be a nice disruptor for a certain set of users. Generally products that come out of Basecamp have a certain level of “usability stability” as I like to call it. It won’t blow you away, but you know what you’re going to get out of it. I think they’ll do the same for chat. 

Which had me thinking, “Damn, I’d love to see something like that come out of Automattic, too.” P2 is a perfect example. But I’ve also said that about other Automattic products and have been underwhelmed like with Simplenote, VideoPress, and now my short time with P2. 

Zoom out and look at the 4 major Automattic focuses: 

Think about how clunky these all fit together. The struggles with using the products the marketing and positioning of the value add of each. Then the user upgrade path: where do you start, where do we go from here? 

Wrap your head around the scope of it, think about how you would navigate a few aircraft carrier size products like that, and then remember Automattic lists roughly 14 “other products/services/apps” that they  manage, on their website. 

How? Is the question that comes to mind. Next is, Why? Why have all of these other products and services in the portfolio, when WordPress/Woo still need so much love? 

I can’t help but think of a recent Mullenweg tweet, calling out the pricing changes of page builders, saying if they all just focused on the WordPress experience from the beginning, we’d all be a lot further along. 

How spread out is Automattic? What if they only focused on the big 4 instead of 13 + a social network? 

Tasty thought omelet this is, eh?

Believe me, I want Automattic to win. I also want cool products from them, too. I think they are still the best steward for open source WordPress, and blueprinting that model for other open source products would be a huge boon for all of us. 

My prediction is 2024 will be a year of reckoning for all of it. At least lay the groundwork for a more defined WordPress.com vs WordPress.org. Not that we’ll have that much of a say in it. 

Important Links

Video of the week

How to add Google Fonts to your block based theme ahead of WordPress 6.5 

Adding Google Fonts to WordPress with Gutenberg 💡

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