[The Company] The Future of WPMU DEV (may be emotional)

I keep wondering about it... (this may be emotional)...

I'm seriously considering the value I'm paying for. From the plugins left, I only use Defender, Hummingbird (for checking speed only), Smush & Branda. Amazing plugins like Domain Mapping are just being left beind (someone SHOULD fork this and keep it amazing and working!), I'm sad...

From the plugins I really use, only Branda isn't Publicly Available at WordPress.org and the others, mostly the Free Versions would do the job (pay for Schedule Checks & Reports?). So keep paying the full amount I was paying for on the last years, to have only 1 Premium plugin (and it's a damn good one)? Not sure it worths the price, maybe USD 4.95/month would be fair value.

I don't want de-valuate the amazing Support Team. Some of these people I feel quite like friends, as if I actually knew them personally and these are people I cherish for: Luís , Konstantinos Xenos , Ash , Kris , Kasia Swiderska and so many others that I can't remember the names, real Super-Heroes.

Pretty much all Multisite plugins were just being left in the wind. Also some nice things like Jobs & Experts and Help & Support, also just abandoned. The Hub and its Services (like Automate or Scheduled Backups, that has never worked for me on any site and give so many Support Tickets).

And most plugins that are left, others can do the same (sometimes better, sometimes worse), or WPMU DEV Free Versions will. So pretty much the main reason to keep a paid membership (Cool Multisite Stuff) isn't there any longer...I'ts all in some way very ground-breaking (if you allow me the joke), and the WPMU DEV Membership costs suddenly became super-master-blaster-over-priced.

I actually see Forminator, SmartCrawl, Hustle, Shipper and Snapshot as white-elephants: full waste of resources. None of them actually works a 100%, multiple other plugins (sometimes free ones) can do it better. For backups & migration, many good hosting offers this and creating/pushing/pulling complete Multisites from/to Live <--> Staging takes seconds, not a full day like Shipper. Just works.

Well, on the Hosting area... You're providing a pretty good service there, but for my type of business I really need a much higher level of control and customization than the one you can offer on your Hosting System. So again, others do it better (at least for my needs). As on all this Ticket I'm not promoting any other plugin, product or brand, really just expressing my feelings about my future with WPMU DEV. I don't want to be too long, so it's pretty much that.

As I pay per year (and at December), I'll still have my Membership until the end of this year. If I don't see any significant comeback, I'll probably find out that for the same (or less) cost of a WPMU DEV Membership I can license very good software that will allow me to do the same.

I'm sorry for my long text, just feeling very sad with this decicion.

Cheers, long life and health to WPMU DEV

  • Ronnie Burt
    • Hosting & Biz Dev

    Hi Fabio Fava - thank you so much for the detailed feedback. This decision was definitely not a fun one to make. And I hate seeing this from someone like you, someone I know to be a long time and valued member of our community.

    I'm sure that James Farmer will drop by to leave his thoughts here too, but I wanted to share that I definitely understand what you are saying. We continue to use domain mapping internally, and if it helps you feel better about it, we will commit to wp core compatibility updates or any discovered security-related need, for domain mapping and the other plugins. In many ways, we actually feel that if we kept these older legacy plugins, ones that for the most part we honestly haven't really improved or given a lot of attention to in years, as part of the paid membership, it was a disservice to all and really devalued the membership.

    I think it is fair to count myself personally as one of the biggest users and person that relies on Multisite for my livelihood than just about anyone, anywhere - I help manage our Edublogs and CampusPress services - which are both Multisite heavy.

    The truth is, which I think we need to talk publicly more about, is that the use cases and need for Multisite just isn't at all what it used to be. We definitely have proof in that in search traffic and downloads of multisite plugins over the years. You have management tools like our Hub (among several others), you have improved code management via github/bitbucket, and you have less desire for truly niche platforms. I see first hand that using domain mapping just isn't the most efficient way to manage client sites like it used to be - there's added complexities of SSL, a requirement to keep data more segmented, and more.

    I'm not claiming the death of Multisite, not by any stretch, but I do feel that, at least in several traditional use cases, it has hit its peak. Do you think that might be true, too?

    Anyway, sorry to get too off topic, and thank you again for the feedback. I hope that by December, our hosting service continues to be more flexible and valuable to you and that other offerings and services we provide get better for you too. We do want to hear what we can do to make this right and better for you. Thank you!

    • jetmac
      • Recruit

      Ronnie Burt ,

      I appreciate your input and perspective here, thank you.

      For my own two cents, I ran a profitable and highly used Multisite network from 2014 to 2018 in ThirdScribe. I had to shut it down, specifically as a result of SSL issues - it was incredibly difficult to secure a multisite network without significant (and costly) infrastructure. So, I turned to single sites and management programs (like Hub) until I decided what, if anything, I wanted to do.

      What turned me back to Multisite was, actually, WPMU hosting. You provided, possibly by accident, a turn key infrastructure that allowed for SNI/SSL at the individual mapped domain level - something I could not achieve at any other hosting company.

      I built Modfarm Design using WPMU hosting, tools, and Multisite based on all of the many lessons learned from ThirdScribe.

      Many times with these systems and software concepts, its small data points that make big splashes. Domain Mapping and SSL have come up many times in these forums over the last year, as I'm sure both James Farmer and Fabio Fava will recall, fueled by Search engines flagging http sites with massive security warnings. Without the ability to give mapped subdomains an https, multisite became a hindrance and not a benefit. Especially as a means to host sites - via ProSites or any other.

      But, now with WPMU hosting, that can be turned around. So, of course, instead of leading a new renaissance and marketing the tools crafted from your years' of experience, you... dump all of your plugins.

      It just doesn't make sense to me.

      Another massive course of discussion in these forums over the last year, especially since the fall of UpFront, was the "chicken and the egg" use/download cycle for your plugins. MarketPress, for example.

      Many of your users have expressed both a desire and a frustration with MP. There was a vocal use case, especially when paired with multisite. But, since WPMU failed to fix the many bugs raised (some for years), users stopped asking for bugs to be fixed and resigned themselves to Woo. So, which caused the decline? User interest or lack of development?

      And, when will that interest/development curve next cause a crash? I predict Forminator. Others say SmartCrawl or Hustle. But, WPMU history has shown that we know it's coming. It's not an "if" but a "when".

      I'm glad you cut so many plugins yesterday. It was necessary and many members - myself included - have been calling for it for a while.

      What is so upsetting, is that you cut the workhorse plugins as well, like ProSites, Membership, and MarketPress. I don't know how many people use these, but I'm pretty sure many of those who still do use them to make money - they are (or were) an economic engine. And WPMU stopped maintaining them in order to make... shiny baubles for the masses.

      That is what is causing so much of the shock and disappointment, here.

      We were expecting you to cut Reader and Slide-Out and Pop-Up Pro so you could reinvest in ProSites, MarketPress, Membership, and possibly even Domain Mapping. Paired with WPMU hosting, you could have brought something to market that no other host is providing right now, and it's square in your history and expertise. Multisite is solidly in the brand of WPMU.

      But... yesterday WPMU threw those gems in the trash with the rest of them. You are, literally, throwing it all away.

      Version updates is not active development. It's not even close. Removing these plugins from your lineup tells all of us that you don't see these as viable. They will get the absolute minimum effort level, even worse than they have the previous couple of years. Which means their downward spiral will accelerate, making them even less usable for anyone other than the specific case of Edublogs and CoursePress.

      You mentioned the complexities of Domain Mapping and site management - yes, we know. You're preaching to the choir. Fabio Fava and I and many others are very familiar with this. We were hoping (and paying with our membership) that you would, you know, combine our dollars with your earned expertise and continue to develop and improve the plugin to continue its use and viability. It is why we joined WPMU. It's why many of us did.

      Hummingbird is very nice, but a well crafted theme will get you 90% of the way there and a free CloudFlare account will carry you the last 10%. Forminator has a long way to go before it matches Gravity Forms, or even Ninja Forms. SmartCrawl is a nice alternative to Yoast (I prefer it), but will never really challenge that behemoth. Same with Hustle and Bloom, I suspect.

      And, at their heart, Smush, Defender, Hummingbird are all parts of hosting and management. They aren't moneymakers for us, the WPMU clients. They are expected tools of a good host. Bluehost provides almost the complete suite as part of their WordPress Tools panel. It's nice, but I don't know if I would call it true "value added." They are included in the membership, so they get used. The fact that they are packaged and integrated with WPMU hosting just demonstrates that even more - they are hosting and management tools.

      ProSites, MarketPress, Membership, Domain Mapping - these are moneymaking tools. They are for US the WPMU paying users, not for WPMU the hosting/service provider.

      What remains in WPMU - besides hosting (that, truly, is probably worth the subscription price alone) - that is worth the membership price? If you are a developer that already has a preferred hosting system, what does WPMU actually offer?

      A lot of people are asking that question today, now that the shock has worn off. And, that question deserves an answer.

      Is it the support? Because that's also pretty darn good.

      But, I don't think it's plugins anymore. Not after yesterday. You, literally, have nothing to offer in that regard.

      So, services and hosting it is, then? Is there anything else in the works that you want to share? Because, I think now would be a good time to do that.

  • Fabio Fava
    • WordPress DevOps

    Hey Ronnie Burt I make mine your words.

    I can fully understand (and even endorse) this decision: It's the way to go, for sure. The thing is that I LOVE WPMU DEV, but now I can't see myself spending more than USD 100/year, without any Hosting or The Hub. Your (specially the Multisite) 100+ Plugins were the core of your business.

    I can see a solution if you (WPMU DEV) decide to charge per-plugin or per-service (as most are doing nowadays), then your customers could decide what they want to pay for. I wouldn't like to leave (more prone to find a way to work for you), but as customer, for me, for now, it's not worthy.

    About Multisites, I think the future for them are the Multi-Language Sites (I have a full, unlimited, lifetime license but have ZERO sites with WPML, it sucks): all sites being a same entity and Domain, but with lang-oriented focus on the content. And honestly, Multisite Language Switcher kicks ass.

    The thing to manage now for Multisites (as Multi-Language Content Networks) is about caching: how to integrate all the caching layers I have on my servers. I'm at Cloudways and I can't see a chance of moving away anywhere else: they give me the perfect level of control for my limited know-how.

    Besides the Platform's Interface, the limitness of WPMU DEV Hosting is kinda annoying to me. I understand you've made the perfect plaftorm to compete against Kinsta or Flywheel or any other Managed WordPress Hosting System - on wich you're doing pretty good. But not for my model.

    So, again, I really hope that some comeback (low-cost plans, per-plugin and per-service charging system), to turn it again competitive is your main goal in my opinion. As said before, I'll keep my membership active until it expires, but much probably won't renew.

    All new sites will have only the free versions of WPMU DEV plugins, and I'll reall start to look for alternatives as needed. Probably Wordfence will start comming back on 2nd Quarter (for new and converting some already stablished sites), despite their ugly interface the software works prime.

    The only pain will be to get rid of Branda and find another good plugin that can do the same for free or at an affordable lifetime-unlimited price. It's actually the only left one I see as "very needed", but I only use a very few set of modules, since the plugin is completely over-bloated.

    Well, sorry for so much critics. Still think I should've been paid for that.

    All my best wishes, I'll keep a close eye until December, with a big buch of hope on my pockets (or maybe a job offer from WPMU DEV so your problems will be mine). Cheers!

  • DigiBlueArc
    • The Crimson Coder

    Hey Fabio,

    I've seen a lot of your posts over the past year or so, I've always enjoyed them. This blog needs people with knowledge and good opinions like you that were willing to challenge the status quo.

    I'm fortunate, those plugins that don't work for you have been good to me. There were some less popular plugins I wish they would have done more with like Autoblog, I don't think many use it and it doesn't really matter to me since I use a different aggregator that's more robust.

    So, I like the idea of the developers being able to focus on a core of valuable plugins. Imagine how creative we can get now.

    Hoping you find value here, we need you.
    Best regards,

  • James Farmer
    • CEO (of WPMU DEV, honest)

    I'm a bit typed out after yesterday but definitely absorbing this Fabio Fava - the one thing I would say is that I'm absolutely sure you can appreciate that having the amazing support team (and the staff you mention alone) would in no way at all be feasible for $5/month... and that's before you get into the other value props.

    Having said that, we can always improve and are always striving to do that to give you better value. You should expect more and more bang for your buck at no extra cost going forward, especially now that, as DigiBlueArc says, we are really able to focus.

    • Dan
      • Virtual Headshot Guy

      Your math is off..because that's exactly what you are charging...$4 per month for 12 premium plugins.

      I don't have a use for hosting...the CDN is nice but unnecessary...as I really don't even think I am using it properly.

      You folks unilaterally and without notice chose to decrease your services...devaluing the membership...and keeping the same membership price.

      "Hey, I'm gonna charge you the same but give you less..." is exactly what you have said.

      That bothers me because it feels unethical.

  • Henning
    • New Recruit

    I am Canadian, hence the monthly fee for my membership translates to roughly $67 Canadian per month. I have been a professional web developer since 2002, and I need to value my time at $50 per hour, at the absolute minimum. Less and I can't survive and pay my bills.

    Now, let's just say that WPMU DEV has paid for itself if it saves me around 1.5 hours of time a month. Does it do that? Hell, yes!

    The Hub alone does that. The access to great support is another factor. I am routinely using Defender, Smush, Hummingbird and Brenda. During the short period of my membership, my portfolio of sites in the Hub has grown to about 20, and will continue to grow.

    Considering all this, are your membership fees a bad deal? No, they are not.

    Just my 10 cents worth of opinion: On a much smaller scale, exactly the same thing had happened to me in the past: I spread myself too thin, and I was not able to keep up with those competitors that only specialized in one field.

    And for WPMU DEV, Yoast is probably a good example. If WPMU DEV has to maintain two dozen different plugins, how can Smart Crawl possibly keep up with Yoast when that other company can put the same resources into one piece of software that WPMU needs to barely maintain twenty?

    That said, consolidation is probably what needed to take place and forced the business decision.

    If WPMU continues to provide services that save my own time and resources, I am sure the members will continue to stay with the company.

    Best of luck in your endeavor. Sometimes life is painful :wink:

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