WordPress and Wix exchange accusations and negative attack ads. Wix publishes open letter to Matt Mullenweg
Wix and WordPress have been engaging in a public spat that keeps getting nastier with each response. A new response from Wix seems to lower the temperature on the dispute.
The latest round of open letters between WordPress and Wix was instigated by a series of polarizing video ads created by Wix.
The ads were generally poorly received in the web development and search marketing community. But others found the ads to be humorous.
The biggest complaint seemed to be that the ads were inappropriately negative against WordPress, a popular and beloved open source content management system. Some wished that Wix had taken a higher road with their ads.
Matt Mullenweg is the developer behind WordPress and the founder of Automattic, a company that creates a variety of popular web and WordPress related offerings.
Matt also founded the WordPress Foundation, a non-profit organization that supports and protects the free WordPress content management system.
The response by Matt was understandably passionate.
In an essay entitled, Wix and Their Dirty Tricks, he set the table by painting Wix as thieves.
He begins by reminding readers that Wix were the ones who were accused of “stealing WordPress code and lying about it.”
He follows up by accusing Wix of trying to gain relevance by attacking the open source WordPress community and expresses empathy for the actors and workers involved who were “forced” to make the Wix attack ads.
That’s just the first two paragraphs.
Matt then lays into Wix’s business model, remarking on how it’s based on trapping clients by making it difficult to escape to a different system, comparing Wix to a trap for vermin.
“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. “
Next he paints a picture of Wix as an abusive partner that imprisons their clients in a basement and expresses surprise that consumer protection agencies haven’t yet gone after Wix for their business practices.
The essay ends by accusing Wix of being creepy and misleading in how they are choosing to represent themselves.
Given how gleefully negative and outrageous the Wix attack ads were, the Wix response from the CEO, Avishai Abrahami, was refreshingly sober and focused on facts.
I asked a friend with 25 years in the search marketing business to read the Wix response and he remarked that he found it “nice and sane.”
The open letter from Wix to WordPress begins by noting the prevalence of anger and “half-truths” in the essay by Matt and asks,
“Why are you so angry?”
The Wix CEO sets his table by painting Matt Mullenweg as angry and not telling the truth, while presenting Wix as fair and sticking to facts.
The issues with WordPress that he cites are:
Avishai accuses Matt Mullenweg of being hypocritical for criticizing Wix for negativity by claiming it was Matt that begun the bitter exchanges by being first to go on a negative attack.
He portrayed WordPress as the initial aggressor and Wix as simply responding to the negativity from WordPress.
To prove his point that WordPress engages in negativity he links to two WordPress.com web pages:
Next he portrayed Wix as being open to criticism and eager to learn from it.
“I believe in friendly competition. Competitors push each other by competing. When you guys wrote about issues with Wix, like SEO and performance, we didn’t complain, we owned it and worked hard to fix it. Now we have great SEO, and performance is almost where it should be – so thank you WordPress for pushing us to be better.”
Then he asks WordPress why can’t they do the same to own their issues and work to improve them.
That question could be said to be unfair because the issues with security and plugins are outside of the direct control of WordPress itself.
Problematic plugins are developed by third parties and are not under the direct control of WordPress itself. So it’s hard for WordPress to “own” something it doesn’t actually own.
Wix addresses the accusation that they stole WordPress code by relating that they did not steal “General Public License” code and noted that they had addressed this accusation five years ago.
“I’d like to remind you that the code wasn’t developed by WordPress – it was General Public License (GPL).
As a reminder, here’s my reply to you about it from 5 years ago.”
Wix CEO Avishai Abrahami refutes the claim that Wix locks users in and linked to a WordPress.com tool for importing content from Wix to WordPress.
Aviashai linked to a WordPress tool for importing Wix websites.
This is what the WordPress Wix site import tool says:
“Import »Import from Wix
Our Wix Importer is a quick way to move your content. All you have to do is provide your site’s web address (called a URL).
When the import is complete, you’ll have a site that’s pre-filled with your content and ready to be your new home on the web.”
Referencing WordPress’ tool for importing Wix content, Avishai asks:
“Do you remember this? So why did you write that we lock our users in the basement?”
The CEO later affirms his belief in “friendly competition” and the benefit of businesses challenging each other to be better.
He states that highlighting the “problems” with WordPress was meant in the spirit of friendly competition but he also offers an olive branch in the form of an apology.
“We tried to make the ads funny, and I think you can also admit that the problems we talk about are real. However, if it offended you, I’m sorry.”
The open letter then ends by recounting that he has unsuccessfully invited Matt for coffee over the past few years.
Most of the responses fell along polarized lines.
But there were a few who seemed able to see the truth in both sides.
One person tweeted:
As a veteran WordPress user, developer, contributor… I very much enjoyed Avishai Abrahami’s response to @photomatt. He’s spot on.
I’m coming to love this @Wix campaign more and more.https://t.co/DRKRgC8KN6
— Luke | סעדיה (@lukecarbis) April 13, 2021
Later in the Twitter discussion he quoted the part of the Wix response that he felt was spot on, while following up with what he disagreed with in the Wix open letter:
I disagree about there being security problems and, with a good host, memory problems. But WP does have issues and we shouldn’t shy away from them.
Open Source can be messy, and hard work. There are absolutely benefits to closed systems. We shouldn’t deny that.
— Luke | סעדיה (@lukecarbis) April 14, 2021
As mentioned earlier, the response appeared to be polarized and some of the responses seemed to be quibbling about details but not directly with the point being made by Wix.
For example, one person took issue at Avishai referring to the WordPress developers as “you guys” in a sentence the state of SEO friendliness of the Wix platform.
Several people felt like both sides make valid points but both need to stop pointing fingers at the other and instead focus on their own issues.
I live for these “open letters” between tech CEOs. Both sides have valid points, and both sides are too childish to admit it and move on. #WordPress #Wix https://t.co/G2AgV9QBqK
— Brian Li (@bwhli) April 13, 2021
Wix and WordPress are both good and bad in different ways.
— Stuart Blessman (@ST_U2) April 13, 2021
Many people were taken aback by the negativity and arguably poor taste of the Wix advertisements. It seemed to mark an escalation of tensions between WordPress and Wix.
There’s so much negativity in the world today it doesn’t make sense to add more of it in the form of nasty videos and finger pointing. Maybe it’s time to move on?
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Roger Montti is a search marketer with over 20 years experience. I offer site audits, phone consultations and content and … [Read full bio]
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