25% market share for WordPress won’t buy the credibility we want

In May of this year (2015), something changed and almost no one talked about it. Chrome, the internet browser from Google, finally crossed over the 25% line for market share.

This past week, WordPress did the same. And many folks wrote about it. Good articles. Interesting articles. And excitement to see it grow far past 25%.

In there, across several articles and comments, one theme I read stuck out to me. Mind you, many other points were made. But this is the one I want to address.

“This gives enterprises more reason to take WordPress seriously.”

Here's why 25% market share for WordPress won't buy the credibility we want

Since 1995 I've been working on hosted software—software that today is called Software as a Service (SaaS). Back then we talked about it as applications in the browser. But the name isn't relevant. The audience is.

Because all of the applications I worked on were built for enterprises.

  • Conference reservation systems
  • Asset management systems
  • Knowledge management systems
  • Auction and eCommerce systems
  • Billing, rating, and inventory systems
  • Maintenance and workforce automation systems
  • Workflow systems for travel and telecommunications

There's a lot I don't know. There's a lot I can't do. But over the past twenty years, I feel pretty confident in my opinions about how enterprises think when it comes to software.

I do know about that. I can talk about that.

Mind you, these are the same companies that have given Internet Explorer over 50% market share (which is why they didn't care about the 25% market share of Chrome).

And what I can tell you is that the 25% market share that WordPress has today won't get us what we're hoping for.

Here's an example I hope makes sense

paypalaccounts

Look at this chart that highlights a company's growth in terms of customer adoption, over the last five years, from 84 million to over 170 million. That's a nice curve and 173 million active registered accounts is nothing to sneeze at.

In general, this is the kind of data that makes people feel good. We say, “Wow, that's great growth,” or “Hey, you have a nice base of customers.”

If I told you that this was a financial player that had a huge market share, in comparison to other new and entrenched players, it would only make it sweeter.

But you know who won't be interested, just because the numbers are nice? Enterprise companies.

Because it's not just numbers. It's the “who” of the numbers.

The chart above is PayPal's growth. And PayPal represents a market – the consumer – that doesn't make an enterprise suddenly decide that they should change payment gateways.

Growth and percentages of market share only count if you're talking about a market that is interested in the audience you're addressing.

When it comes to financial services and payment processing, an enterprise wants to know what its peers are using, not what I use when I buy something on Etsy.

So what does WordPress need to do to tackle the enterprise?

When enterprises, companies like banks for example, think about WordPress, they still think about it as blog software. I know we don't like that characterization, but it's true. Because, like with most things in the enterprise space, old narratives are hard to unseat.

WordPress did come from a blogging background. And to step into competition with Enterprise Content Management, it needs to do more than boast that it can power magazines, media sites and newspapers. Because those, regardless of how well they scale, still don't always represent the needs of an enterprise organization.

So while 25% market share is great, and while having case studies from WordPress VIP is awesome, the real challenge we face is the need to create solutions (features, if you will) that are attractive to enterprise organizations.

Compliance-related features

Having worked for almost a decade in compliance-related industries, I know I'm biased. But my bias doesn't reduce the reality of the situation. Organizations today have several dynamics when it comes to publishing that they have to be careful about. They need to know who published content, when they published it, how long it was available online, when it was removed, and by whom. More importantly, records must be kept – and not stored on the server and it the WordPress database.

Content creation workflow

I work for a professional services organization that builds WordPress solutions for enterprises. I know we're not the only ones who have to build complex infrastructure to manage the business processes related to content creation. Companies need to know that their workflow routines (from simple review and authorization) to more complicated processes can be supported.

Sunrise and sunset features allow organizations to determine not only when content is published, but when it must come down from the site. This doesn't sound like content (the publishing metadata) but when you realize that teams of people are doing this, in bulk, and you need to track (again) who does it, and when—it becomes a part of the creation workflow routines.

Imaging & document management

We worked on a project where our client would upload an image and it would need to be resized into 35 different formats for different uses (both on the site and for its own customers to download). Sometimes we think of that as image processing. But I'm talking about something different.

I'm talking about creating or capturing business images as part of a business routine. Most people think of this, in old school terms, as document management systems.

The reality is that enterprise systems create content as much as they collect it. So if you've built a form-based approach to collect data, and it needs to output a PDF for others to sign, does your system create an image of that PDF, add a barcode, and store the data (of that PDF) somewhere so that when it's scanned again, it can link the new scan to the old image?

Talking about document management, we have versioning of posts, which is awesome. But we need more. I know most people hate SharePoint. I get that. And I don't love it (at Crowd Favorite we recently had to integrate with it and I was flooded with memories all over again). But the normal check-in / check-out and “locking” that comes with SharePoint is something we should look at.

Personalization

A current project I'm working on has personalization features embedded into it. I wish we hadn't had to create a lot of new features just for this client. But the reality is that this is still an area where WordPress has room to grow. Thankfully, we were able to demonstrate enough that the client was ready to leave Oracle's ECM solution.

When a client's customer arrives on their site and navigates to different pages, are they tracked? Does the content shift or change based on their previous visit? Do the forms they see change, and collect different data, based on previous input? If they were presented with a phone number, price or account rep, is that data stored and presented consistently every time they arrive?

These are the questions our client asked. And this is not a unique challenge that only they face.

Does all of this negate the achievement of 25% market share?

The good news is that the 25% market share (and consistent growth) says we still have an opportunity to be relevant to enterprises. It's not like we're shrinking and struggling.

And let's be clear—the enterprise is only one specific space and many people (and companies) won't care about it at all. That's a legit perspective. I think WordPress can continue to grow in dominance without every going up market

But personally, I would love to see it go up market. And to that end, I share this opinion not to negate any of what's already been accomplished, but to challenge those who are interested. Because when you step into the enterprise space, there's a lot of fun puzzles to solve.

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Chris Lema
Chris Lema has been working with WordPress since 2005. Over the years he's been a blogger, a speaker at WordCamps, a coach for WordPress product companies, and the founder of the conference for WordPress business owners, called CaboPress. Today he's the VP of Products at Liquid Web, where he manages the world's first managed platform for WooCommerce stores.

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