To be fair there have been some rollbacks. At first August was the date for it’s inclusion into the “Core” of WordPress, now it’s release is set for October. However pre-release Beta has already appeared and from user’s reports it’s got more bugs than a trailer park.
In case you don’t know, the WordPress platform is the creation of Matt Mullenweg who also heads Automattic Company. To his credit, he did make WordPress open source, but if you turn off your TV or device long enough to think about it, it becomes pretty easy to see that it could not have possibly enjoyed the huge growth it did in such a short time if he had not done so.
However, since that time Matt has used his unique position as the code’s originator to leverage into place such jewels as Hello Dolly and Akismet anti-spam plugins. You know, those two plugins that everyone immediately uninstalls on each new install of WordPress? Well, to be fair, not everyone uninstalls them immediately. I mean there are new people coming to WordPress each day and it takes a little time to figure out you don’t need quotes from Louis Armstrong’s signature song to appear on your website each and every day, nor do they need to duplicate the efforts of their selected Security Plugin with a second anti-spam layer. Forcing these to install on each and every WordPress installation has garnered both of these plugins a recommendation on the WordPress.org repository of over 1 million installs. Don’t we call that spin these days?
Matt and his merry band of coders have also given us such gems as Gravatar, Jetpack and WooCommerce. Now some folks like Jetpack, but it gives you so many different types of features it reminded me of one of those guys spinning plates on-stage. You know, the more plates he adds the more impressed the audience becomes? Well that’s entertainment not people’s livelihoods. Nor are whole businesses based off this guy with his shirt open too far running frantically from plate to plate. Then there is Gravatar; if you wish your logo to show up automagically on your WordPress site you need to upload and/or change your avatar selection there. WooCommerce on the other hand is the biggest eCommerce solution, in no small part to the fact that it was the first one, although being very familiar with the code it was targeting was quite a leg up as well. Starting to see the leveraging pattern here?
We cannot forget about WordPress.com either. This is the version of WordPress that offers free hosting for WordPress users while it also gives Automattic free advertising income. Nothing wrong with that, free hosting, but you pay for it with their advertising… on your site. If you are a designer I don’t have to tell you about what is hidden in some ads, and if you are not we will save it for a post about Firefox and the NoScript addon (large HINT just dropped for you). As if that weren’t enough, you are provided with a quite clumsy URL that includes the WordPress.com attribution. Doesn’t matter how clever the user is on his domain name selection, their WordPress.com URL now defies easy memorization by prospective users or clients. Of course, you are always free to “pay” a fee to have these features removed from you “free” hosting account, and there’s the hook.
With WordPress.com the target market does indeed seem to be the low hanging fruit of the newcomer to WordPress. The new arrivals eyes are overwhelmed and blinking in new territory as if they just came out of a dark cave at high-noon. They’re trying to save money because they don’t know exactly what’s ahead for their wallet or it’s contents. Countless times I have seen WordPress.com users lamenting over how to move their site to a “real” hosting company, their words not mine. Basically it’s a trap for newbies to stumble into.
This brings us up to the star of our show today, Gutenberg Editor. At first it was billed as a page builder, but through some verbal legerdemain it is now being referred to as an editor. And to be fair, this is not by Automattic, the author is listed as Gutenberg Team. Cute! Now we do not care a bit if there were divisions set up in the company, or a new DBA registered to make this a legal company name. What we care about is why. Was it done to distance Gutenberg from Automattic and it’s less than stellar reputation? Is it the dodge which it seems so clearly to be? We would have to ask Matt, but good luck with that because Mr. Mullenweg has leveraged himself into a net worth of 40 million dollars, according to a recent Google search.
Gutenberg is indeed being praised, but primarily by it’s apologists, and of course the newcomers upon whose back Automattic has based it’s fortune and claim to fame. Facebook groups have been launched and a website with a suspiciously devoted flavor – https://gutenbergtimes.com – in it’s very name. I would link it but I don’t want to mess with a no follow attribution or help the employee who appears to run it and promote it. She is hard to flap too. She frequents the Facebook group – or started it as well – and has her customer service tone firmly in grasp. This tells me that she is indeed an employee, but I won’t mention that here.
The employees have been pro-active as well. Here is a screenshot of the ratings page on WordPress.org (the benign WordPress site);
You don’t usually see such a wide spread of ratings such as these. See all the 1 star ratings? (I always wondered why there were no 0 star ratings.) Now look at how relatively few 2, 3 and 4 star ratings there are. Also notice how the 5 star ratings jump back up quite a bit. I read these sort of ratings every time I select a new plugin for a new purpose. This type of spread is not natural, and not something you would normally see. How to account for it? Employees and newbies with little experience are most likely populating the 5 star slot. Apologists on the Facebook group say the 1 star reviews are from haters, but this seems to be an odd place to find trolls. I mean this is the WordPress repository, not Redd-it after all.
But Never Fear, There Is A Way Out
A gentleman by the name of Jeff Starr – pretty sure no relation to Ringo – has produced a plugin named Disable Gutenberg. I have spoken to Mr. Starr and he says that this will work for the full-magilla WordPress Core addition in the WordPress 5.o update. There are some other solutions like Classic Editor (which threatens to fail away with the WP v. 5.0 rollout) and one or two others. but Jeff Starr assures me that he is up to the task of keeping Gutenberg off our backs and enabling those of us who wish, to remain Guten Free.
Have I tried Gutenberg Editor? No, and I will not. I presently use Elementor Page Builder but only after doing my own research and choosing it for myself. Somehow, being told what I must use just doesn’t sit well with me. It leaves a bad taste in my mouth, especially when it’s just not needed.