The WordPress-Apple Paradox

As a long time member of the WordPress community, I go to a lot of WP meetups, WordCamps and other WordPress-related gatherings. Often, people will pull out their laptops and start hacking away together. It’s a great community. What strikes me as somewhat odd however, is that the majority of those laptops are usually MacBooks. Now of course, everybody is completely welcome to use whatever type of computer they prefer, but to me there’s something strange about this situation. A WordPress developer with a Mac is a little like a church-going atheist.

Open source

As most of you are probably aware, WordPress is an open source project. Its software is written by a community of people, and not owned by a single company, like most other programs are. The GPL license protects the rights and freedoms of its end users. In many ways, open source is the software development equivalent of a hippie commune. At its heart lie basic values like freedom, collaboration, sharing and openness. I love WordPress not for the software, but primarily for its ideology.

Apple

Apple on the other hand has moved from being a quirky little five-percent-market-share computing company they were fifteen years ago to a humongous media empire. Ironically, it’s now employing all the tactics that its followers mocked Microsoft for ten years ago. And it’s even better at them too. Apple insists on pushing its own standards, keeping them closed and protecting them vigorously. “Evil” business practices like “vendor lock-in” and “walled gardens” have been very kind to Apple and its shareholders. It’s probably the computing equivalent of a – gather greedy – dictatorship.

The iThemes Store?

Imagine WordPress as an Apple product. Would you be happy to pay a developer fee to have your themes in the official, monopolist iThemes store, where 30% of all revenue goes straight to Apple? If your themes are even accepted that is. Better make sure they don’t integrate too closely with non-Apple products. No links to Amazon, no pulling in Spotify playlists? Limitations like that are becoming very common in the Apple eco-system.

Imagine having just one option for hosting, Apple’s own iPress service, part of iCloud. The only source for plugins would be the iPlugins store of course. And once you have your iWordPress set up, you’d probably not be allowed to blog about politics, sex, voice controversial opinions about other subjects, or criticise Apple. Apple’s way of doing things is fundamentally different from WordPress’s. In my opinion, the ideologies are fundamentally incompatible.

The honey in the trap

I’m fully aware that Apple creates some of the best computers and devices out there, and that those are a pleasure to use. If that is your primary concern, don’t let this little rant convince you otherwise. But there are alternatives that are more “philosophically compatible” with WordPress. Microsoft has been warming up to open source software and open standards, and has embraced innovation with things like Kinect and Windows Phone. But the logical choice would probably be Linux. I’ve switched to Ubuntu for everything but Photoshop, and it’s been a delight. It benefits from the same things that make WordPress great, and it’s great for doing WordPress.

15 Comments

  1. What a curious article.

    I think as follows: I have this problem. What is the best solution?

    Mac / OS X is, simply put, a superior piece of equipment. Period. WordPress is in many cases the best choice in terms of CMS. Period. If you are a professional I think that you should your approach … No matter if the solution to your problem is open source or closed …

    Comment by Pasqualito — October 22, 2012 @ 12:49 pm

    • I guess it depends on how you measure “best”. I tend to include the moral background and ethics into my assessment of a product. I try to make sure my money is not invested in arms, and prefer to buy fair trade type products and biologically grown foods whenever I can. This is a personal choice, and everyone should make be free to weigh these factors as they please.

      Comment by Roy — October 22, 2012 @ 2:18 pm

  2. You strike a homerun in here Roy. Every Wordcamp in Germany & Holland, the majority has Macbook pro’s or iPad’s. It is striking to see that you step out of the normal comfort and write this. Thank you!

    Frank

    Comment by Frank — October 22, 2012 @ 1:25 pm

  3. Nicely written Roy, couldn’t agree more.

    I am not a fan of Apple because of their politics and a bunch of brainless zombies supporting them in every step. There is literaly no action that ould cause Apple falling down in their fan’s eyes.

    I only hope that WP developers read this and apply in real life, because that’s what matters.

    Thanks

    Comment by Ante — October 25, 2012 @ 2:57 pm

  4. Link: Scion Players | The WordPress-Apple Paradox – Roy Tanck's weblog
  5. I agree with you 100%, and I’ve always resisted the temptation to move to Apple products even though most of my customers tend to have the newest coolest apple toys. I still am not a fan of the way they do business, It’s seems like the business was run my a micro-manager who wouldn’t dare let a user have any control over what they could use. It does remind me of a crazy dictatorship, now that you mention it. They just happen to have leveraged the operating system used for Ipods into the best phone ever, and now it’s an empire. Evil might be going too far, but an empire still. If Obama gets his second term, you can expect his regulators agencies to try to milk a lot of money out Apple in the next 4 years. Empire or not, I strongly disagree with that.

    Comment by Larry Brewer — October 30, 2012 @ 3:10 pm

  6. Well, perhaps you are right if you rationalize the morality of buying a computer. Yet, about 95% of people don’t. Apple just make them good, period. If you went to buy a DELL and decided to get the best DELL there is, you will spend as much as if you bought a MacBook, and maybe even more because the really cheap ones just don’t last. Aside from that… I us WordPres because I like it, not because I have a Mac and vice-versa. Life is not that complicated at all.

    Comment by Rafael — November 2, 2012 @ 9:18 pm

  7. it would be taking far too long replying to this post in a fully and exhaustive way to make then a statement and explain that Apple is a company privately owned. Apple can set rules and regulation but none of them has passed the bill in any parliament then, it’s down to a magistrate to evaluate whether their terms and conditions are actually valid and applicable in a democracy but this won’t happen until some citizens actually hit them in court to explain to a magistrate, Apple is working towards the objective of setting limitations for citizens autonomy and liberty, in that case Apple will have to remove the limitations. (i.e: they can make the rules but the parliament can overrule all of them in representation of the electors will, ironically they can even set a price for software license but then the electors in a democracy actually decide whether they want to pay that price or reduce the price to whatever electors believe it’s a fair price for that license and electors can then push the parliament members representing them, to rule for Apple to reduce the price. Apple market, users and customers , is a larger number of individuals than their presence as per employees in any country) marc

    Comment by marc thomson — November 5, 2012 @ 11:44 pm

  8. I have not been a fan of Apple since I saw their employee work conditions. I am really disgusted to see one of the biggest companies out there treat their overseas employees like sheep!

    Comment by Jason Rogers — November 17, 2012 @ 2:10 am

  9. Nice and daring to bring up that paradox.

    I have noticed getting some funny looks when I mentioned that I work on a windows machine (I like building my own)
    Next to whatever is the best machine… you should regularly see what the majority of users see their websites on, and more often then not those are not Apples.

    And yes… a great many rants about freedom of information are written on the dictators equipment. I love your “rather greedy” :-)

    Nevertheless I do own an iPad..

    Hope to see you soon at a next meetup.

    Comment by Henk van den Bor — November 29, 2012 @ 5:11 pm

  10. It’s like Stitch said, I also like to build my own machine … who does not like it?

    Thanks!

    Comment by Descontos — December 6, 2012 @ 3:54 am

  11. How is Apple better than anyone else?

    At least Microsoft hires people in the states and other countrys instead of paying for cheap labor in china or india.

    And too me there is no way you can compare WordPress and Apple together. WordPress is free and open source and Apple is a massive company thats money hungry.

    Like the others have said above, Build your own machine instead of getting an apple computer

    Comment by Shaquille Ray — December 9, 2012 @ 4:26 am

  12. Shaquille I agree with when you say that at least Microsoft hires people in their own country, but i dont blame apple either for exploring their options in this GLOBAL world. If it means that the end price is lower for the consumer then go for it I say.

    Comment by john edwards — January 20, 2013 @ 3:10 pm

  13. This is going to age me I know, but I must have my say. Word Press is a terrific platform today, however there was a time in the not too distant past when WP was shunned by web builders due to its unreliability and lack of support.
    I always believed that the word “hacking” was when a group of geeks got together and tried to get into computer systems to reek havoc – clearly it must mean something else today.
    I personally don’t like Apple at all. WP have some awesome templates and a great back up service is offered by those selling to this market. Apple on the other hand has scant and rather plain templates. I love the Word Press ideology. Many a programmer (or hacker as you call them) has reached stardom (almost) when they have created a widget or two to make Word Press the top platform to work with today.

    Comment by Gordon J — March 13, 2013 @ 10:58 am

  14. These “Evil” business strategies that you talk of are there to keep the brand/technology of Apple pure though, they are not simply to make peoples lives miserable or more challenging- the “policed” app stores have so far saved me from devastating viral attacks on my mac/iDevices, whereas my ‘Droid or windows friends regularly fall prey of it all. I personally have a Mac and I use wordpress – the best of both to give me the best tools to do my work. and as for an iTheme store – it’d take lots of the anguish out of selecting through pre-vetted themes surely??? ;) Just my opinion though and thanks for sharing yours :)

    Comment by Pete Lebow — October 9, 2013 @ 2:33 pm