I have really enjoyed learning to use WordPress this semester. It’s intuitive, clean, and pretty customisable. It was interesting to hear in today’s lecture, ‘Revisiting WordPress’ (week 6) that WordPress has such an ‘open source monopoly’, and I wondered how this came about and what it means for user agency.
WordPress is, according to Technorati’s 2010 ‘State of the Blogosphere’ report, the most popular blog hosting service, being used by 40% if all people who responded to the survey. 78% of respondents also reported that cost was the most important factor in their decision-making process about which blogging host to choose (Sobel, 2010). This is the first reason I believe that WordPress is so effective. It is a free, quality service, that is accessible to so many people.
Not only is it accessible due to its cost-free nature, but it allows, as Helmond argues, users to write “posts in a graphical user interface” which is “less complex than directly writing posts in a database” (Helmond 2007). This is one of a number of features that makes WordPress so accessible to the average person. It helps you to create stunning, professional-looking blogs with minimal effort.
Indeed, website creation used to be limited to those with program coding experience. WordPress has now however created an even playing field for web users, giving more people a voice than ever before. With a homogenised website for the creation of blogs, even the skills of blog creation are easier to share. For example you can google any WordPress problems you may have, and there are a wealth of forums discussing them.
Thus, with technical hurdles out of the way, it is far easier to connect with web and express yourself, with information-sharing more democratised than ever before.
Sure, we aren’t able to get into the nitty-gritty coding of our blogs, but I don’t see this as a big loss. I would argue that while the masked database leaves us with less user agency individually, it counteracts this negativity by the fact that it has brought more individuals into the world of blogging than there would have been otherwise. This is most certainly a positive thing. As Paul Graham puts it in his piece on Web 2.0:
“The most dramatic example of Web 2.0 democracy is not in the selection of ideas, but their production…the top links on Reddit [for example] are generally links to individual people’s sites rather than to magazine articles or news stories.”
I don’t have any objections to it having a monopoly over other blogging sites. I feel like our access to the blogosphere is streamlined now that we mostly all use the same blog host. I applied for a new job recently for example where I may need to help manage the website. And guess what? They use WordPress. Thank god!
I hope that there will always be alternate sites so as to encourage competition, forever prompting the dominant sites to be innovative and efficient. At the end of the day though, having standard forms of blogging helps individuals to make sense of the sprawling mass of information available on the World Wide Web, and better facilitate them to create a systematic and accessible online identity for themselves.
Graham, P. (2005, November). Wed 2.0. Retrieved June 1, 2011, from Paul Graham: http://www.paulgraham.com/web20.html
Helmond, A. (2007), ‘Software-engine relations’ in Blogging for Engines: Blogs Under the Influence of Software-Engine Relations, Amsterdam, Netherlands: University of Amsterdam
Sobel, J. (2010, November 5). HOW: Technology, Traffic, and Revenue- Day 3 SOTB 2010. Retrieved June 1, 2011, from Technorati: http://technorati.com/blogging/article/how-technology-traffic-and-revenue-day/