Has the ClassicPress fork of WordPress taken a wrong turn?

ClassicPress has recently been making headlines within the WordPress community – it’s a fork of WordPress which doesn’t include Gutenberg. Personally, I didn’t get it – you can just as easily install the standard WordPress Core and use the Classic Editor plugin to turn Gutenberg off.

But I have nothing against forks, per se, as Gary Pendergast (Pento) recently wrote, they are a much needed thing within the open source community. However, Pento put it succinctly when he said…

ClassicPress has styled itself as a protest against Gutenberg

However, recent proposals for ClassicPress now make me wonder what their aim really was and whether they’ve made a turn for the worst.

Disclaimer: I work for Automattic but the views above are my own, based on being a WordPress Core contributor, developer and user for over 10 years.

Let me explain… ClassicPress have announced that removal of Gutenberg from WordPress is going to be Phase 1. But Phase 2 is going to be further change and, looking at their list, it does look like their priority is removing features that some people don’t like…

  • Remove the “Hello Dolly” plugin
  • Remove the Akismet plugin
  • Remove Emojis
  • Remove XML-RPC specification
  • Disable Gravatar by default

It just feels like angry old men not liking change (and I can say that – their current committee is just a list of (white?) men. Indeed, right now, they entire contributor base is).

Let’s not forget, that they are going to be relying on the resources of the Core WordPress team, for example the security team, to ensure WordPress is maintained – they then need to merge those changes into their fork, which leads to delays to security updates and bug fixes to those relying on ClassicPress. The more changes they make to their fork, the harder this will be and the more delayed any update will become.

And changes aren’t just for PHP – their list of proposed ClassicPress “features” include more than just removing or switching things off. And some of these are likely to cause all sorts of problems.

This includes changes to the REST API, moving menus about and added support for additional database systems. As a developer, it’s a potential nightmare – I certainly have no intention for my plugins to support multiple forks but if I use the REST API, for example, that may be required for it to work with ClassicPress. A fork is one thing, but this is actually fracturing WordPress into different products. I hope they’ll have the support resources in place for dealing with the inevitable issues this will cause.

But some of these proposals just aren’t particularly well thought out either – the removal of XML-RPC, for example. I wonder if they fully appreciate what the consequence of this would be – right now, they seem to think it will just affect Jetpack.

I did, at least, get their initial intention – WordPress without Gutenberg. Now, though, they seem to be moving towards their own version of WordPress, viewed through the eyes of a small number of people. And those signing up for ClassicPress may not realise it is more than just a Gutenbergless WordPress. For those considering it, I would ask that you think carefully before committing.

To quote Pento’s final line…

I hope they’ll find their voice for something, instead of just against something.

Sadly, it doesn’t feel like this. Although they have found a voice, it’s more of being ‘against’ things.

What many fail to realise is that all of these decisions made about Core, whether it’s which minimum version of PHP to use or what to do with the REST API, is made by a large number of volunteers, with much discussion and insight. If the final outcome is not what you, ideally, wanted then you should feel pretty comfortable that it was, at least, for good reason. Core decisions are not made by a small number of people using a poll. I know which version I would prefer, even if the final outcome is not my personal preference.

Posted by David Artiss

Enterprise Happiness Engineer for the WordPress VIP team at Automattic. Gamer, film lover and general fan of all things Marvel, Star Trek and Star Wars. Failed comedian. Writer for The Big Tech Question. World's Greatest Grandma.

2 Replies to “Has the ClassicPress fork of WordPress taken a wrong turn?”

  1. I wish you had reached out to me before writing this article – there are a number of inaccuracies, fundamental misunderstandings and straw-man points written here. This is in part our fault for not having enough information on our website, and it’s something I’m working to address as quickly as possible.

    RE: misunderstandings. For example, you write about “their list” when referring to our public suggestion site. This isn’t “our list” – these are suggestions made by the general public. Anyone, yourself included, can go and make a suggestion there. If a suggestion gains enough support it will be opened to a community vote.

    RE: inaccuracies: For example, you write that we will be relying on WordPress resources for security updates. Not true – we have our own security team who are looking to address issues that have been raised privately. Of course, we will be keeping up to date with other patches and bug fixes, it would be odd note to on an opensource fork.

    RE: straw-men points: For example, you write that we are angry white men. Our community is open for all – anybody can join in and help us grow. Why bring race and age into this?

    It’s sad to see this article, and I hope others will dig a bit deeper under the surface to discover the truth behind this project. In the meantime, we’ll keep working hard to make ClassicPress a truly democratic fork of WordPress.


    1. Thanks for reaching out Scott.

      I didn’t contact you first as this was my own view, written on a personal blog. If this was for more serious journalistic endeavours, I would certainly have contacted you first. I stand by my original post content, although I’ve corrected the “angry men” part, as I’d actually written that incorrectly. It was a joking reference to the “angry old man” trope.


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