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Open Source

Wix and Their Dirty Tricks

Wix, the website builder company you may remember from stealing WordPress code and lying about it, has now decided the best way to gain relevance is attacking the open source WordPress community in a bizarre set of ads. They can’t even come up with original concepts for attack ads, and have tried to rip-off of Apple’s Mac vs PC ads, but tastelessly personify the WordPress community as an absent, drunken father in a therapy session. 🤔

I have a lot of empathy for whoever was forced to work on these ads, including the actors, it must have felt bad working on something that’s like Encyclopedia Britannica attacking Wikipedia. WordPress is a global movement of hundreds of thousands of volunteers and community members, coming together to make the web a better place. The code, and everything you put into it, belongs to you, and its open source license ensures that you’re in complete control, now and forever. WordPress is free, and also gives you freedom.

Wix is a for-profit company with a valuation that peaked at around 20 billion dollars, and whose business model is getting customers to pay more and more every year and making it difficult to leave or get a refund. (Don’t take my word for it, look at their investor presentations.) They are so insecure that they are also the only website creator I’m aware of that doesn’t allow you to export your content, so they’re like a roach motel where you can check in but never check out. Once you buy into their proprietary stack you’re locked in, which even their support documentation admits:

So if we’re comparing website builders to abusive relationships, Wix is one that locks you in the basement and doesn’t let you leave. I’m surprised consumer protection agencies haven’t gone after them.

Philosophically, I believe in open source, and if WordPress isn’t a good fit for you there are other great open source communities like Drupal, Joomla, Jekyll, and Typo3. We also have a great relationship with some of our proprietary competitors, and I have huge respect for the teams at Shopify and Squarespace, and even though we compete I’ve always seen them operate with integrity and I’d recommend them without hesitation.

I have to believe that users will care about that in the long run, and maybe that’s why Squarespace just passed up Wix in market share. They natively support exporting into WordPress’ format and don’t have to resort to dirty tricks to be successful. I expect Squarespace’s upcoming IPO will be a great one.

Wix, though, continues to show their true colors. Regardless of their product, I hope people consider the behavior of companies in the world they support with their dollars. Wix really wants you to see their new campaign though, so let’s take the bait and watch the creepy, misleading way they are trying to represent themselves.

27 replies on “Wix and Their Dirty Tricks”

One thing I learnt from my time at IBM: “the fastest way to appear unprofessional is to disparage your competitors”.

I kind of like the corduroy jacket with the WordPress logo embroidery un the ads. Maybe we should add it to the swag store.

Ah that explains why I’ve been seeing these ads pop up on my Twitter feed. And even without reading this post I thought those ads severely lacked style.

Why would Wix do something as seemingly “bizarre” as sending (well, almost exclusively) WordPress brand evangelists pairs of very expensive noise-cancelling headphones?
Thinking that one’s adversaries are irrational is almost always a grave strategic mistake in my view. There is always a reason. Just because the motivation doesn’t agree with one’s own internal value system and priorities doesn’t make it irrational. It only makes the game more difficult to predict.

Wix made use of a tactic to which there isn’t really a good response. Outrage? Just more publicity for them. “The lady doth protest too much.” Silence? “Look, they don’t care about their users. You’re just one of 41% of the web.”
I am proud to say that I have mostly seen some funny memes in response. Good humour is half the recipe to get out relatively unscathed on the other side.

Wix has clearly taken the time to identify pain points for segments of the WordPress community. Update fatigue is a real thing. Plugin conflicts are a real pain.
Auto-updates are great, but not so much when plugin authors deliberately break functionality for commercial reasons and there is no easy way to roll back.
That doesn’t mean that Wix are the solution to the problems they have identified. In fact, I am convinced that they are not.

But, whether they only intended for the WordPress Foundation to file a trademark infringement lawsuit (which I can honestly say I do not believe it will prevail on), or whether they hoped for some reaction that would give them grounds to sue instead (think Satan shoes), or whether they just hoped to stir the pot in general, I can see the cracks forming – in lines of in-groups and out-groups.
I do not believe that the recipients were a co-incidence. I believe that they were at least partially chosen by a function of their following and a crude psychological profile that mainly scored them for the likelihood that they would complain to and about Wix publicly after receiving the gifts.
I would go as far as to say that I think it likely that a handful of Twitter mentions may have been the pre-agreed start signal to launch the rest of their public campaign.

Many volunteers have no idea who they contribute shoulder-to-shoulder with. I do not wish to out anybody, but I believe I can say this much without depriving them of the decisions about their own stories. There are people who are teachers, who moonlight as DJs for extra money and then write code for free. There are people who made their living as tattoo artists, who have contributed many, many patches to Core, but who could not find sponsorships. There people who have been unemployed and who are really struggling who have volunteered many hours to various aspects of WordPress.org, in the hopes that, if they just do this one more thing, their efforts will be noticed and that they will have some security.
This is in stark contrast to some others, who have 40+ hour a week sponsorships and who only seem to work on the glamorous stuff where they can build their own personal brands and receive praise and credit – only vaguely dissembling about how it is “the team” but never mentioning a single (user)name, or are conspicuously on holiday when the going gets really tough,.
Yet badges are STILL not awarded automatically where entirely feasible – and still do not seem to be awarded fairly. A badge can be the difference between getting a job and not getting one in many parts of the world. Instead, contributors are told that they shouldn’t care – and that they should simply do it for the love of WordPress.

The Prosperity Gospel, despicable as I find it, works – and it does so for a reason.
Wix are not coming for the blogs and they are not coming for the journals.
They are coming for the stores.
And the stores are what enable boutique developers to make a living.
That is why Wix has Velo – to get to the stores they need to go through the agencies.

I do not believe that five videos in rapid-fire succession are the end of this campaign, just as I did not believe that sending a chosen few expensive gifts.

I believe all of the structural problems WordPress has are solve-able.
I’d go as far as to say that it is entirely possible to, within a year with only a small team of dedicated devs, cover Wix in such a pile of dust that it would take them another year to dig themselves out of it before they can even consider catching up.
But it is not possible to fix what one refuses to acknowledge is broken.
And an awful lot of broken is being ignored – which is why Wix just might succeed in selling their mirage.

By not releasing your modifications under GPL (or similar).

I really hope that the WordPress community can have a serious discussion about what Google vs. Oracle will mean for its future.
The decision strengthened Fair Use, but at the expense of copy-left.
I do not believe that this was necessary, but I believe that the code at issue was sealed in the docket.
We are told it was declarative code, but without actually seeing it, it is not possible to independently assess Fair Use – which means that this is likely going to lead to many sub-optimal decisions by the lower Courts for many years, as Google vs. Oracle is likely to be the only binding precedent in the U.S. for a long time.

That’s not stealing. Technically speaking. Stealing is taking something without the owner’s permission. Anyone can take GPL code and modify it.

7 months ago, I downloaded a plugin, modified it, still testing it on my site. I haven’t released the modifications yet, again: I am still testing it. Am I a thief?

I don’t agree with WIX but the proper phrase would be an a-holish move. I am not sure Matt can post that word.

I have not seen the two repos at issue at the time that this happened.
I have seen it reported that there were something like 1000 commits by WordPress contributors that were included in the repos Wix forked, which seems substantial, but again, it is impossible to tell without seeing the code whether it was fair or not.
In Google vs. Oracle, it was reportedly over 11k lines of code that were at issue and SCOTUS found that to be Fair Use. Fair Use basically means that you can take a portion of the work and use it (even for a commercial purpose, although this does not count in favour of the Fair Use assessment) without obtaining the owner’s permission.
It is important to not conflate Fair Use and GPL. They are not the same thing.

The GPL is a copy-left license. It does give you the right to use the code and to modify it, for any purpose, including commercial purposes, BUT it does NOT do so unconditionally.
The condition is that IF you distribute the code, or your modified code, you need to do so under the same terms as you got to use the code.
A license is not a contract, but it often helps to think of it as one, as they are similar in many ways. By using the code and modifying it (unless you are doing so under Fair Use above) you made a deal – and you need to stick to that deal. And if you don’t stick to the deal, then yes, you can be taken to Court – and the GPL has been successfully enforced in U.S. Courts.

It’s sad that they’re attacking the self-hosted segment. They themselves do not cater to that segment. If they did, their users would have to weigh the same risks and rewards. And because of that, they’d not be able to make these commercials. A more direct comparison would be with WordPress.com. But WordPress.com has nearly twice the rating on Trust Pilot, so maybe that wouldn’t work either. It’s just pitiful.

This type of childish and vindictive behaviour tends to have unforeseen consequences. (Well, they are unforeseen if you don’t have the wits to see further than the end of your nose.)

One of the consequences is a boycott. I may only be one visitor among billions, but every good boycott has to start somewhere. As from today, if I end up browsing to a site and NoScript tells me I need to enable Javascript for wix.com to view the site, I’ll be going somewhere else instead.

Right? I set up a site for a family member thinking Wix would be a no-brainer. Underneath all the marketing and flash, it’s just not very good — and extremely slow!

The reality here is that Wix is the Comcast of site builders. Both spend heavy money marketing, lock you in so nobody can leave, and raise the price each year.

The only difference here is that Comcast is a monopoly in many parts of the US, so you may have no option anyways, whereas with Wix we could caution webmasters against them.

Fortunately I never had Comcast or Wix. I have used WordPress in the past (both self-hosted and WP.com) but my personal website runs Hugo.

As Kevin O’Leary from the shark tank says, “they are cockroaches, and as the cockroaches that they are, they will be crushed”. WordPress is not perfect, there is no such thing as a perfect software, but when the Gutenberg development comes to an end, it will be as close to perfection as any CMS out there.

There i no way in hell I’m EVER looking elsewhere – I’m married to WordPress until death do as part… (don’t tell my human wife about this…).

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