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 the trope of angry men not liking change (and I can at least say that they are men – their current committee is just a list of (white?) men. Indeed, right now, if feels like their 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.

9 responses

  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.

      1. When I read this “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, if feels like their entire contributor base is).” you pissed me off.

        WTF? Talk tech. Talk dev. Talk the code. But to spiral into the melatonin in my skin made me boil and immediately move into an emotional place where I could no longer take what was written seriously, which is how I started. Good job. Stupid move.

        And btw, old woman here… white.. take me down for it, OK?

        1. Hi Sunni. You were not listed on the site or appear to be part of the ClassicPress Github repo, forum or Slack instance (although the forum has only been added since). If you were a contributor at the time I wrote the post, then I apologise for generalising incorrectly.

        2. After some thought Sunni, I have decided not to publish your later reply.

          You didn’t answer my question as to where you were contributing in the project at the time I wrote this post but, instead, continued to attack me for highlighting the lack of inclusion with this project. And that is not something I will ever apologise for – if ClassicPress is to be successful, it needs to be built on firm foundations. You then made derogatory remarks about the WordPress project (the code and success of which ClassicPress is trying to built upon).

          As for being “agist”, my original mention of “angry old men” was, as I explained to Scott, a reference to the “angry old men” trope. I changed it, though, as no offence was intended. I’m a white, old male myself.

  2. […] erstmals einen Fork des beliebten CMS: ClassicPress . Einige Diskussionen dazu finden sich z.B. hier oder […]

  3. […] this point you may be thinking that everyone who hates Gutenberg are just backwards-looking angry old men who hate change, and that moving off WordPress is a massive overreaction. Especially as it’s just the post […]

  4. “their current committee is just a list of (white?) men”. This sentence in itself isn’t so bad (I get where you’re coming from, inequality ‘n’all that, which sucks), however it being placed after the context of “angry old men” really made me feel uneasy. There’s a lot of stereotyping going on in this post. I don’t normally comment about stuff like this, and I class myself as quite a liberal person (this is your blog, say what you want), but I just wanted to say that you haven’t painted a good picture of yourself here. You may wish to revisit with a follow up post some day. It kinda feels like big scary Automattic employees taking a jab at people that have a different stance.

    (I don’t use ClassicPress)

    1. Hi Phil,

      I’d badly worded that sentence, to be honest, and didn’t reflect what I meant – I’ve now re-worded it (but kept your quote in your comment, so the original context is not lost) to make it clearer. I felt that they were a stereotype (rather than me trying to make them one), which was actually hurting what they were trying to do. I do fully support the idea of forking WordPress but I felt that this was a clumsy attempt to do so. However, this was written over a year ago, so things may have changed since then – as you say, I may revisit one day.

      However, a blog is a living documentation – it’s timestamped and reflects views of that time. Will I revisit? It’s unlikely as I received abuse from various people at the time and even turned off commenting on this post for a while, as a result.

      As an Automattician our creed is to embrace open source in all its ways but equally we acknowledge how important communication and free-speech is – ClassicPress is not a competitor to WordPress.com, so there is no conflict of interest here and, as I mentioned in the opening of my post, I fully support forks of WordPress.

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