Companies Running Competitive Ads Against WordPress May Soon be Banned from Sponsoring WordCamps – WP Tavern

Sarah Gooding
The WordPress Community Team is discussing banning companies from sponsoring WordCamps if they advertise competitively against WordPress. A WordCamp organizing team recently brought the concern to community deputies regarding a potential sponsor that is advertising its product in such a way that it puts WordPress in “an unflattering light.”
This particular instance is prompting community leadership to clarify expectations for how sponsors advertise WordPress derivative products – products built on top of WordPress, such as themes, plugins, or distributions.
Cami Kaos published a list of the existing expectations for sponsors and those who want to participate in the community’s events program. These include items such as no discrimination, no incitement of violence, respecting the WordPress trademark and licensing, and others from the WordCamp Organizer Handbook. Kaos posed the following two questions to the community:
Should the WordCamp and meetup programs accept sponsors, speakers and organizers who engage in competitive marketing against WordPress?
How should competitive advertising be defined in the WordPress space?
The discussion post did not specify the potential sponsor in question but recent campaigns from Elementor meet the criteria of advertising against WordPress with a negative slant. The ads insinuate that WordPress isn’t user -friendly or intuitive and that without this particular product WordPress is frustrating. The company has also run ads that co-opt the term “full-site editing” on Google searches, with Elementor representatives claiming that it is a generic industry term.
Elementor has sponsored events in the past. If the community guidelines are changed to explicitly prohibit advertising that puts WordPress in a negative light, then the company may be required to pull all of its ads that violate the new requirements in order to become a sponsor.
Bluehost is another company that might come under the microscope for its recent trademark misuse. Although the company had a meeting to resolve matters with WordPress’ executive director Josepha Haden, Bluehost still has multiple ads running with the same issue.
Feedback so far has been minimal. One participant in the discussion mistakenly thought the proposal was referring to competition in general. Andrea Middleton clarified in the comments.
“The question is whether WordPress events should co-promote or endorse people and companies that are competing against WordPress itself,” Middleton said.
“For example, if someone is running ads saying ‘WordPress is terrible, use our product instead,’ or even ‘WordPress is terrible, but our plugin makes it good’ do we want to include them as a sponsor for WordPress events?”
Defining competitive advertising to exclude all forms criticism may be too strong of a line but there should be guidelines that cover more egregious cases where a company is disparaging WordPress for the purpose of exploiting its community.
“Criticism can be healthy and good marketing when done in good faith and with a tool that truly addresses a user need,” Mark Root-Wiley said. “What makes criticism objectionable is when it strays past details of software and into harmful criticism of people and communities, and it seems like the existing standards cover that.”
The discussion will be open until April 29, 2021, when comments will be closed and the discussion will move to final review.
Well Gutenberg is a direct competitor to Elementor though.
You can’t speak bad about Gutenberg which in a default install of wordpress has way less functionality that a page builder like Elementor or DIVI??
It’s called, ‘don’t bite the hand that feeds you.’
Elementor is not a separate product to WordPress, it’s built on top of WordPress. It’s a fundamental distinction. All those thousands of volunteer hours that have gone into WordPress down the years have, by default, helped to create all those commercial plugins and themes.
It’s like a chef showing you how to create a recipe which you then use to start a restaurant of your own.
So far, so good. Only you then pay someone to stand outside of the other restaurant with a sign that says, ‘don’t eat in here, the food is bad.’
I mean, in ordinary life it’s the kind of thing that would get you a punch on the nose. I think preventing sponsorship of WordCamps is really a very gentle way of dealing with this level of rudeness.
@Jill Shapteron I would argue that’s a very one-sided way of looking at the relationship between WP and Elementor.
WP is a great platform that deserves a lot of credit for “democratizing the web” and empowering millions of publishers around the world. It is needless to say we all are very grateful for that.
Having said that, it would be unjust to ignore how much of WordPress’s success has a to do with the ecosystem that has grown around it. WordPress, without themes and plugins, would never have become so big. This is particularly true when it comes to plugins like Elementor – a plugin that has played a key role in attracting new users to the WP platform in the past 5 years – Providing the user friendly experience users have come to expect from competing platforms.
In addition, it’s unfair to ignore the fact Elementor too, just like WP, is open source, and released under the GPL license.
Sure, Elementor has a commercial service for Pro users, but isn’t that the case with too?
Not just users are drawn to the WP ecosystem by Elementor, so many developers have joined the flourishing space created for 3rd party add-ons, contributing even more value to WP users.
The whole reason plugins even exist, is because WordPress has never strived to be a full-featured standalone product by itself. It’s always been the case that plugins added more value to WordPress – which means, WP is admittedly lacking in some areas, leaving it to plugins to fill the gap.
±8M active Elementor installs will testify that’s the case with Elementor and page-building user experience.
So I don’t think your analogy, portraying Elementor as an ungrateful leech stealing clients from WordPress, is the best way to describe what’s going on.
I find it unfortunate that a Automattic is apparently using their influence to suppress the success of the most successful plugin on the platform.
I’m not sure that is the most forward thinking way to handle the situation.
Fact of the matter is, the block editor is NOT user friendly. I know it is supposed to become user friendly, but it really isn’t yet.
WordPress spends a lot of time telling everyone what they can and can’t do. I think, instead of the “team” wearing their feelings on their cuffs, they should focus more on what a plugin is pointing out. Take a look at what the advertisements say and fix things so that the plugin authors can’t use it against you.
People have become such crybabies lately.
IMO, Gutenberg and Page builders are two different things.
Gutenberg provides core/base level editing experience (as of now) however page builders could help in building a complete website by just drag and drop (keeping performance and security aside.)
Both have pros and cons. Sometimes I think to keep WordPress as simple and clean with less plugins but sometimes it’s quite the opposite. So much confusions. 😏
BTW, Gutenberg has been doing great for a while from blocks to the entire template libraries.
I wish both the best and the outcome would be positive for the entire WordPress community. Let’s see what the future holds up for us.
Interesting; I agree that there is a line that would make sponsorship odd, even inappropriate, even as there is a place for constructive criticism and positive “we help make things easier”; “let us do some of the work” type ads.
I think it is a bit like the Supreme Court justice’s definition of obscenity; maybe hard to define, but recognizable when one sees it.
(Aside: one of the sites on which I work uses Elementor; I do not find it an improvement at all. I am setting up a site for another volunteer group; thinking of trying Gutenberg on that one. I do see value in reusable blocks, but it is taking major adjustment to use them.)
I am looking for Elementor to step away from regular WordPress installs going with a headless option like Oxegyn.
Also, could Elementor be positioning itself to fork core and become a platform itself that offers some form of WordPress plugin compatibility.
First Wix then Squarespace and now Elementor.
It is a good sign for WordPress that it’s going in the right direction and its competitors are heating up for it. If proper decisions are taken, this can lead to a very good position for WordPress to keep itself as the Giant of the web.
On the other hand, WordPress also has to accept its drawbacks or inabilities and improve on it to be competitive and stay in line with the changes coming in.
WordPress needs to learn what criticism. Some posts on here, even from back in the Jeff’s day…COULD be interpreted as criticism. Should Jeff, Justin and Sarah be banned from speaking, sponsoring, attending?
So many people on the comments have criticized Gutenberg. Some have said Gutenberg sucks.
There are many aspects of WordPress that has been criticized in the past by thousands of people over the years. Should they be banned?
I have criticized at abusive notification “hey rate my plugin”, “hey subscribe to my newsletter” “hey, upgrade to pro” even though we clicked on the dismiss link.
I do not like censorship.
There is nothing wrong with criticizing WordPress. Nothing wrong with some competition. I remember growing up PC vs MAC commercials. I even seen Coke vs Pepsi commercials.
I have criticized WordCamp organizers at some WordCamps. Legitimate criticism. Shall I be banned for that?
I have attended WordCamps. I have even volunteered at WordCamps. I have not volunteered in a few years lately. Shall I be banned?
WordCamp and the overall WordPress Community should be open to all. Not a tiny minority deciding for the rest.
I remember someone going to a WordCamp event and wearing a MAGA hat. For anyone who isn’t into politicis. Make America Great Again. It was Donald Trump’s slogan during his political life.
So many members of the community would be in violation of these new changes, including Sarah Gooding and Justin Tadlock. Shall both of them and community members be banned because of criticism of elements of the WordPress Community? Of course not.
We live in 2021 where everyone gets easily offended, even with legitimate criticism.
I know some of you might criticize me for my comments above…feel free to do it. I won’t ban you from anything.
Fair point. I remember when Ben & Jerry’s ice cream was a small start up in a Vermont garage. Pillsbury had Häagen Dazs, the first commercial premium ice cream in the States, as far as I know, and was telling grocers that if they stocked Ben & Jerry’s, they could not also stock Häagen Dazs.
Ben & Jerry’s fought back with a grassroots campaign, “What’s the Dough Boy afraid of?”, and clearly Pillsbury had to back down. (Ben & Jerry eventually sold out to Unilever, after being its own public corporation for a time.)
Still, IDK whether Ben & Jerry would have ever accepted sponsorship by Pillsbury, and certainly not the reverse. It would be beyond the pale to stop Elementor & its representatives from attending, not really even acceptable to stop them from having a sales booth or doing a workshop, but I was presuming that those would not be part of the proposed ban, just top-level sponsorship.
If you are afraid of competing products, your own product is not competitive.
“When you tear out a man’s tongue, you are not proving him a liar, you’re only telling the world that you fear what he might say.” – George R.R. Martin
Get over it WordPress. Elementor didn’t become #1 page builder with over 5 million active installs by accident.
Elementor doesn’t complete with WordPress. Elementor relies on WordPress. The ads say you should use Elementor AND WordPress. That’s no different than saying you should use WooCommerce and WordPress. I think that Wix shouldn’t be allowed to sponsor events. Blocking Elementor is censorship.
Elementor isn’t “campaigning against WordPress”, it’s trying to make WordPress more attractive to people who have been frustrated with it.
If they want to help the community grow by sponsoring WordCamps, it’d be ridiculous to ban them from doing so.
It’s difficult not to view this as Automattic having an issue with a company providing a popular alternative to Gutenberg, particularly when it’s highly probable Elementor will launch a SaaS version that will compete with
Competition is healthy, trying to prevent it isn’t.
Elementor empathizing with users’ frustrations with the block editor in their marketing isn’t competing against WordPress – if anything, it helps the community by letting them know there’s an alternative.
If users are frustrated with Gutenberg, I’d much rather have them use Elementor and stay within the WP ecosystem than see them migrate to Squarepsace or Wix.
Banning a company from sponsoring WordCamps because they actually acknowledge and empathize with users’ frustrations in their marketing seems incredibly short-sighted.
Rolling out a beta version of an editor in continuous rapid development mode with WP 5.x core was already incredibly short-sighted in the first place.
Many pointed that out already before release, but people “in charge” either suppressed such comments or talked them down.
Current result is a totally fragmented 5.x branch in real world where sooner or later many simply stopped updating because something broke all the time, current fragments are:
5.0 1.88%
5.1 2.46%
5.2 5.04%
5.3 5.71%
5.4 9.42%
5.5 11.03%
5.6 12.35%
5.7 35.85%
Theme and plugin developers currently have to deal with lots of variants, simply saying “just update to latest WP” does not work any more, people learend their lessons.
There are many fair points in the comments here.
Let me be clear: I love WordPress and Elementor.
From my point of view, I think the wording in the Elementor’s ad could probably be improved to make it sound more like a teamwork between the CMS and the page builder. But, Elementor also has to sell its product. Business is business.
Now, WordPress works fine without Elementor.
We all know that we can build a great website only with Gutenberg, even if it takes more time and effort, of course, but it’s possible and there’s room for improvement.
But we can all agree on the fact that it’s quicker with Elementor and in a user friendly manner. So that makes Elementor a great addition to WordPress.
Also, if you want to use Elementor, you must use WordPress too so it’s not like Elementor is ‘stealing’ WordPress users.
So, yes, if there are so many Elementor users, that’s definitely because they find their happiness with it and not with WordPress alone (yet?).
We can either see the WordPress + Elementor as a great team to build awesome websites and make users happy, or we can waste our time complaining that there are solutions being developed and improved by others for users.
Now, with regards to the ‘‘don’t bite the hand that feeds you.’’, that’s a fair point too.
I don’t think Elementor should be banned at all and let’s keep in mind that WordPress and Elementor need each other to work (or maybe Elementor needs WordPress rather than the other way round).
Unless Elementor plans on building their own CMS, I agree on the fact that it’s not a question of accepting criticism here but more one of not biting the hand that feeds you.
This has to be some Orwellian joke, right?
Great, I’d love to see much more draconian measures. The reputation of WordPress has been mashed by those who sell websites based on these page builders. They are insecure, buggy and slooooooow. The people using them are generally after a buck not a better experience for their clients and these builders are a quicker means to that end.
If it doesn’t use the settings menu – out of the directory.
If it ignores best practice and is slow – out of the directory.
If it is from a firm that pisses on the volunteers of WordPress (as above) – out of the directory.
If it has been replaced by Gutenberg, tight one, it’s a new day and the sun is shining on more people than yesterday. Get with it.
In all honesty all page builders whether Divi, Elementor, Oxygen or beaver they need to go away. Page building experience is a requirement of a modern cms and WP can not be dependent on a third party plugins for this ? Sure, they did great job earlier but now these very plugins are restricting WP’s progress. Not to mention all the current page builders are built on outdated / dying technologies which will have no place in 202X’s. This is a fact, WP is currently struggling to attract new talent and innovations because it still uses old technologies and dated methods of working.
Interesting read – THANKS to all who contribute to WP (including Page Builders) – Yes, competition is healthy and can motivate to excel. Also, COLLABORATION is preferable, as less energy is wasted in proofing points, and more energy can flow into improving continually what we enjoy thus far.
So, my vote goes to burying the hatchet and spend a bit more time simply learning from those that offer the most efficient solution.
I am told, and hope that Gutenberg will eventually be the most suitable editor – which might justify WP from evolving towards the best compatibilities with Gutenberg.
Closing with expressing my gratitude to all those VOLUNTEERS who have made it possible to arrive where we are today!
Ads against the WordPress open source project and what it stands for or ads against the money-making business
Sometimes it isn’t easy to see a separation of the two.
I can see some merit in banning companies or individuals that go out of their way to disparage the WordPress open-source project values, democratising publishing, from sponsoring or speaking at WordCamps.
However, competitive marketing against WordPress – the app functionality, the money-making business – I don’t see any issue with that at all.
WordPress core isn’t perfect. WordPress isn’t for every web solution.
Sometimes people do find it difficult to use or find other systems easier to accomplish what they want to achieve.
Most of us live in a democracy with the right to express our thoughts and feelings freely, and that includes advertising and marketing.
Banning everyone from WordCamps who say something negative about WordPress seems like an over-the-top reaction, IMHO.
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