WordPress Plugins Are Dead

iOS and Android have forever changed what people expect from their technology. For the most part, however, that wave of expectations hasn’t hit the WordPress community.

Sure, WordPress itself functions a lot like iOS and Android in a platform/app context… But, most of its plugins don’t.

That is changing.

And, in this new world… you’re either a plaform or an app… but you’re NEVER a plugin.

App vs Platform

iOS is a platform. Android is a platform. WordPress is a platform. Evernote is an app. Gmail is an app. SmartS3 is an app. Platforms are the operating system. Apps are the software that run on them.

And, what’s changing (where you need to be headed if develop a WordPress plugin) is users are beginning to expect your app (plugin) to be a platform.

We see a lot of plugins in WordPress. What we don’t see a lot of is plugins that have their own plugins.

The main difference between a platform and an app is how much of an infrastructure is in place for your software to be developed on top of.

We’ve seen some of this with WooThemes and what they’re doing with WooDojo. We’ve seen some with Gravity Forms and their “apps” market.

But, they’re few and far between… and the ones that exist are just in the early stages of development.

It’s not just about what “hooks” you have in your plugin. That is important (it NEEDS to be there)… but it’s also about:

  • What kind of delivery system do you have in place to deliver apps developed on your platform?
  • What kind of support do you offer developers?
  • Have you created a marketplace for developers to sell apps in an integrated way?
  • Do you have the back-end infrastructure in place to support all of this and make it easy for customers to use?

Who would you rather be? Apple selling millions of its platform largely due to its apps… earning a piece of the pie for every app sold on its platform or the app-maker earning solely based on what you yourself can develop?

Even more… and this is so absolutely critical to get… in a community like WordPress’ where many plugin authors are in direct competition with one another, do you think you can continue to stay viable when your competitors are thinking like Apple and you’re still thinking like Doodle Jump?

Not a “there’s always room for everybody” situation… but a you’re in direct competition with someone acting like Apple… building platforms with a full-blown marketplaces behind them… aimed squarely at running you out of business?

Who do you think wins?

What We Should Be Doing

For context, here’s my mindset…

I think of WordPress as a Content Management Platform. WishList Member is a WordPress plugin, but I see it as a Content Monetization Platform.

It sits on top of WordPress and exposes content monetization services to WordPress itself and to the apps developed on top of it.

That’s what our API is for.

But, in our little world, I think we need to go further.

I’ve gone to the point of being annoying about…

  • Integrating WishList Member deeper into WordPress… especially interface-wise.
  • Adding more and more ways for developers to interact with WLM (especially, hooks in our admin interface)
  • Upgrading, testing, re-working, documenting, etc our API.

All of this will become critical with what comes next. What comes next is what makes a plugin a platform whether you like it or not. What comes next is what makes it almost impossible for a competitor to beat you.

What comes next is what premium WordPress plugins 5-10 years from now will HAVE to be in order to even compete… let alone win.

So, what comes next?

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John Morris

JOHN MORRIS

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