An App Store for WordPress with Jonathan Wold

Do the Woo - WooCommerce Podcast, Community and News
Do the Woo - WooCommerce Podcast, Community and News
An App Store for WordPress with Jonathan Wold

This has been a center of discussion off and on over the last few years in the WordPress space. Some topic, action or drama typically causes it to rise like a mighty Phoenix. (or something like that).

Coincidently, there has once again been some chatter on the Post Status Slack and on Twitter around this idea again. But someone who has been working it out in his head for several years now wrote a post that was simply titled, An App Store For WordPress.

Joining me today is the author of that post, Jonathan Wold. Some of you may know him as one of the co-hosts of this podcast. As someone that has been in the WordPress space for 16 years, his experience his vast and he brings a lot to the table. The idea that Jonathan has for an App Store is insightful, thought-out and intriguing.

A Chat with Jonathan

Noelle and I talk with Jonathan about:

  • How long Jonathan has been this about this WordPress app idea
  • What the general concept of his post is
  • How he takes it if someone says, it’s not going to happen, because we can’t get the partners together, and it’s got to be okayed and approved by
  • Why extenders, for example plugin and theme builders, feel the consequence of low standards
  • Why part of the profit should be reinvested into better tools and support for extenders and in to improving WordPress itself for creators instead of to the builder
  • Why hosts are a critical piece to the App Store and If the trend of hosts building their own self-contained platform could present a challenge for their participation
  • What role Jonathan perceives Automattic and playing
  • What the next steps are and what kind of timeline should we expect
  • Why an App Store is even more important when it comes to WooCommerce

Read his post here.

Connect with Jonathan

Thanks to Our Pod Friends

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Bob: Hey everyone, BobWP here. Episode 129 of Do the Woo. I'm perking up after my long one week laying in bed, and I feel like I'm getting my brain clear, I'm excited, and I have Noelle back. Noelle is one of my favorite co-hosts. I'm not even going to say what number, but she's one of my five favorite co-hosts. That's it. That's what I'll say in case the others are listening. Wait! Wait a minute, somebody is. That's weird. Anyway, Noelle, how are you doing?

Noëlle: Hey, Bob. So good to be here. I'm well, and I'm so happy to hear you're feeling better.

Bob: Yeah, thank you. And you've been keeping busy. It's like every time we get back on you're just keeping busy. Everybody's demanding Noelle's time.

Noëlle: I know. I'm working on being less busy. But busy is good.

Bob: That's always fun.

Well, our guest is no stranger to you if you listen to this show. In fact, it's always fun to throw things out and say, "Well, our guest is a co-host of the Do the Woo podcast." That's not how I'm going to introduce him, but you know Jonathan, our good friend Jonathan, he's joining us today to talk about something very interesting. Hey, Jonathan.

Jonathan: Hey, Bob. Hey, Noelle. Good to see you guys.

Noëlle: Hey.

Bob: Now, let me just say something, and I'm going to keep it real blunt, an app store for WordPress. Now, if you're in the space, likely if you've been in it for a while, you've heard this talked about a lot. Here and there, it pops up every once a while. It's torn apart. It's looked at sideways, inside out. Jonathan did a post recently, and that was the title of it: An App Store for WordPress. That's what we're here to talk about. And you all know Jonathan, so I'm not going to ask how he does the Woo, I'm not going to ask how he got to WordPress because hey, all you need to know about Jonathan is he's a co-host here on the podcast.

Jonathan: That's who I am.

Bob: Yeah, that's who he when he’s here. But no, really, Jonathan, I think what would be a great question even though very generic to open with is how long has this been brewing in your head, this idea of an app store for WordPress?

Jonathan: Let's see. Wow, well, everything, all my sense of timeline is a little skewed off right now with being stuck at home for as long as we have. I think about four years.

Noëlle: Wow.

Jonathan: And the genesis for it was the shift in my thinking to begin thinking about WordPress as an operating system. That's the presupposition with this concept, right? An app store, because we don't have apps in WordPress, so why pick that name? Why pick that as a concept? And it's based on this idea of thinking about WordPress as an operating system. I picked that up four or five years ago, however long, because Matt started talking about it. And then I began to think, "Okay, well, what does this mean? Let me take this to its logical conclusions." I wrote about it, talked to WordCampUS back when we were doing that, about this idea.

And if you shift your thinking about WordPress to think about it as an operating system for creating on the web and all that that entails beyond just publishing content, like we're creating increasingly complex things, then you'd begin to think, "Well, operating systems have app stores." And within the context of WordPress, and you can't think about that and ignore WordPress' open source and decentralized nature. So the concept of an app store in WordPress is going to be different. It's still a really helpful construct I found. It was like, "Oh, an app store. We know what that is, we can use that as a way to frame the discussion."

Bob: Cool. Well, before we get into it, and I'm sure not everybody that is listening has read the post, and I hope they go and read the post. We'll be touching on specific parts of this. We even have some questions from some listeners. Can you give a synopsis of the post?

Jonathan: Yeah. So when I think about this concept of an app store, I think about who are the audiences that are affected by it? And what problems do those audiences have? And for me, there are three key audiences. There are the creators: people making things in WordPress. There are the extenders or builders: people creating things that are used by the folks created in WordPress, right? The tools, plugins, themes, blocks, et cetera. And then there are the hosting providers. In the case of WordPress as an operating system, a key part of what makes all this work is that yes, you could download it yourself and run it on your computer, but for the vast majority of folks that's not practical or a good idea, so you work with a hosting provider.

So those are the three audiences. And as I looked at this, it's what problems do each of those audiences have and what are the opportunities to... The first post I wrote was focused on the benefits and trade offs of decentralization. A big plus to me of WordPress is its decentralized, open source nature, and there's a lot of benefits that come from that. There are also trade offs. And the heart of this idea of an app store for WordPress is to embrace the benefits and mitigate the trade offs. You can't eliminate those trade offs entirely, right? There's things that proprietary platforms can do quite easily because they control everything, and there's a lot of benefits of that, but there are big trade offs.

As a decentralized platform that's open source, there's a lot of freedom that folks have, there's a sense of ownership, and there are huge benefits that get associated with that, and there are trade offs. And my thinking with this app store is you can't ever eliminate those trade offs, but you can make them less painful. And you can by mitigating some of those trade offs, you can actually make the benefits even stronger. So the heart of this idea is to say, take each of those three primary audiences and the problems that they have and the pains that they're experiencing, and within the context of making WordPress stronger and more successfully able to carry out its mission, introduce this concept of an app store to create value for each of those audiences in a way that embraces the benefits and does as much as it can to mitigate, to make a little bit less impactful the trade offs.

Bob: This is like a can of worms. And actually, by coincidence, I think you had... This was brought to the surface, and then in the myths of you are bringing it to the surface, there's a lot of people coming on different platforms, social and Slack, and talking about this concept. And not to start on a negative note, but…

Jonathan: Bring it.

Bob: How do you feel when somebody pulls something from the concept of an app store for WordPress, and they say, "It's just not going to happen, because we can't get the partners together, and it's got to be okayed and approved by and it's never going to happen"? I mean, this is something that... And this isn't to put you on the spot, but it's just as general, how do you feel when you read those things? What goes through your mind?

Jonathan: I find it motivating. I've been in WordPress 16 years now and I guess it's worth calling out that I'm definitely an undying optimist. I feel fairly grounded and recognizing that "Okay, this is a really difficult thing and in general..." But when it's like when there's a chance, when even if it's really complex and there's a lot of moving parts and pieces. I mean, even especially when... I just, I find that attractive because there tends to be that much more value on the other side for the folks affected by it, right? Where it's like if you take these three audiences that we know, it's easy to see that they're interconnected audiences and they have unique problems. There's unique challenges for them.

So the trick here is to find the thing that's as good as possible for as many as possible. You can't satisfy everyone, but I think there is this beautiful middle that sits in tension with each of the different audiences. And yes, it's really hard to pull off, and I don't disagree. And I find comments like that motivating just in terms of who I am and the way that I approach things. It's like as long as there's a chance, and I believe strongly there is, then it's like the harder it is the better. It's more fun.

Bob: One of my comments in the Slack thing, and nobody, a couple people said something about it, but I said, "Hey, I'm an optimistic fool. What can I say? I look at yeah, there's potential and don't mess with Jonathan. Don't say he can't do it." Okay, that's no, I didn't say that.

Jonathan: You can say it, I just find it more motivating.

Bob: Yeah, I know. Let's focus on a couple things around the extenders, because that's why a lot of people are listening here. And I know Noelle has a question, so I'm going to let her bring up her thoughts on them, then I want to pull something somebody said through a response to the newsletter I sent out. So Noelle, you want to lead into that?

Noëlle: Yeah. Absolutely. Jonathan, in your article you mentioned that extenders, so people making for example plugins and things, feel the consequences of low standards. So I'm really curious about your experience with that more in depth. What are the standards that you've seen? And what are the current consequences? And then how should those standards change? And then what extra benefits would there be possibly, except for eliminating the consequences or mitigating them?

Jonathan: So when I wrote the piece I had originally written the benefits and trade offs of decentralization and was expecting to combine them all into a single piece, and I realized that oh, this is getting too long. So I split them out and attempted to summarize in the app store piece, some of the ideas. And when I think about this for the extenders, which is synonymous with builders, right? WordPress has extenders, builders. WooCommerce, we say builders, but they mean the same thing.

The way that I think about it and this idea of low standards is that the upside of WordPress is also a downside here. WordPress is really flexible, there's a lot that you can do with it. And you have a lot of autonomy that comes with that, right? There's a low barrier of entry, and that low barrier of entry is where those low standards come in. It's like there are coding standards in WordPress, there's good documentation, there's tools that you can use, but you don't have to use them. And that's a good thing, right? That keeps the barrier of entry low, someone can jump in and write code and experiment. And that's great, I don't want that to go away.

The challenge, the downside or the trade off there is that it's easy to make something that's insecure or something that doesn't perform well. You'll see situations where an extender will create a plugin that they don't expect to be used in any number of different... They created it for their particular use case, it gets popular, and then suddenly it's being stretched at scale and it's like, "Oh, we didn't anticipate it being used that way." That low barrier of entry is great, it just means that there is that risk of because of WordPress being so flexible, you can tap into this, you can tap into that, you can write pretty insecure code quite quickly and that be used in production environments.

The other aspect, the other part of this is the autonomy piece, right? You can create whatever you want in WordPress. That's great, we don't want that to go away. The trade offs of that show up with compatibility. You could create something in WordPress that's a good example, right? Of it does whatever it does, and it doesn't have to think at all about any of the other extensions and plugins out there. And that can pretty quickly create situations where stuff just isn't working. You're trying to tap into the same thing that another one's trying to tap into, and there's not standard ways of doing it.

Another good example to me of the consequences of quote-unquote low standards is the current notification system in WordPress. It's very much a do what you want to do type thing. And you'll install a bunch of plugins, and they're all doing it in different ways, they're all trying to like be heard in different ways.

Noëlle: Yeah, and then you got this stacked thing in your dashboard when you log into WordPress, because some people use it well, and some people not so well.

Jonathan: And I'd say, pretty much all extenders would agree that it's not ideal, but it's like you're basically, if you're not loud and if you don't get out in people's faces, you're going to be not noticed over all the others that are, because you don't know, you don't know who's doing what. So it's this thing that just kind of keeps getting worse, and those who try to behave and follow standards it feels like they're getting penalized, because now you don't notice their stuff anymore.

Noëlle: Yeah, true that.

Bob: That's interesting because what you're saying, and it's as almost catch-22 because for some reason people will say, "In my mind, I can't really see how this would actually formulate or happen," but what you touch on there is the point that there are so many things that need to be solved. And I think that's it, and that's probably why you're doing this is... And they know that, they talk about those things all the time. I mean, especially, the extenders and stuff, that the updating and the security, all that stuff. It needs to work better, and it is finding that sweet spot.

Jonathan: The way that I think about it, so this idea of that extended experience, the consequence of low standards is two part. The first is the personal consequences where you basically have to be personally motivated to go out and understand the coding standards and make use of the tools. There are tools, there's resources available, but you have to choose to do that and care about it personally. And if you don't, you're going to face that you're going to experience the pain eventually, probably.

And then the other side is you might be following all the best practices, but one of the other consequences that you'll experience is when others don't, right? You may do best practice notifications. You'll follow all the rules, you'll think about compatibility as best you can, and then other popular plugins don't. And so, you feel the consequences of that. You're doing your best and the others aren't.

Bob: Yeah, inconsistency.

Jonathan: Yeah.

Bob: Yep. As far as extenders, somebody asked a question that was kind of interesting. He was a little bit sarcastic in one part of it, but it was kind of funny in its own way. He said, "You had been talking about under the labeled part, reinvestment for extenders. And I'm going to just read this, what he's asked, "Profit should be reinvested into better tools and support for extenders and in to improving WordPress itself for creators." And that's what you wrote in the post. And he's asking, "Does this mean that a sale of something on the app store means a portion of the revenue stream to the extender from an app store sale has to be used to improve WordPress instead of the extender using the revenue stream to buy a new automobile?" An idealistic thought.

Jonathan: Yeah. So, it's good. Actually, I like the question. Here's how I'm thinking about it today. I don't know, but I've thought about this quite a bit. The way that I'm thinking about it, and I call it out in the post this idea of 10 to 15%, being charged to extenders, here's how I'm thinking about it specifically. I think extenders, if you created something that was in this app store, my ideal here is that it would charge you a maximum of 10% is what's required. And then you could opt in to an additional 5% which would be positioned as Five for the Future.

Noëlle: Nice.

Jonathan: So that's something that you can choose. You don't have to do it if you don't want to. So to their comments specifically, if you'd rather buy a new car, that's fine. And but the idea, there's a few parts to this, is that that's a big motivating factor for me. It's how do we get more investment into the ecosystem into Five for the Future? I love the concept of Five for the Future. This will be a way for an extender to say, "Yep, I want to be in this app store. I understand I'll pay the 10%, that covers processing, distribution, there's revenue share with the hosts, et cetera. And this additional 5% is something I can choose when I opt into that contributes to the project in a public transparent way, like these are the initiatives, they can see where it's going."

And that does a couple of things. One, it gives us an opportunity to recognize those who are doing it. So my hope is that the majority would, but I'm okay. But there's opportunity for positive social pressure because I imagine a situation where their profile, or maybe in context and so this author contributes to Five for the Future, you can give them a little recognition for that. So that's a little nicety in terms of the user experience, but it also gives accountability to the project because if they don't want to, they can opt back out, right? If they think for instance they can spend that money more efficiently in their own Five for the Future initiative, they can do that. Or if they say, "No, we don't care about WordPress, we don't want to invest in the ecosystem, we want to buy new cars instead," then they can choose to do that.

And but I think the point for me is to design something in such a way where there's choice, and it has to optimize for winning based on merit, right? So to me it's like if you forced everyone to pay let's say 15%, and you said, "Five goes into this." Well, what about a situation where a company already does Five for the Future and they're doing great stuff with it, right?" Are you taxing them for it? So anyway, that's my current thinking about it, is there is going to be something that's required to cover infrastructure cost, to cover rev share.

And my ideal is that the majority would opt into something where because of its nature, there's this built in accountability, they're getting to see and what projects are being worked on, there's transparency around it. And if it ever gets to a point where they're like, "No, we don't believe in this anymore, or we want to do something on our own," they just opt out of it.

Noëlle: Yeah. And to put things into perspective, Jonathan, do you know the commission people pay when they list their app on the App Store or the Play Store or something like that?

Jonathan: Yeah. Generally it's 30%.

Noëlle: Yeah, so doesn't 10% sound super... To me, 10% sounds super reasonable. Also, everything, in dutch we have a saying, “voor niets gaat de zon op”. It means the sun goes up for free. It's like that's the only thing that's free in life. Everything costs... Surely, it must come from somewhere. It's nothing more than fair.

Jonathan: Well, my ideal here is to create something where the value proposition is so clear. First off, no one's forced to use it, right? It should be bringing significant new value in through a shared compatibility database, through distribution, through so many different things. There're so many pieces to it. And unlike other proprietary systems, there's no exclusivity to it. You can do whatever you want, you can if you want to send customers to your own system. I want to see something that wins and is ultimately ubiquitous because it was the best, not because you were forced to use it.

Bob: A couple of points there that I think of it as a beneficial option for the extenders because maybe they wanted to do this, give back in some way and they haven't been able to really figure out how to do it. You're handing them a little simpler solution. 5% isn't an arm and a leg, obviously. But instead of thinking, "Okay, I'm giving back to the WordPress project, and I've got to put some time in this, and I've got to go commit to core, and I got to do all these things." It's like, "Oh, here's an option that hey, I can live with and it's much easier." And also, as far as the automobile, I think at 5% per sale, they're going to be waiting a long time before they get that first new automobile, let alone a few of them, but that's in another point mathematically.

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And now let's head back to the show.

Bob: Let's touch onto the hosting a little bit, because this is very intriguing to me, the hosting thing, and I know you're really deep into this. And some of the comments I had seen out there, of course, some people were very negative, but essentially, I think what they're looking at is what hosts are doing right now, and almost they're bringing in, they're acquiring businesses or they're creating a more inclusive platform around their hosting for their customers. Some of these hosts probably aren't going to opt into it, there's going to be certain hosts that fit the mold better.

Jonathan: Yeah. So I think hosting is key to this for a lot of different reasons, and as I think about it, it has to be solving real problems and creating real value. Because ultimately, the vision in my mind for this, the way that it works is for hosts to say, "Yes. Yes, we want this, let's turn this on, and it's now pre-installed." So the question becomes, "Okay, well, how do you get there? What problems can you solve for a hosting provider?" And there tend to be just two categories of that. It's either you're helping them reduce costs or increase profit, increase margins, right? Hosting tends to be a fairly thin margin business.

I think there's a few pieces to keep in context. When I look at some of the big players in the space right now, leaving the acquisitions, they're trying to differentiate. But on the one hand, you could look at it as their differentiating between themselves, and sure there's a factor in that, but I think the bigger thing to keep in mind is the differentiation against the proprietary platforms. And when you look at all the resources that are going to these proprietary platforms, they have a lot of advantages because it's closed off, right? They don't have to deal with all this.

And when I take a step back and look at the future of WordPress, I think hosting providers are key to all this, and hosting providers can really do some things better. One of the things that I love looking at is you take a proprietary platform that's globally focused, right? Whether it's ecommerce or just publishing on the web, and their ambitions are to be global, right? So they'll bring multilanguage support, they'll try to work out these challenges. It's very difficult versus if you were to take a hosting provider that's already focused on a local market, that they understand the local market, they understand the language, they understand the local the needs, especially within ecommerce you have the shipping, taxes, any of those integrations.

I think a hosting provider on WordPress can build a more compelling solution than these proprietary platforms can. The challenge right now is that there's a lot of things that you're having to do on your own and figure out, right? Where it's like our ideal, if you zoom out and think about WordPress' success is that hosting providers are focused on true differentiation based on the unique needs of the audience they're serving, where today, there's a fair amount of just table stakes stuff and not a lot of incentive for hosts to really work together. Because it's like if you zoom out on us, it's like yes, we all know that we're competing against the proprietary platforms, but we don't really have time to think about helping each other, and there's even some competition amongst.

So my intent with something like this is to find the sweet spot where you're solving enough problems and creating enough value where it makes sense, there's alignment for hosts to work together. And a few examples of that are a shared compatibility database, right? Some hosts maintain their own. They'll have whitelists and blacklists of these plugins aren't a good idea and whatever, and they'll have a lot of knowledge internally about what does and doesn't work. But there's not really incentive for them to share that or to put it out there, and it's always going to be imperfect because they're limited to their own sample.

So I think there's things that you can solve across the ecosystem that provide value. Security is another good example, having security databases and API's that they can use that just abstracts things out. And I think short term, there's more benefit to the mid market and smaller hosts than the largest ones who have the more resources. So I could be wrong, and I'd be happy to be wrong. My guess is that the largest hosts are going to be less incentivized or would care less about being involved in something like this until it reaches a critical mass where they can say, "Okay, yep. It's large enough now that it makes more sense for us to align with this and contribute and receive the benefit and have our resources internally focused on different things." But that's probably not where it starts.

Bob: Yeah. I want to round this out at a point and talk more about where the next steps are and what you're thinking about as moving ahead of this. But going back to you said, you'd like to take on a challenge. And I'm kind of reiterating what they talked about, but somebody asked me, "How do you perceive Automattic playing a role with your idea?" Which you can address. And then also, a couple of people were asking, "How you really plan on getting, be stymied by .org's rules?" And I'm thinking maybe revisiting that piece of it is it's like never say never. And is that challenge kind of move into that when people ask you, "How do you perceive Automattic playing a role with your idea?" And is it more of an evolving thing as you go through this process?

Jonathan: Yeah, great question. So let's touch on both parts, Automattic and then .org, because it's different, right?

So Automattic, so let me just call it my biases, I worked 18 months at Automattic. I love Automattic. Because of its size and influence, criticism is fair, right? Yeah, there's a lot of things that Automattic does that are incredible for the project, and they're an important part of the ecosystem. So from my perspective, Automattic's involvement, there's a few ways that it's ideal. One, from a concept and just an overall concept perspective, the folks at Automattic have a lot of thoughts and ideas about this, and that's something that... These are conversations that I was bringing up internally while I was there, and I'm going to continue afterwards of, "Hey, what do you guys think about this? What do you think about that?" So just that open flow of communication.

My ideal would be for Automattic at some point to be an investor in this, to have like it's not run by Automattic, yet they're a part of what's happening. And there are a few specific thoughts I have on how that could work. I want to find a way where Automattic is benefiting from it and has aligned incentive to be a part in contributing to it.

Bob: Cool.

Jonathan: The .org side of things, I think that's an important piece. There's a few ways that I look at that. First off, it's worth calling out the .org rules, you can't have a plugin that distributes other plugins within it. So this is something that would not be distributed through .org. This is why the hosting companies are key. It would be something that's pre-installed. So the relationship with .org for this, in my mind there's two pieces to it. The first part, I think there's a lot of opportunity to improve the ranking algorithm in WordPress, like when you search for plugins or when you're going through results. And this app store provides a financial incentive to do that, to create a better algorithm around how search works in core when you're looking for something, when you're trying to find something.

And as we figure this out in the app store, I want all of that to be just available to .org. It's like, "Hey, we have people working on this. This has been figured out. Here's how this works. Here's our thoughts on a better algorithm." And just from an open source project perspective just contribute all that. And if any of its useful, the folks who work on it at .org can make use of it. The other piece of this from a relationship to .org perspective is that Five for the Future piece, where it's having funds that can go directly to scholarships for folks who are working on .org projects and who need funding, to projects that are focused on related things to this.

I think those are just ways where it's like .org can continue doing its thing, and if it's not... People may disagree, but I think there's a lot of things that work really well about how .org runs where it's this isn't about changing that, it's about contributing to it, providing resources to help the folks who volunteer on .org become more effective in what they're doing. And then ultimately channeling resources in through that 5% for the future thing to projects that just help make WordPress as an operating system better.

And so I think the relationship with .org it's like, yeah, it might never... Long term, maybe there's opportunities for there to be some direct integrations, but it's not based on that. It's like, "Hey, let's have there be a great relationship and be using this to directly benefit .org." And that's fine if that's the extent of it.

Noëlle: So one listener would like to know, they're saying the idea sounds great on paper and they're curious about this. "Obviously, you've been thinking about this for a while, what do you feel are your next steps? And realistically, can this be attained sooner rather than later? What do you think?"

Jonathan: So the immediate next steps as I see them, and I love talking about it, I'm open to any number of ways of approaching this, but this is just how I think about it today. The immediate next steps, I'm talking to hosting companies, anyone who's up for talking about it. And I'm looking to find a couple of hosting companies who say, "Yeah, we're interested in testing this out and being part of piloting this concept. And the way that I'm thinking about it is I'd like to find three or four hosts at most, and who are willing to be a test for it. And then develop an MVP, have a small team that works on that, where we take a few of the things that come up the most for each of those different audiences, hypothesize what that looks like, develop an MVP, test it.

And presuming that that goes well, that's the intent, is to optimize for that test going well, for us to be solving real problems for each of the audiences within the context of those three or four hosts. After that, that'd be a pretty bootstrapped affair. After that, the idea would be to raise money to scale, to build a bigger team and to have the resources to scale it. So it's start small, prove out that this works in a smaller subset. I mean, in my mind it's work with hosts where you can be somewhere between a million to two million sites. That it's a pretty good sample size in ideally different markets, even different locales where you can get a sense of what this would look like at scale by working with a few different ones. I would want to work with just one. And prove it out, develop an MVP, and then do so in a transparent way like, "Hey, here's what we're learning as we go about it."

Ultimately, though, to me, this is only worth doing... Well, I'll just say it, I don't mind being wrong, but it's the end game in my mind is to be at a place where around 80% of all WordPress sites are running it. There's always going to be folks who wouldn't, but the majority would be on it. And so it's you have to optimize for that path. And I don't mind being wrong about this. My feeling though, is that that's something that's worth raising money for once we've proven the concept works, so that we can speed up the timeline and put more resources into it. So that's how I'm thinking about it.

And my hope, and maybe I'm being too optimistic about it, is to spend the next couple of months working on the MVP, hypothesizing what it would look like, finding the folks who want to be a part of it, then spend the next couple of months after building it out and testing it. And all going well, I'd want to start working on scale in 2020, where it's like, "All right, now let's raise some money and take everything that we've learned and begin to put more resources into it and do it faster."

Noëlle: Well, I can say I'm definitely excited about this one. I mean, as somebody who creates WordPress websites, just the idea of a place where I can go and I just know things are compatible for example, you just, you know things have been vetted and you can hopefully, in my imagination this awesome filter comes up where you can say, "Okay, must be compatible with this, this and this," or something like that. Because you know what, I think, people build WordPress websites, they don't want to spend their time troubleshooting compatibility issues, they want to help, in my case help their clients or people who... Business owners who are building their own websites, they don't want to be dealing with this. They need to focus on other much more important things. So would be beautiful if one day that could look different than what it looks like now.

Jonathan: Ultimately, all of this in my mind is in service of empowering more creativity in WordPress. If you think about the end users and their role in this, it's we want to give them better options, because right now in WordPress there are great paid solutions that unless you know where to find them, you can't just... They're not in .org. And that's fine, but how do we give them a sustainable way of accessing those resources? And then within all the options that are available, how do you help end users make better decisions? And I feel confident if we can help them do that, then we're going to reduce friction, we're going to continue to lower the barrier of entry. And ultimately, it's all in service of how do we empower more creativity?

We want the open web to be healthy and strong. And WordPress' success as an operating system is I think a key indicator of how healthy the open web is. And I think it needs a proper app store that's done the WordPress way that takes the benefits of decentralization and strengthens them and mitigates those trade offs. And I think it's a... I don't know. I like how Matt Mullenweg thinks about WordPress in 10 years and just that longer arc. And this to me is something that... Yeah, this is a long term thing, and I'm happy with my own relationship to it to be any number of things.

If it's just my ideas, and then me synthesizing what I've heard from others, and that's useful to someone else, and they do something with it. Awesome. I'm more interested in seeing this exist. I think I can directly be a part of helping make it happen so that's what I'm going to do. I'm going to put my time and energy into that, but ultimately, I want to see it happen in a way that's as good for the ecosystem as possible. And yeah, I'm all in on WordPress. So I'm excited to see what happens next.

Bob: The key point I'm taking from this is that on the premium side of things, posting, extensions, all that stuff, is looking at that 80%, and I know that is something you have set in your head but it's not going to be the optimal or nothing's proven quite yet, is consistency. I mean, if you think of 80% of the users have this consistency of when they're using premium plugins and hosting is centralized, I don't know, it's a comfort zone. It's almost like, "Wow, everybody's kind of here doing this now instead of us all going off in different directions." And it just seems long term, it just-

Jonathan: There's confidence. There's a confidence that comes from it.

Bob: Yeah, it is. And then of course, WordPress would benefit from that.

Jonathan: And I think it's worth saying too that I think this is especially important within the WooCommerce ecosystem, within ecommerce generally, because for people who are building businesses, they're dealing with revenue income, there's a lot more at stake and that confidence is even more important, right? You want to know that your stuff works together. You want to know that the plugins work with each other. You want to have that confidence in the decisions that you're making. And I think this is an important piece of that.

How do you give confidence to the store owners, the merchants who are building? And for builders who are creating for them, it's like you know this matters. The stuff that you're making is going to... Is an important part of these small businesses and larger businesses that are going into ecommerce. And you want to know that yeah, it's compatible. That you're following best practices, that you're making things as smooth for the customers that you're serving as possible. And I think all of this can help with that.

Bob: Yeah. Well, wow, I'm excited. I've known about this idea a little bit before. And I know my confidence in Jonathan, something's going to get the ball rolling in one way or another. And I hope you stay involved with that. I know you're open to however it leads. You bring a lot to the table on this and I think that you have the attitude and the challenge. You're willing to take on the challenge. And yeah, I'm excited about it. People want to talk to you about this. There might be some people out there that have some ideas or want to reach out or this is generating some thoughts and questions or whatever. What do you think is the best way for them to reach out to you?

Jonathan: However you'd like. If you go to and contact, I got all my information there. Twitter's great. You can email me. You can send me a text message. Any number of things. I've had a few folks reach out since I wrote it and it's been, yeah, it's been fantastic. I'm in a stage right now where I am thinking specifically about the next steps, and I'm still and I want to always be open to what am I missing? What are the pieces of this puzzle that I haven't considered, right? One of my strengths is to take a bunch of input and synthesize it to here's what these things have in common. And I'm looking for things that I haven't considered, like what are the pieces that I’m missing.

So yeah, if you have ideas, if you're hearing this and like, "That's great, and what about this?" I'd love to hear that. And/or if you're interested in being a part or maybe you're already working on some aspect of this, I want to see it happen. And that's what I'm optimizing for. And whatever role that I can play in helping it happen, that's the role that I'm happy to play.

Noëlle: I love that.

Bob: Excellent. All righty. Well, this has been fantastic. Always great to have a co-host on with a co-host and another co-host. Three co-hosts, one is a guest. That's confusing. Do remember to check out our pod friends Nexcess and WooFunnels. I really appreciate their support. You can check them out, and

Jonathan, it was great having you on. I'm excited about this and appreciate you sharing the initial thoughts on this. And I'm sure we'll be hearing a lot more about this because it's important I think to keep on top of this, and that's why I want to bring it to Do the Woo. As you pointed out, we didn't talk a lot about WooCommerce specifically, but hey, we talked about WordPress and this all plays right into it. So excellent stuff. And thank you for taking an extra slot on the podcast and joining us as a guest.

Jonathan: Thanks for having me.