Host Matt Medeiros interviews Brent Lundell, an Sr Director of Systems Operations at Bluehost, about optimizing WordPress performance and scaling on Bluehost’s infrastructure. They dive into the challenges of supporting a diverse WordPress landscape, from outdated plugins to complex WooCommerce stores.

“I came through those days and it wasn’t our best period. We’re better now and we’ve really put the work in to make that experience a lot more effective.”

Brent Lundell

With over 15 years at Bluehost’s parent company Newfold, Lundell provides unique insights into their cross-functional approach to WordPress optimization. If you run a WordPress site on Bluehost or are considering the platform, you won’t want to miss Lundell’s candor regarding their past struggles and recent improvements. Tune in to understand Bluehost’s dedication to the individual WordPress user’s experience.

Key Takeaways:

  • Bluehost builds custom solutions for WordPress instead of relying on off-the-shelf configurations
  • They optimize for complex WooCommerce stores as an indicator of overall WordPress performance
  • A cross-functional “performance team” coordinates WordPress improvements across the company
  • Bluehost partners directly with key players like Cloudflare, JD Goff at WordPress Core, and major plugin developers

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[00:01:39] Matt: Hey, Brett, welcome to the program. Hey, Matt, how’s it going? It’s going well. Thanks for joining today. Bluehost, fantastic sponsor of the WP minute. You coincidentally work for Bluehost. So we’re happy to have you here. I just have to get that away for, get that out of the way for the SEC. So I don’t get in trouble.

[00:01:59] Brent: I [00:02:00] mean, honesty kind of matters. So I’m on board. But

[00:02:04] Matt: what we’ve been doing with all of our Bluehost conversations is Sort of just finding out, hey, who’s, who’s touching things in for WordPress behind the scenes at Bluehost. Bluehost always has a fantastic presence at WordCamps, so you get to see a lot of face to face.

[00:02:20] Matt: If you go to WordCamps, they, Bluehost just became another global sponsor, uh, of WordCamps to help, uh, continue that cause as well. But hopefully we can find, you know, other folks behind the Bluehost label that maybe you don’t see out at WordCamps. Which actually is probably a good question, Brent, were you

[00:02:38] Brent: at WordCamp US?

[00:02:40] Brent: I haven’t been in a few years, right? Pre COVID, I had been to a few, particularly US ones. But since then, I’ve moved more into the darker system architecture kind of space. And the WordPress more front end teams have been the face at the WordCamps.

[00:02:58] Matt: You’ve been at [00:03:00] Bluehost, well, you’ve been at Newfold for quite some time.

[00:03:02] Matt: 15 years, 8 months. Just as, almost as long as Mike, who I interviewed, Mike Hanson, who I interviewed. In the last Bluehost session, and you’ve been there for a while, one of your things is I, one of your, I’m looking at your LinkedIn, one of your subtitles is IT innovator.

[00:03:19] Brent: Oh, yeah. I mean, so, so it’s a, it’s an interesting approach, right?

[00:03:24] Brent: There’s, there’s been some common views that, that I’ve tried to challenge. As we approach sort of the hosting technology on underlying Bluehost. And one of them is that it’s, it’s largely been held that a front end team and a back end team will intrinsically be in conflict. Because the front end person, you know, the, particularly a support agent is working with one individual customer and that customer is everything during that phone call.

[00:03:51] Brent: Whereas the back end team is working on a problem that affects 1, 000 or 10, 000 or a million different WordPress [00:04:00] installs, and thus, you know, potentially, you know, hundreds of thousands of customers. And so there’s a, there’s, there’s always been this belief that I’ve seen permeate not just at Bluehost, but various other organizations that, you know, they will always be in conflict, and it’s a healthy conflict, and it’s natural for them to be sort of pushing and pulling against each other.

[00:04:18] Brent: And I’ve tried to be approaching, you know, In in the technology space, particularly over the back end teams approaching it more as well. Hold on those front end teams. Those individuals right are telling us what they need. They might not be the 300, 000 customers that you happen to be working on, but they are the ones who need us today, and that can very much inform our road map for how we approach the 300, 000 later.

[00:04:45] Brent: And if we’re listening to the individual, then suddenly we have the opportunity to shift Our entire approach to be able to, to better focus on helping individual needs. So I, I, I think that that’s, you know, one example that [00:05:00] sort of applies. You pulled

[00:05:01] Matt: something out of my memory years ago. I was, I too was an IT director at an ISP and internet service provider.

[00:05:09] Matt: Back in the day when we did T one lines, ISDN lines dial up. And I remember managing at the time anyway, a windows. NT server with IIS web server on it for the websites we used to host. This is eons ago, right? And I remember the support

[00:05:29] Brent: team. Those servers still exist. I don’t have it. Oh yeah. They exist.

[00:05:33] Matt: I remember the support team just asking me, you know, this problematic customer keeps calling up.

[00:05:38] Matt: He’s got this catalog. I remember this vividly because there was an author. At the time who had his books, I mean, this is way ahead of his time. I’m talking like back in early 2000s, had his books cataloged on his website and he would always call up. Hey, my website’s down. My website’s running slow. And I remember the support team being like, can you just allocate more memory to him to just his thing [00:06:00] on IIS?

[00:06:00] Matt: I’m like, I can’t do that because we have all these other hosts, all these other customers on this server. Sure. And that was. laughable back then we’re talking maybe a hundred, a hundred customers on this one server back then today’s landscape is just vastly different and with WordPress into the mix, man, you have so many needs on the customer and sort of that front end, like you said, in the back end that you have to manage, is there something about WordPress that makes Yeah.

[00:06:31] Matt: Your life, let’s say interesting on the back end, like because WordPress does this, you have to do that on the back end. Is there any story like that that you

[00:06:39] Brent: have? Well, so bearing in mind, right, like WordPress is, is probably the most all things to all people application out there, right? It can be everything.

[00:06:50] Brent: And I think that that’s, that’s sort of the interesting challenge. You know, if you look at a lot of our competitors who use something proprietary, they get to hyper focus. [00:07:00] On exactly the thing that their software does, and if they choose to add a feature, then, you know, they have months potentially to be able to work on that feature in contrast, right?

[00:07:12] Brent: We don’t control the customer’s website. The customer controls their own website. They’re using WordPress. They get to be able to do anything that they want. There’s a variety of plugins that they can use. There’s a variety of themes that they can use, and that creates this sort of more complex landscape for what we look at versus what you might find with.

[00:07:29] Brent: I can’t say the word traditional, but what you might find with more of a DevOps style team, which is, you know, hyper focused on being able to optimize specific use cases. So I think that’s the first thing, but the second thing I think I would add is, A particular challenge for us and really the WordPress community and you know, even our conversations with the WordPress core development team is the plugin authors come and go and they have a tendency to, not all of them, right?

[00:07:57] Brent: Most popular plugins are updated regularly, but a lot of them are behind. [00:08:00] And so, you know, as we’re trying to get customers on to modern secure versions of PHP and trying to get out of, you know, extended end of life type of support, it can be a struggle to make sure that we don’t break a customer’s website.

[00:08:15] Brent: Who happened to be using a plugin that is either outdated or hasn’t had an update that supports later versions of this space I think that’s the area we’re trying to to figure out how to solve and it’s it’s not just us, right? It’s the whole community Is trying to take you know What is 20 years of blue host wordpress focus and try and figure out how to help customers?

[00:08:36] Brent: Who built their website in, in a way that leveraged it’s no longer updated or hasn’t, you know, received modern support. That kind of space is a huge challenge and it’s one that we’re, you know, in conversations with the WordPress core team. We discuss it with, you know, Matt Mullenweg and then internally, right, I have a meeting at least twice a week trying to figure out how we can help another subset of, [00:09:00] of customers who are in this situation.

[00:09:03] Matt: The WordPress space is, is an interesting space because. I mean, I see this on my YouTube comments. I’ll do a video, let’s say, I’ll do a tutorial on the latest WordPress 2024 theme, I’ll show somebody how to use the new 2024 theme in WordPress, and then I’ll just get comments that, you know, WordPress is terrible because they tried to do something On their WordPress site and it didn’t work.

[00:09:29] Matt: And then I’ll ask like, Hey, well, where in 20, when, where in the 2024 theme are, were you seeing this problem? And then they’ll comment like, Oh, I’m not even using 2024. It’s like, it’s

[00:09:40] Brent: totally other things. Like, yeah, it’s not related to the video. Right. And it’s, yeah, it’s not, but it is a problem, right? It’s their experience,

[00:09:48] Matt: right?

[00:09:48] Matt: It’s their experience. Right. And you bring up again, a good point. Like you have to, it’s not just. Hey, WordPress 6. 4 and with 6. 5, you have to, you know, stay on your [00:10:00] toes and learn and optimize infrastructure for. But suddenly, it’s like some random plug in that a few hundred sites are running and that person no longer exists.

[00:10:09] Matt: They don’t update the plug in anymore. Now you have to

[00:10:11] solve

[00:10:11] Brent: for that. Yeah, and there might be a security up, uh, security issue that comes out, right? You’ll see, you know, various news stories or a word fence, you know, publication, right? There’s, there’s a lot of, of this space where there’s, what is it? 20, 000 plus plugins that, you know, make this, this, you know, very complicated.

[00:10:29] Brent: And we have. You know, probably at least a hundred of every one of those 20, 000,

[00:10:34] Matt: right? Do you have a particular, I don’t know, I don’t know what I would label it, but like a system or a channel or a team that just like just works with big plugins and make sure everything’s optimized. You have like a hotline for like, I know you all new fold owns yo.

[00:10:54] Matt: So you have, you know, it’s one of the largest plugins in the, in the space. Sure. But is there like a WooCommerce [00:11:00] team? Gravity Forms team, like all these big plugins, you have a means to communicate with them or a system on how you approach that. Yeah,

[00:11:08] Brent: so the, so you probably linked to the interview you did with Mike Hansen, but the, the, the teams that he oversees, you know, include WordPress outreach.

[00:11:17] Brent: And he’ll commonly, right, his team members will commonly reach out to plug in developers who, you know, have recently had a, uh, a security exploit and we’ll talk to them about which versions should be upgraded and which versions should not. He’ll, you know, communicate with proprietary plug in developers where the update might not be on, on WordPress.

[00:11:36] Brent: org, but we still want to get the security update out. And then, of course, right, like, we have communications into, to the bigger ones. you know, sort of by default, right? Jetpack, Yoast, obviously, but also, you know, WooCommerce and some of this other space will have these conversations, you know, directly with them, you know, sort of on an ongoing basis.

[00:11:56] Brent: And we might have You know, shared Slack channels or, or other forms that [00:12:00] allow for real time communication. And then, you know, other than that, you know, there’s a degree of as needed, right? We, we have our teams communicate through the WordPress message boards or social media teams. They can connect people up with, with, you know, plugin developers up if needed.

[00:12:15] Brent: We have people communicating through the WordPress, excuse me, through the Reddit space. And, you know, trying to, to be. You know, open to an approach, right? If somebody needs to communicate with us to resolve something with their plugin, we want to be available for that.

[00:12:31] Matt: Take me down, but I’m going to pull on my again, back in my days at the ISP, I remember going to our co location.

[00:12:39] Matt: We had this co location that we, we just literally rented like a small corner of AT& T’s co location where we’d bring servers in and stuff, kind of laughable again these days.

[00:12:50] Brent: But I did something similar, right? When we were a startup, yeah, like that’s an I. T. closet. Well, it’s a data center now. Yeah.

[00:12:59] Matt: And you know, I [00:13:00] remember launching the very first C panel server at our company.

[00:13:03] Matt: Probably one of the first C panel servers when they first came onto the scene. And when we scaled, again, back then it was just, okay, this server’s at capacity, bring in another server. What is the, what does the technology look like? You know, stuff that you could talk about publicly. What does the technology look like these days to, to scale WordPress?

[00:13:24] Matt: Do you spend time, like, thinking about buying more hardware and servers? Or is it more like, hey, let’s, let’s optimize WordPress here at Bluehost that runs on our infrastructure. Like, do you take it on the software side first? And then start to think about the infrastructure. What does that look like when you talk about speed optimization

[00:13:43] Brent: and scale?

[00:13:44] Brent: Well, so we keep a, a cross functional performance. Team that meets regularly at least weekly going and then a range from you know members of the wordpress core development team who actually work on You know the writing the the php code that gets deployed in say [00:14:00] wordpress 6. 5 It’ll include you know members of our of our team that focus on hardware And we’re working on you know a new hardware skew that takes advantage of you know newer technology that will hopefully start showing up On our, on our signup pages and the like over the next couple of months, but we also, you know, have team members who are completely focused on, you know, what would be, you know, what you could describe sort of, I guess, is as the lamp stack doesn’t really apply as well as it did back in the day, but, you know, looking at, you know, the Linux sequel, PHP, Apache kind of layers.

[00:14:35] Brent: And, you know, going through and optimizing that space, so we’ll see, you know, we’ll see, you know, hardware changes that are, you know, more of a yearly. A yearly update and then we do extensive testing with with with vendor hardware for Dell and super micro and a number of others. They’ll send us loaners and then we’ll do speed testing with our own software stack on top of that to be able to try and optimize and in various [00:15:00] configurations will do, you know, a continuous sort of review of the Apache and PHP config files and try and understand, you know, across Thanks Millions of WordPress installs, tens of thousands of BPS and dedicated boxes.

[00:15:15] Brent: Thousands of, of more of a traditional shared space will be, we will go through and, and look at data in aggregate individual to a server cases where, you know, a server or test site isn’t performing as, as well as the other thousands. And cases where it is performing well, well, well above the performance expectations of the other thousands and then we evolve, you know, each of those cases.

[00:15:41] Brent: But I think the key really comes back to it being cross functional, right? We’re not doing this in isolation. It’s not just. You know, the, the guys working on the Bluehost plug in by themselves. And it’s not just the guys working on hardware by themselves. It’s not just the system administration groups working on optimizing, [00:16:00] you know, a LAMP style stack by themselves.

[00:16:02] Brent: We’re all doing this together and using the same testing metrics so that we can, you know, see what impact each of us is having on the stack.

[00:16:12] Matt: I worked at This is just gonna be my life story for you. This whole podcast is funny. I worked at Pagely, WordPress hosting company for three and a half years. I was an account executive, executive for them, and I was selling, we were primarily selling managed WordPress hosting hosted on AWS, right?

[00:16:31] Matt: And, you know, the question here is, I’m sure this is like a shared pain point is the first word that comes to my mind, but a shared mission probably across all your teams. Customer starts out at the basic level. I’m looking at bluehost. com right now. Well, bluehost. com slash wonder suite. Uh, if you sign up for 12 months, it’s two nine, 2 in 95 cents a month.

[00:16:55] Matt: Like most people are finding that money in the bottom of their couch cushions or underneath their car [00:17:00] seat. And then that customer loads WooCommerce, Elementor every plugin, right? They’re building their site. They’re, they’re going at it. They’re putting up thousands of, of.

[00:17:11] Brent: Yeah,

[00:17:13] Matt: they’re putting all their stuff in there.

[00:17:15] Matt: And then they go, hey Bluehost, it ain’t running the way I want it to run. You know, and then you have to educate. And then scale the person up and do it, you know, gently and supportive and all this stuff. And I saw the same thing at the enterprise level, which Pagely generally sold into. They’d sign up for 500 bucks and then suddenly try to have, uh, you know, 10, 000 SKU store.

[00:17:37] Matt: And say, hey, this isn’t running right. And say, well, here’s the resources that you’re using. This is the way WordPress is built. You need to talk to your developer. We need to optimize these things. Is that a sha like, It’s a big, broad question, but How is that a shared mission, if at all, Inside Bluehost?

[00:17:55] Matt: Like, how do you say, We have to nurture these people from the beginning And then scale them up to a [00:18:00] dedicated server. Or a VPS or a cloud solution. And not just Keep them on basic.

[00:18:05] Brent: So, this is a common conversation for us too, right? We’ll, we’ll talk to the, um, support teams. We’ll talk to our customer engagement teams, right?

[00:18:13] Brent: We’re, we’re always sort of talking about, you know, how do we, how do we help educate a customer? Because, you know, we’re, we’re seeing a lot of, uh, and we in fact want to help a lot of entry level, very little technology background individuals who are trying to, to live their dream, right? They’re trying to create a, A business or a store or even just, you know, a hobby that is important to them.

[00:18:37] Brent: So, so trying to reduce, you know, the difficulty of, of onboarding is, is sort of been an ongoing mission. And so, you know, there’s, there’s a degree of like, of customer support. We’ll have some of these conversations. We will go in and we actually, as our primary test site, we use a WooCommerce store that we actually do use the T-shirts and we’ll have a [00:19:00] thousand, you know, t-shirts in our test sites.

[00:19:02] Brent: multiplied by colors multiplied by the t shirt sizes and the way that, you know, WooCommerce in particular works when you make a change to one of those SKUs, it has to rebuild the entire. You know, combination and that, and that can be intensive. So what we’ve, we’ve been, we’ve been heavily focused on how do we optimize that space?

[00:19:25] Brent: So, because we don’t necessarily want somebody to have to, you know, go looking for a VPS steady, you know, high end solution just to be able to launch their, their own personal business. One of our CEOs, his wife sold hair bows. Fantastic hair bones. They, they were, they were gorgeous. They just were bows that went into baby’s hair.

[00:19:44] Brent: Very simple, right? But, but people loved them. And, you know, she wasn’t gonna, she wasn’t necessarily going to, you know, be the sole breadwinner, winner, necessarily, but she really enjoyed it. Her customers loved it. And, you know, it, [00:20:00] she did a good amount of, of, of business. But she wasn’t, you know, spending her time learning WordPress.

[00:20:05] Brent: She was spending her time making hair bars. So we, we spend, you know, we take that sort of to heart even though that, that CEO has moved on years ago. We’re trying to find a way to, we’re continually trying to find a way to optimize for WooCommerce complex SKUs that happen to be, you know, large build outs.

[00:20:25] Brent: It, it shouldn’t be strictly necessary to go hire a separate developer or to cut your, your merchandise list in half. It should be increasingly viable to do this with modern technology using something like Wondersuite to take care of the bulk of the work for you. Is e

[00:20:44] Matt: commerce or WooCommerce the biggest elephant in the room when it comes to optimizing WordPress?

[00:20:50] Matt: Like is that where you probably spend most of your brain cycles thinking about optimizing or is it? Or is that not it?

[00:20:57] Brent: So, not really, and the reason is [00:21:00] because we use, our WooCommerce, right? So, we did a, we did a variety of, of, of tests, from a vanilla WordPress installed, to one with, with our plugin installed, to a, a complex blog.

[00:21:15] Brent: With all of our plugins installed to a WooCommerce store, and we compared all of these right in the vanilla install that has zero plugins is obviously the fastest, right? If you didn’t have if you don’t have any content or plugins or functionality, then it goes great. So we spent a lot of time comparing the these approaches.

[00:21:33] Brent: And what we found right was, we really don’t need to optimize for the case where nobody’s Got any content when we want to optimize for the case where people have a lot of content because we want to be able to help people grow into that space and then that left us, you know, comparing sort of a complex blog that did everything wordpress can do and had large images and small images and posts and pages and comments and everything and then comparing that against [00:22:00] a complex WooCommerce store, we actually found that, you know, the, the, the, as a The testing progressed that their trend lines moved in sync.

[00:22:10] Brent: They might’ve been a little bit different. WooCommerce is a little bit more complex and running on top of a complex blog, essentially. So it’s a little bit slower. Not a lot, but a little. And when, but still you watch those speed trend lines, those performance indicators, and they just really move in sync as we make changes and do different things.

[00:22:28] Brent: So we made that, the decision at that point to be able to say, well, let’s use the store, the WooCommerce store as our primary test suite because it’s an indicator of everything else. That, that, you know, would be tested behind us and, you know, it has a number of, of common plugins to, to WooCommerce. And then we, you know, have complexity around those skews.

[00:22:50] Brent: So I wouldn’t say that we spend a lot of time thinking specifically about WooCommerce, right? We use it as a test that indicates how well we’re doing everywhere. [00:23:00] So every optimization we make. It already sort of takes WooCommerce into account as a core element of that metric.

[00:23:07] Matt: When the, I’m just going to start to laugh before I ask this question, but when the product team came to you and they say, Hey, we’re building Wondersuite.

[00:23:14] Matt: It’s going to have AI and it’s going to do all these things and start doing all these like complex queries to layouts and helping users create content and pulling images and stuff like that. And they were super excited because most product people are, and then they come to somebody like you, who’s more the realist in the room, they go, okay, then you say, oh, but we’re going to need more.

[00:23:34] Matt: We’re going to need a bigger boat. to steal a line from the Jaws movie. We’re gonna need a bigger boat to power this stuff. Was that a thing for you? Like, oh man, you’re bringing all these crazy features, but now we have to expand the footprint of the infrastructure a bit to kind of handle the extra capacity for something like Wondersuite on top

[00:23:52] Brent: of WordPress?

[00:23:53] Brent: Fortunately not, and I think I would credit that. Very strongly to the cross, you know, the cross [00:24:00] functional performance team, right? They’re already in the room. They’re already, you know, sitting with us as we go through this, this type of work. And so, you know, the architecture was built such that, you know, the majority of that AI work doesn’t have to take place on the same server that is providing your, you know, providing content to the rest of the world, right?

[00:24:19] Brent: The hosting servers will serve up your website, but the AI process. Will will happen on a separate environment and and really so you know you sort of by designing the architecture In that way of isolating, hey, we have isolating how we want the customer to be able to experience their website. Right? We want an environment and a technology that’s focused on that.

[00:24:44] Brent: And then we still want to be able to add this feature set, but they don’t have to exist using the same CPU and RAM. Right? They don’t have to compete for resources. And I think that, you know, what really gave us the ability to do that was because we’re, they weren’t operating in [00:25:00] isolation. They knew, you know, sort of the challenges that we were dealing with and what we were trying to optimize for and how we were trying to work on edge cases.

[00:25:09] Brent: And they were able to say, Oh, so we’re going to build it with, you know, this architectural segmentation. And we were able to say, yeah, great. What do you need? Ended up being relatively simple since we’re already working together.

[00:25:23] Matt: Alright, so let me just pull back again, once again, back into my early days.

[00:25:27] Matt: This is how I got into all of this stuff, was I used to work at Circuit City. And I used to sell computers at Circuit City. And one day I remember a customer came in to Circuit City and they said, Hey, give me the cheapest computer you have. Now, this is back. I’m talking like Pentium 1s and 2s. Pentium 3 was just on the horizon.

[00:25:48] Matt: Anyone who has no idea what I’m saying, you are very young. You probably don’t remember these CPUs. But anyway, the customer comes and says, give me the cheapest. Computer you have, I’m going to run this thing called Linux [00:26:00] on it. And I was like, what is this Linux? And back in the day, you could actually buy software off the shelf.

[00:26:06] Matt: And he went over and he grabbed a box of Linux, which I think at the time was Mandrake Linux. Sounds right. And he checked out. Yeah, and he checked out and he took his 300 computer. I was like, that guy is not going to do anything with that 300 computer in this operating system. And then I got into the world of it.

[00:26:24] Matt: Fast forward, that’s what got me into like, into the IT space, building networks, again, for the local company, and just like really enjoying open source, and that was my first foray into, into open source. Does the landscapes, what does the landscape look like, uh, inside Bluehost for that operating system? Is it, it’s all Linux driven?

[00:26:42] Matt: Is it Windows driven these days? Is it like Ubuntu or Gentoo? What’s the

[00:26:49] Brent: pattern look like? Yeah, it’s still very much CentOS and we’re transitioning towards Alma. But the, you know, across, if I were to, you know, take a [00:27:00] step back and look at, you know, hosting in general and New Fold as a whole, got everything, right?

[00:27:04] Brent: There’s a lot of companies that have come together to sort of make this space. But predominantly, you know, we’re building our own kernels. We’re building our, our own Apache. We’re building our own PHP. We’re building most of the stack ourselves. So we’re less concerned about the, the operating system that is necessarily involved and more concerned with like that guy running Mandrake, you know, how slim we can get each of these layers and still provide the experience we need.

[00:27:34] Brent: Because, you know, the thinner each one of these gets, the more performant it tends to be. So what we’re looking for is, is modularity more than we’re looking for, you know, even, you know, hyper modern operating systems, right? We’re looking for reliability and modularity. What’s the biggest

[00:27:50] Matt: bottleneck for WordPress in terms of performance?

[00:27:54] Matt: Is it the database layer? Or is it PHP and, and, and JavaScript? Is that [00:28:00] bottleneck MySQL and the queries and, you know, I, I, I haven’t been in the space very long. You know, I haven’t dug deep into the space infrastructure wise and like how WordPress impacts like server loads, network loads and all that stuff, but I know that there’s a lot of people on the web that are talking about Jamstatic and static websites and oh man, if you’re using WordPress and you have All of these types of software.

[00:28:21] Matt: It’s just, it’s just a slow experience. Go headless, they say. You know, and it’s just like, well, WordPress still works. And it still works on like 90 percent of the infrastructure out there. What is that bottleneck and is there something that you’re looking, that you look towards? Maybe WordPress optimizing in the future?

[00:28:38] Brent: Well, I think that it’s, it’s interesting that, that you talk about headless, right? Because you can get a headless experience with WordPress relatively simply. So if you, if you think about WordPress is doing a number of things in the background, right? It’s, it’s querying a plugin, it’s reaching out to to MySQL it’s com, you know, working through PHP and constructing an HTML page.

[00:28:58] Brent: And then it’s providing that [00:29:00] HTML page to Apache, which delivers it to. the end user. If you are able to say reliably that that page hasn’t changed since the last time it was built, then you can cache it. And that’s what caching plugins have been doing for, you know, a decade and a half. But with, with more modern technologies, you can actually present that HTML page up into a CDN like CloudFlare and be able to say, this is static.

[00:29:26] Brent: Keep it cached for X number of minutes. And now what you’re really looking at is. It’s a static HTML page that is essentially a headless homepage sitting up at the CloudFlare caching layer being presented to your, to your end users upon request. So I think that that’s where, where, like where some of this diverges, right?

[00:29:49] Brent: And that’s where it’s limiting some of the headless adoption because it’s not unique. To just building a static page and publishing it in a headless space. Other systems can already do that, including [00:30:00] WordPress. Uh, and that I think is where, you know, some of that difference really lies. Speaking to, you know, the complexity of generating those pages.

[00:30:10] Brent: It can be very site dependent. The page that does a lot of complexity with plugins to be able to generate, you know, various blocks or page elements can be very diff, can be much more complex than a page that uses, or a theme that uses, you know, multiple database entries to display a bunch of different comments alongside multiple blog entries.

[00:30:33] Brent: So it can be very site dependent. And so I think you end up having to sort of Optimize for each space. So, for example, you know, we partner with cloudflare to be able to publish, you know, the static content, but we also, you know, optimize my sequel to be able to get the queries out pretty quick. Then we add object caching.

[00:30:53] Brent: At the PHP layer so that we don’t necessarily have to do database lookups if that hasn’t shifted and we [00:31:00] then add in, you know, additional elements like static file caching if somebody isn’t using cloudflare for, you know, images, videos, PDFs, you know, static content that doesn’t ship. So it’s, it’s more about, if I’m an individual WordPress developer, right, I’m responsible for one website, I’m responsible for, I don’t know, whitehouse.

[00:31:19] Brent: gov. I’m going to be optimizing for that individual use case, and obviously I encourage those developers to do that, regardless of where they’re hosted or what they do. But at the same time, intrinsically, it’s our responsibility at Bluehost to make sure that we’re optimizing for each element, under the assumption that different customers have different needs.

[00:31:40] Matt: Last few questions here. Do you interface with the core contributing team that Bluehost sponsors, like John DeRoges and, and the rest of the, his colleagues that, that work in contributing to

[00:31:51] Brent: core? Yeah, yeah, John, I talk to fairly regularly, JD. He’s on our, he’s on our performance committee, I guess, our performance [00:32:00] working group.

[00:32:00] Brent: And, and we’ll talk to him pretty regularly. And then, you know, we’ll have conversations around, you know, we’ll pull him in as, as we look at, at different caching layers. When we were working on object caching in the PHP layer, for example, and we’ll have, have some of those conversations with him, but we’ll also, you know, talk to him more broadly about, hey.

[00:32:19] Brent: You know, when are we thinking that WordPress will support PHP 8. 3, because we definitely don’t want to be putting it, you know, as the default version for new customers if WordPress isn’t ready yet. And we’ll have conversations with them about, hey, we’re noticing this bug when 6. 4 came out, right? Many hosting companies were, were encountering a bug, an unexpected bug that we were seeing in a, in a number of places.

[00:32:45] Brent: And, you know, we were able to work with him directly on it and pulled him into our, our phone calls directly with our developers saying, here are API calls have stopped functioning. And so, you know, we, we work with those guys a lot. And in particular, JD tends [00:33:00] to be the guy that we’ll work with the most brilliant mind, just an incredible mind.

[00:33:04] Brent: And he understands how to work with, with. The community and us extremely well like he he’s able to sort of adapt between different conversations better than most every developer I’ve seen. It’s very

[00:33:16] Matt: impressive. He was employee number one at my agency when I started it so I’ll. I’ll, I’ll take the credit for that.

[00:33:23] Matt: Yeah,

[00:33:23] Brent: it was all you, man. It’s all you. He’s

[00:33:25] Matt: a heck of a baseball player or was, but you know, now he’s old and he has a kid. Yeah, just kidding. Just kidding, John. If you’re listening to, if you’re listening to the podcast today, if, if Bluehost ever does or Newfold does a softball league, internal softball league, scoop him up, don’t let him go

[00:33:42] Brent: to, we’re globally distributed, right?

[00:33:44] Brent: That’s a lot of people to get on a plane.

[00:33:48] Matt: If it does happen, Brent, this has been a fantastic. It’s great to kind of learn how, uh, you all are approaching the infrastructure and the performance and the impact of WordPress. Is there anything [00:34:00] else that That you want to touch upon, that you, that you think your team or teams do really well for WordPress.

[00:34:06] Matt: So the listeners know that you’re paying attention to the quality and the output of the experience of WordPress and Bluehost.

[00:34:16] Brent: I just want to be transparent and say, right, there have been periods in Bluehost history where we have not been performant. Where you have not lived up to our own standards, and I think that that has, you know, pretty dramatically shifted over the past couple of years as we’ve really readjusted how we approach, you know, customer success and, you know, the overall experience.

[00:34:36] Brent: And I would, I would say that, you know, people who had a bad experience with Bluehost in the past, I understand, right? I, I, I came, I came through those days and it wasn’t, you know, our best period. We’re better now. And we’ve really put the work in to, to make that experience a lot more effective. And we’re now seeing, you know, of course, you know, external validation of that, you know, with various other awards and [00:35:00] tests proving that we’ve had success.

[00:35:02] Brent: So just speaking, you know, sort of as a capstone, right. Give us a try again. We’ve been working on it. We admit that we haven’t been perfect, but we’ve really come back around and hopefully we’ve gotten to a point where people who had a bad experience in the past will have a great experience now.

[00:35:19] Matt: That’s it for today’s episode.

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