Merging or Discontinuing? – The future of WordPress MU

Of all the interesting things Matt said the other day regarding us being responsible for the (supposed) failure of WordPress MU and BuddyPress and generally being ‘against the community’ in some way (although the community seem to differ)… one thing really stuck out from his second comment, namely, this:

MU already suffers from a paucity of outside contribution, it’s been a tragedy of the commons. MU runs just as many blogs as regular WordPress does, but doesn’t even get a tenth of the contribution from outside folks, which is why it’s being discontinued. (My huge thanks to people who have contributed!) [emphasis mine]

Whoa.

MU is being discontinued??? Thanks for all the fish folks but we’re outta here???

There’s a pretty big difference between ‘discontinued’ and ‘merging’, which Matt has been happy to announce at WordCamps all year (but not consign to print).

The best we’ve heard on the subject so far was from from Donncha, who said:

Basically, the thin layer of code that allows WordPress MU to host multiple WordPress blogs will be merged into WordPress. I expect the WordPress MU project itself will come to an end because it won’t be needed any more (which saddens me), but on the other hand many more people will be working on that very same MU code which means more features and more bugfixes and faster too. It also means no more marathon code merging sessions. I certainly won’t miss that.

Now that’s a merge… whereas a discontinuation is quite another thing.

Would a discontinuation mean that sites like Edublogs would still be able to upgrade?

Would it mean that MU will no longer be called MU?

If you read Matt’s comments, you can’t help but get the feeling that he’s saying that MU is being canned because of us (namely WPMU DEV) and in order – it could be argued – to get rid of us (or, as he put it, complete WPMU without us).

Is this the plan?

To delete or rename MU?

Would it be acceptable for a company with sole control over a base product used by a broad spectrum of people, to deliberately alter it in such a way that removes a competitor of theirs from the marketplace?

With that purpose largely in mind?

Lots of questions, not many answers… I think it’s about time Matt (and whoever else he’s been discussing it with… because as far as I know *no-one* in the entire WPMU community has been consulted) came out with a statement and a plan – for discussion – as to what’s going to happen and when.

Sooner, rather than later… because whether he realises it or not, his words and actions count a great deal, to a great many businesses, families and individuals.

Comments (31)

  1. It was announced (or at least leaked) that MU was going bye bye around 2-3 months ago, although it doesn’t look like that news go to everyone. The wording used from the start was “merging”. As it stands, the MU and “standard” WordPress are code-wise very similar so this makes sense.

    “Would it be acceptable for a company with sole control over a base product used by a broad spectrum of people, to deliberately alter it in such a way that removes a competitor of theirs from the marketplace?”

    For those who make a living focused on MU, I can imagine this is going to cause some negative feelings. While I can’t argue with some of Matt’s apparent comments and WPMU’s point of view… what I can state, as a WordPress and BuddyPress developer, is that the devlopment for WPMU and BP can only improve after the code is merged. Overall it’s a win for the development community.

  2. I have to agree with David and did hear about the merger a few months back, as well. I think most webdevs know that MU has always been the black sheep among the WP product line — hell, even HookPress, BackPress and VideoPress get more press. The ability to turn WP into a multi-user system — with what I’m assuming would be some sort of a plugin switch — seems more about streamlining than it does about shutting out WPMU.org. But like you, I do also wonder what will happen so sites like Edublogs and whether there will be some sort of a hassle-free compatibility feature to upgrade/migrate existing MU blogs.

  3. I’m newer to the wpmu premium dev community but have quickly found it indispensable for my business and education. My biggest concerns at this point are similar to above: Will the upgrade process be doable for current wpmu users? How will this impact the wpmu dev community?
    Thanks for posting this here James. I’m a fan of transparency and it’s good to hear what information you guys have (or lack) to work with.
    Cheers.

    -james

  4. I’ve put my vision here: http://wpmu.org/wordpress-creator-reckons-itd-be-nice-for-us-to-go-bust/comment-page-1/#comment-3956

    But I see more possible outcomes.

    WP and WPMU can merge following the idea above, of course the idea should be modified and polished.

    WP and WPMU can start ‘forking’ into free and semi-free/commercial versions.
    This is how osCommerce and CRE Loaded osCommerce live their lives for years already. By the way, quite successful and active lives.
    Oh, did I mention that sometimes it’s easier to bite your own balls than to plug some free osCommerce module into CRE version? :)
    Yes, baby, pros and cons of ‘forking’ as they are.

    BTW, did I mention that I remember at least 2 commercial CMSs built on WP loaded with plugins and themes? So what? Anyone takes them as competitors?
    Remember, guys, that you can have 10 pounds of sweets and 1 small piece of sh*t, but still it’ll be sh*t that stinks :)

  5. We all knew that WordPress and MU were going to merge. But this is about semantics here.

    There is a huge distinction between the words merge and discontinue. As a fan of both language and politics, the phrase Matt used in that comment makes me more worried now than when he originally stated that they would be merged.

    This is the type of statement, made off the cuff or not, that would affect a companies share-price (if made by a CEO of a proper company in the real world) and needs an explanation / clarification.

  6. You know, if you look back in WordPress history, development stopped in a project (B2), so a couple of enterprising devs (Ma.tt and Mike) forked the project and created WordPress. Whether or not MU sticks around is up in the air. There is a lot of code that needs to be merged, and some major issues that need to be resolved on the plugin/theme side before that happens.

    But, even if it does, there is no reason that it can’t be forked.

    Happened before, and survived. Could be done again with similar results.

  7. I think the most annoying thing for Matt must be that WPMUDev Premium and wp.mu customers are popping out BBPress & BuddyPress integrated communities like clockwork, and this isn’t being done on WordPress.com

    A lot of code from WordPress.com makes its way out into the community, but at the same time code that gives them a commercial advantage often does not, or is crippled in functionality often a rewrite for the community that is really only suitable for a small scale WPMU installation.

    Often the release of the code is a reaction to the availability of commercial offerings, and not a pure “community” act.

  8. I hope the developer community as a whole is more open to working on BP as an open source platform rather than business men hiring these developers and of course, licensing their plugins for $.

  9. From a non-developer, but user, standpoint: Matt’s thinking in ‘internet time’, but not everyone is on internet time. Some products take time to develop a following, and many of us are just discovering MU… and loving it.

  10. I’m kinda disgusted with the way this whole ‘merging’ is going down. It’s years wasted modifying plugins and themes. It’s years building a following. Hell, 2 weeks ago I was preaching to my IT Director why we should get away from shitty programs like Pearson’s Sharpschool and go the WPMu way. It could all be handled in house and we wouldn’t be held over the coals when Pearson decides to scrap a product and force us to upgrade or loose our data.

    Mu is a great product. but WP did dick to promote it. I would have loved to access the awesome features available in wordpress.com. That only opened the door for true Devs to come along and fill the gap. I’m not a fan of this ‘open source’ movement. As a part time dev and a consumer, I have no problem paying real devs for the work they’ve done.

    Before they shut the doors on Mu, they should figure out why it’s failing – if you consider it a failure at all.

  11. To be honest, I’ve never understood the separation of the two projects.
    I haven’t been following the recent developments, but I do hope the MU code is going to be merged in the WordPress code base. And I believe that, this way, everyone currently running applications Mu-based will be able to safely upgrade to the new WordPress.

  12. With the merger of regular wordpress and wordpress mu, the users are the main beneficiary here. If there’ll be business that would be affected, well that’s the risk that they should have been bearing.

    At the end of the day, I’m of the opinion that Automattic is more likely and ultimately answerable to its users, not to any business in particular, whether they’d be competitor or allies.

    For as long as it will benefit me as a user, I’ll be happy with this development.

  13. I’m not sure where any of you get the idea that this is a benefit to users. businesses are users, too. What about the 10k+ edublog users? What about the thousands upon thousands of people who use WPMu in it’s current form but don’t trumpet it to the sky? My state newspaper just moved thousands of blogs to WPMu. CBenefit to the users is a thinly veiled reason anyways.

    MU runs just as many blogs as regular WordPress does, but doesn’t even get a tenth of the contribution from outside folks, which is why it’s being discontinued.

  14. @Bloggus: I don’t get the question. Once is merged, WPMU dies (it’s the most logical thing) and WP will be the new “WPMU”, as it will provide WP features + MU features (which is actually what WPMU has done so far).

    This should have happened long time ago. This way, I believe all the incompatibility problems with plugins written without bearing in mind WPMU will just disappear. Indeed, MU features will be part of the standard code base, and so plugin developers and theme developers will be forced to take into account the new features.

    With two different project there will be always too many developers around ignoring WPMU.

    And (but I might probably be missing something) I don’t see the problem of upgrading current WPMU-based applications either. Next version of WP it is likely to be the next WPMU, so, even better. I am not saying there will be a seamless transition, probably not, but still feasible.

    So, with no aims at flaming, I can’t understand all this fuss about the merging.

    Or, probably, I am missing the whole point and I am completely daft :D

    All the best,

    Vincenzo

  15. 1. Because WP like to make interfaces as simple to understand as possible
    2. Most users wouldn’t need the ability for 3rd parties to create their own blogs
    3. Automattic have a responsibility to shareholders
    4. I don’t visit trac very much, and I might be missing something, but the level of activity around searches for things like WPMU doesn’t suggest the merge is “in the open”
    5. I don’t pay attention to the dev mailing lists as much as I used to, but James certainly seems a little worried about how this will all play out.

  16. 1. Making usable interfaces does not mean remove functionalities.
    2. I don’t see the problem. Like I suggested in the past, a merged WP+WPMU would ideally ship in the same default config as the current WP and enabling WPMU admin interfaces (and so the functionalities) could be done by setting something in the config file, e.g. define(‘WPMU’, true);
    3. Fair enough.
    4. Neither do I. I am just saying if they merge, is good. If they don’t, WPMU can still live as a fork and merging back the WP code base whenever a new release is out. I believe it already works this way.
    5. He surely has his good reason to be worried, but then again I think there won’t be any disaster anyway.

  17. Its the MU brand which will be discontinued NOT the product.

    All this means is Automattic will bring in the satellite development team responsible for the MU code and simply have everything under a single product.

    It makes good technical and business sense to do this. The ‘WordPress’ name is stretched enough with there other products such as VideoPress, BuddyPress etc. Having TWO versions of the core software is stupid.

  18. To start with, I like the Premium service. It gives me what I want, and that’s not so much plugins, as continuity. I know that people are working on the code I need, and I’m willing to pay for that. And I know that if I have an issue, I can turn to people who can and want to do something about it.

    The thing with GPL’d code is that it’s hard to sell. And I don’t think you should. Sharing the code gives you more goodwill – and others can contribute to it. But you can and do sell other things. And there is genuine demand for those things. Blogs.mu and WP.mu are good examples of services that can be marketed. Again here: keys at hand and flexibility are a must.

    But I think the Premium service has it’s place in the ecosystem as well, in producing and maintaining high-quality plugins. Plugins that not everyone needs, but those who need, need them so badly that they are willing to pay someone to do the developement maintenance for them.

    As for the future, WPMUDEV seems to be up for some pretty exciting possibilities.

    From what I’ve been following, it seems that it will be WPMU *brand* that is discontinued and the WordPress *product* that is being discontinued. WPMU will be named WordPress, and all the people contributing to WordPress will suddenly be contributing to what was known as WPMU.

    My guess for the timing is major release: “WordPress 3.0 – WordPress goes multi-user.” (I just made that up, I am in no way affiliated with the products).The change in the major revision can justify some breaks in the backwards compatibility – which almost certainly will occur. (Personally, I’d like to see the way users and blogs are associated being reworked as a separate table, not as a field in the user table.)

    For WPMU and WPMUDEV Premium this is actually a great opportunity. Looking it from the technical point of view (not brand) the user base of WPMU will soar. WPMUDEV folks have a supreme understanding and experience of working with the “new” WordPress (current WPMU). In addition WPMU has a great supply of plugins and other goodies waiting to be used by the new users. Finally, I think that the nightlyfe has good points that could show a path for WPMUDEV’s future. Serving the community and selling support (like they do now: maintenance, setup, development) for their amazing plugins. Some of the more complex plugins could actually be released free: it would be both good advertising, and since they are complex people would have to come for the commercial service for support and development anyway.

    So instead of fighting against the tide, it could be a good time to start working for it. Trying to ensure that the WP 3.0 will be as much WPMU like as possible, so that you would have the technological edge when your customer base explodes, and trying to be sure you have all the goodwill and fame when these people are ready to pay for some expert advice on this “new” technological platform.

    Just my 2c.

  19. Ma.tt and Donncha, can I extend an open invitation to add some positive and informative contribution.

    What might not be realized is that thousands of ‘lesser’ souls like myself (only in the WP/MU sense, I/we can kick your behind on many other fields :) ) are currently worried about all of this name-calling and inarticulate throwing of words like ‘discontinued’vs ‘merger’.

    Frankly I do not care much about the fight between James and Ma.tt, as there are clearly deeper feelings at play, which do not have to be released into the open domain if I can choose.
    I also do not care on which forum to ask or give help from/to other users.

    I do find it annoying that the post of Nightlyfe that Tuomas referred to above comtains a link that leads me to a sign up page as it is on a closed forum.

    I do not find it any more annoying that I need to pay for domain mapping on WP.com than that I need to pay for plugins, as both are extra’s and not needed to run a site and both are offered by commercial companies.

    All the thousands of us that hear these rumours sideways are just wondering if the following can be confirmed:

    – Will current WPMU installs that keep on updating to latest version -with the same amount of users as the regular WP as Matt stated- be able to migrate to the joint version or not.
    – If not, is there any timeframe that Donncha will lose his current job?

    For me it seems (maybe wishful thinking) that actually _WordPress_ is being discontinued, but the name is being kept for a product that has WPMU features or am I thinking too simple here?

    Cheers from the road,
    Harry aka Bike

    (ps what’s up with the tab order of this theme, I am jumping all over the page before being able to post a comment :)

  20. SO Glad to hear MU will be merged with WP. I never installed MU on my blog because everything seemed so scattered. I had to visit a bunch of different sites looking for plugins I might want to use for it. I’d much rather spend my time being productive as opposed to maintaining the site.

  21. What I need to know, is if my current version wpmu site will be able to be upgraded into whatever ‘merge’ is being discussed without destroying everything i’ve worked for…

    I feel that integration could be seamless and has plenty of positives.. But the bitterness and hostility makes me feel like wordpress is specifically going to try to bomb Mu and shoulder them out… This feels like a hostile takeover with the guise of ‘larger community base, more devs, etc’…

    Basically when the merge comes, I will first check to see what version edublogs is on, and if it even still exists. If this looks positive, I will then duplicate my install, implement the new code and see how much breaks. And If it gets too difficult, I will hold onto 2.8.6 and thumb my nose at the new offering…

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