Plugin Analytics = Pluginalytics

Is WordPress really that popular? I mean, 37% of the entire internet is running WordPress. That’s a lot of websites. A shocking number of websites. Nearly 500 million websites! It’s time for some WordPress Plugin Research.

First of all, it is important to note that I long ago abandoned WordPress. In the years since I’ve not missed it and seeing all of the security failures just confirmed in my mind what a good decision it was. Yet I find my self questioning the decision because 500 million websites can’t all be wrong…

So I installed WordPress on a DigitalOcean droplet and got to work trying to build a website the WordPress way. And immediately I rediscovered why I hate it so much.

Batteries not included

If you manage to get it installed, which is not for the faint of heart, you end up with a really awful website out of the box. It’s full of demo content and default features that nobody new to the system wants or understands. What’s a “post”? What’s a “page”? Why “categories” and “tags”? Comments turned on out of the box? Who in their right mind in wants to invite spam and troll armies to ruin their site?

The chore list of cleanup tasks is enormous and unwelcome. The learning curve is steep and the jargon is unclear.

Plainly, the out of box experience is one of regret and disappointment. I just wanted a quick way to build a nice website and instead I get an impenetrable array of admin menus and nerd knobs.

Too late to turn back…

Assuming you manage to stick with it and tough it out there is some light somewhere down that dark tunnel: a Plugin and Theme ecosystem.

It’s not terribly difficult to browse the various themes and plugins and assemble a Frankenstien out of the spare parts provided by some well meaning developers. They are free, but most have paid features for the things you really want. A kind of tease. A bait and switch. Not good, but tolerable.

As your website slowly comes to life it’s no thanks to WordPress. The credit goes to the WordPress plugin developers who’ve built the missing pieces and bolted on solutions to fix the unworkable core product.

It’s the point of the story where my mind asked “Who are these developers?” and “Why do they bother?”

The birth of metapult

Upon closer inspection it seems to me that WordPress is still anchored in old school PHP design thinking which many developers have moved away from. Me and my developer peers have enjoyed the comforts of Laravel, Rails, Node and React to name a few. In fact I believe the reason WordPress got left behind is that the developers who could have done wonderful things to improve it simply abandoned the space to go do other things.

The core WordPress product is not about features at all. They could have included batteries but instead the focus appear to be entirely about making the core infinitely customizable. They built it not for the customer but for the customer’s developers. Plugin Developers. Theme Developers.

I saw the best minds of our generation writing spam filters.

 – Neal Stephenson

WordPress Plugin Research

Who are the developers making it possible for 37% of the internet to operate? I built a tool to answer the question and it turns out we relying on the efforts of only 33,018 WordPress plugin developers. Actually only 12,376 developers if we filter out developers with no activity in the past year.

How do I know it’s only 12,376 developers? The metapult Pluginalytics engine helped me measure the opportunity here. More insights show where the real problems are:

  • 600+ developers added a brand new Plugin this month
  • Only 6% manage to gain attention though
  • The 95th Percentile activation rate on these new plugins is only 27%.
  • The 85th Percentile activation rate is 0%

downloads per day
6% achieve 10 or more downloads per day

It’s quite disturbing to think that 600 developers launched something new this month and 85% of it was ignored. There is an opportunity in here somewhere. What at the top 6% doing right? How can metapult help developers gain traction and the rewards for their efforts? Today we begin to look for the answers to these questions.

metapult is where WordPress Plugin Research happens.


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