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I wonder if people are generally upset that Mullenweg has control of “WordPress” or that he has control over a large chunk of the “open web.” Placing his irresponsible reactions aside for a moment, I think we should abstract why we might feel the way we do.

The fight “for WordPress” is futile.

It’s a distraction really. One must stop vying for shared control over the decision making, the features, and the direction. You either choose to participate and leave your mark in the direction it’s being lead (contributing, debating, communicating, etc), or just simply observe.

There is no clawing away ownership.

What would you do if you had shared control? What would we all do? Vote in Github for every single feature? “Hey you got a few minutes to hop on a Zoom call?” How long would that process take? Who gets to vote in the process? If you serve clients now, you already know how painful design by committee is — is that what thousands of people would do in order to choose the next default theme?

The point I’m making is: I’ve yet to hear a real solution to the perceived problem, just complaints that we’re not in control and it’s mostly an Automattic driven project.

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I’ve worked too many jobs where “the company gets to decide the direction.” And guess what happens? No one does, because they don’t want to challenge the boss, rather have a stable paycheck, and just want to move on with their lives. Which might be happening at Automattic, but certainly would be the case if leadership ceded control to “us.”

A great product needs a single leader to set the vision and guide the organization. If not Matt Mullenweg, who? Anne McCarthy? Rich Tabor? Matias?

Fact of the matter is, you can still enjoy everything WordPress has to give you regardless of who holds the reigns: 4 freedoms, a career, an open source app to publish with, and a community to share in all of that.

It’s too challenging, near impossible, to make any large changes to the overall direction of WordPress if we the people had control. In other words, the community most likely won’t have their “Gutenberg” moment. We can, certainly try to influence others to be the change, and that’s our best approach. Facing Goliath head-on isn’t the smart play. Influencing others around the community is.

We need to be more open and communicative to the core contributors and decision makers throughout the project. Support them, provide great feedback loops — have some empathy. Being a keyboard warrior around every design decision you don’t agree with doesn’t help anyone.

So why aren’t more people up in arms about this leadership thing? It’s the lack of demand.

The demand is there to improve WordPress, and that’s what is happening regardless of how you feel about its current iteration or Mullenweg as a leader. Even with all of the flagrant fouls he’s tossed around, he remains in control of WordPress and that’s that. I’m not saying any of these issues are okay — but that it hasn’t rippled throughout the community enough to cause more people to stand up, and walk out. GoDaddy could always start their own WordPress.

It’s a bitter taste, I get it.

I see WordPress as a critical link in the open web’s infrastructure. As much as I enjoy being a critic on the product side of WordPress, I’m much more interested in its survival for the open web’s sake.

WordPress is getting better, its existence encourages a more open web and decentralized approach for publishers. It’s the best tool with mass appeal to compete with closed source systems. And I generally believe that Mullenweg wants an open web, which is great in the longterm for all of us.

As DHH put it, open source is neither a community nor a democracy. People show up to do the work, for the benefit of us all. And I say: Reap those benefits! Be a good steward of WordPress, help it thrive — we all continue to gain net positive.

We’re moving in the direction of a more clear business model for Automattic over the next few years: WordPress.com vs self-hosted WordPress w/ Jetpack, full stop. There is no turning back on gaining community control. In fact, I do think we’ll start to see Mullenweg place key Automatticians into critical product roles to allow himself to scale his burgeoning organization.

Strap in, because the next 5 years are going to be interesting. And hey, it could be worse, imagine if Salesforce owned WordPress.

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