Automattic, the company behind WordPress, has announced a wonderful new plugin for self-hosted WordPress.org blogs. Matt Mullenweg, the inventor of WordPress, has enthused about it, calling it
what’s been a dream of mine for several years now … the vision I had for WordPress when I first founded Automattic five years ago finally coming to fruition.
This wonder is called Jetpack, promoted as:
Jetpack supercharges your self‑hosted WordPress site with the awesome cloud power of WordPress.com.
In other words, Jetpack allows bloggers like me who self-host our blogs access to some extra features previously available only for those who host their blogs at WordPress.com. Details of Jetpack can also be found at the WordPress plugins directory.
Hold on – where has Jetpack been announced? There is nothing about this on the WordPress News blog, where I would expect to see a mention of a significant advance like this one. It is not mentioned in the “plugins” box on my dashboard, as it is currently neither the newest nor the most popular plugin, and there is no link there to a broader plugin search page.
The only announcement I can find is on the WordPress.com users’ blog, in a post Boost your self-hosted WordPress with Jetpack. Not surprisingly this announcement confused many of its intended readers, bloggers who do not self-host their blogs but prefer to host them at WordPress.com, as this plugin is not useful and not available for them.
So how did I find out about this? Recently I had been making good use of the WordPress.com Stats plugin, also from Automattic, to track the now again growing number of visitors to this site. This morning that plugin suddenly stopped working. After a complex search of support forums I found that I needed to disable WordPress.com Stats and install Jetpack.
This process quite quickly restored the stats I was looking for, although the Incoming Links box is broken – it now shows only .links from 2009 pointing to an old address for this blog. I also gained some other nice looking functionality, including the Share button now on each post and page (click to share on Facebook or Twitter, or by e-mail, or to print the post). So I am not complaining about Jetpack as a product, only about how it was introduced.
What had happened? It seems that the stats plugin had been deliberately disabled because users were expected to switch over to Jetpack. The Jetpack FAQ notes that
As we upgrade each of our individual plugins to be a part of Jetpack, we’ll prompt you to switch over to the new, Jetpack-powered version.
Fair enough. But I was not prompted to switch over. Also the old, disabled, WordPress.com Stats plugin is not only still available with no warning message, but also one of the six featured plugins on the plugins directory home page!
What’s going on? Is there some kind of power struggle here between a WordPress.com group anxious to get their nice new features into self-hosted blogs, and a WordPress.org group who don’t want their boat rocked? Is one group deliberately sabotaging the other, by disabling the other’s stats, in order to get its way? Or is this simply a case of a company of techies not having a clue about marketing?
Sorry, WordPress and Automattic, but your Jetpack “blast-off” looks to be something of a disaster, at least in terms of public relations. You need to sort out this mess right away, by clearly announcing Jetpack to your self-hosted users and properly explaining the necessary upgrade paths. If not you will find your Jetpack powering WordPress straight back into the ground.