One of the coolest podcasts I listen to is WordPress Weekly, hosted by WP Tavern. I build web sites primarily in WordPress, so it's refreshing to have someone else research the newest features and plug-ins for me. I like to stay abreast of the plans for WordPress development, too. It makes it easier for me to deliver new content and site designs to my clients, so they can make the best use of the Internet as a marketing tool.
This past episode of WordPress Weekly carried an interesting question: Is WordPress becoming "bloatware?" By bloatware I mean a piece of software so bogged down with features that it fails to deliver on its core competency. WordPress was originally developed to run blogs. Later, it was extended to manage semi-static websites as well. Now, with plug-ins and optional features, you can even run social networking sites and community forums on WordPress.
The problem is that many of these optional features are being integrated into the core of WordPress. There is an integrated blog importer. A built-in media gallery. Threaded comment functions. There are even built-in functions that people don't know about (you can see them when working directly with the code). WordPress is a powerful tool, but it is steadily drifting from the simplicity on which is was built into a realm where a shiny new platform could much more easily steal its market share.
I'm actually building a completely custom CMS for a client because, well, WordPress has more features than they will ever need. Basically, WordPress is so feature-rich that it would confuse, disrupt, and otherwise frustrate my client. I'm sure this is not what the WordPress team had in mind when they released version 2.7.1, but with every iteration of the code, they take one step closer to alienating their own support base. If I can't refer my clients to WordPress, then I'll probably be among the first to scout a new platform.
WordPress is in a tricky situation. It's the old cliche - if you try to be everything for everyone, you'll end up being nothing for no one. In their attempt to be more inclusive, WordPress is slowly distancing itself from its most loyal users and will ultimately erode the core of its clientele. So think on this very specific example, for a moment, and reflect on your own brand. Are you a car company experimenting with designer colognes? Are you a computer manufacturer developing a new line of bed sheets?
What is your core competency? How far can you reasonably walk from the center of that bull's eye without losing focus? Is your brand becoming the equivalent of "bloatware" in your industry? What can you do to fix the problem?