Once upon a time, the powers that be said it would be cool to see WordPress remove a feature with every new release. Since that time we’ve removed links. We’ve made steps to remove post by email.
But that’s about it.
The goal was to allow individual site customization by way of plugins. WordPress would become, in a sense, the operating system upon which collections of plugins ran. A theme (or set of themes) then allowed site administrators to customize the display to fit their personal brand.
Unfortunately, that future didn’t go very far. We did still focus on fleshing out the plugin experience, though.
The epitome of everything opposite of this drive to pare WordPress down to a barebone feature set was Jetpack by Automattic. It initially started as a bundle of plugins meant to smooth out the publication experience for new self-hosted publishers moving away from WordPress.com.
It began to add more and more features as the Automattic team brought other projects into the fold, though. Today, Jetpack bundles 33 discrete features, each of which could ship (and in many cases has shipped) as a separate WordPress plugin.
In addition to free, self-hosted features, Jetpack also serves as a gateway to a handful of premium, Automattic-hosted capabilities. VaultPress backs up the system and proactively scans for security vulnerabilities. VideoPress powers advanced video hosting and distribution services.
These features are only the beginning of what Jetpack will eventually do.
The argument for removing features from WordPress was to prevent the software from becoming too bloated. Some features have a very limited user base, and the objective of the core project is to appeal to and solve problems for the majority of users. A common guiding principle for vetting new features: if the feature will be used by fewer than 90% of editors, it probably belongs in a plugin.
Jetpack, as a plugin maintained independently of WordPress core, has no such guiding principle. New features are baked into the product with every release, whether they serve the majority of users or not. 1
Many would argue that Jetpack has taken up the mantle of becoming WordPress’ form of bloatware. The question remains, is this a trend that will be embraced by other plugins? Or will the community that’s worked to keep WordPress fast and light take up the charge to streamline the plugin ecosystem as well?
If we do work for slimmer plugins, how will this affect the growth and development of Jetpack?
- At the time of this writing, I was only using 16 of the 33 available features on this site. ↩