I made a curious discovery courtesy of Nate Hoffelder, and it involves Wix.
Wix is in the vanguard of the “do it yourself” web design builders that have sprung up in the past decade. I’ve never been a fan of this business model because it’s somewhat misleading; Wix, Squarespace and other services don’t offer websites so much as landing pages hosted on specific servers. Rather than being able to control your content directly through a file transfer protocol with perhaps a content management system installed on it, Wix and Squarespace essentially have you entirely dependent on their own servers.
In some ways it’s similar to what happened when Facebook heavily promoted pages as alternatives to websites. Businesses flocked to Facebook, foregoing websites entirely in some ways, not realizing that tethering yourself to an external company for your livelihood can have disastrous repercussions, as many Facebook page owners are now seeing.
The Wix system in particular where you can drag-and-drop anything anywhere means that Wix sites generally has been noted to have bloated coding, which means slower loading times for your site. It also uses AJAX generated coding, which means that URLs with hashbangs (#!) are automatically redirected to “clean” URLs (ex: website.com/contact). Though this redirect allows you to have control over how your URLs look, it almost certainly adversely impacts load speed.
Instead, we’re going to talk about a very bizarre decision on the part of Wix. Wix, despite actively competing with WordPress, is using the WordPress platform for its company blog. Nate mentioned this to me, and sure enough, the source code clearly pointed to WordPress, something another friend of mine corroborated as well.
lol they do pic.twitter.com/51TaQENUAu
— Jeremy Jackson (@jeremyjackson89) January 26, 2018
On its own this wouldn’t be unusual. Massive companies use WordPress all the time, if not for their entire frontend website than at least their blog. Big companies tend to have dedicated writers and it does make sense to give separate CMS access to people who aren’t developers. Unlike many of those other companies, however, Wix has its own blogging software that it promotes heavily, above and beyond its resources on how to link a WordPress blog to a Wix site. Wix, presumably, is billing the Wix Blog as the better alternative to the WordPress blog in the same vein of how it promotes its services as superior to those of WordPress.
So is this a subtle concession by Wix that WordPress is a better platform? Not necessarily, but it does highlight the big weakness of Wix and other proprietary, closed-door websites: Their inflexibility. Presumably the Wix Blog couldn’t be connected with the actual Wix website in the same way that WordPress is. I’ll grant that this is largely irrelevant issue to your average small business owner but it highlights a crucial weakness with DIY website builders. It’s also pretty telling that in search of a content management system to use for a blog Wix immediately identified their foremost competitor and never bothered with any kind of internal system.
What I take issue with is that WordPress, despite having a paid blogging platform in the form of WordPress.com, is open sourced and available to the public free of charge. You can download WordPress at no cost right now. It does seem a bit like Wix is trying to have their cake and eat it by using WordPress software while also building a paid competitor.
Wix’s history has had a slightly gauche habit of charging for free services packed into a marginally more convenient form. You need to use one of their premium plans to use an online store (despite there being a variety of online stores you can set up for free) and at one pointy you needed a premium account to use Google Analytics, also a free service courtesy of Google.
I also wouldn’t be pointing this out if Wix hadn’t already been caught with its hand in the cookie jar. A few years back WordPress creator Matt Mullenweg wrote a blog post accusing Wix of copying WordPress’s mobile editor to use for Wix while failing to even give proper attribution and adhere to the general public license (GPL) — basically, to open source the work. Based on other tech sites’ reporting this accusation had merit. Of course, using open source code itself isn’t the issue, but as VentureBeat notes:
He says it’s not that he minds anyone borrowing the work for themselves, but that it’s important to abide by both the letter and the spirit of the GPL — essentially to pay it forward. It’s through this principle that WordPress’ creator says the platform has been able to flourish. WordPress now powers 25 percent of the web, including VentureBeat, which it has for more than a decade.
Mullenweg puts it this way: “If you want to close the door on innovation, Wix, that’s your decision to make — just write your own code. If you’re going to join the open source community, play by the open source rules.”
It’s also worth pointing out out that in continuing this strange theme of Wix seeming to piggyback off of WordPress at every opportunity while charging services, Mullenweg’s article points out that Wix’s name used to be WixPress, which is where this trend starts getting shameless.
So let’s recap: Wix, a paid subscription-based service employing closed door architecture, has a noted history of borrowing liberally from its foremost competitor, which is open source and freely available. This has led to a bizarre situation where Wix is freely using the blog of its own competitor. If you’re weighing Wix versus WordPress, consider the fact that one is using the other in lieu of its own blogging platform.