July 27 2023

Hosting recommended by WordPress.org, let's clarify.

WordPress contributors ask for transparency and objective guidelines for listings on the recommended hosting page

The page of Recommended WordPress hosting is a hotly contested piece of land online, and has recently made a comeback following the removal of SiteGround from the Recommended WordPress Hosting listings. When the change was highlighted during a recent Meta team meeting, Audrey Capital-sponsored contributor Samuel “Otto” Wood said: “Matt asked me to remove SiteGround because that page is under review. I don't know more“. At the moment, Bluehost and Dreamhost are the only two hosts left on the page.

removal siteground wordpress hosting

The process of getting listed on the Recommended Hosting page has historically been shrouded in mystery, leading contributors to speculate that large sums of money were required. Even though the current criteria are posted on the page, the insertion and removal process is not transparent. It is unclear if and how the criteria are applied, given that the ads are stated to be “completely arbitrary".

We will review this list several times a year, so keep an eye out for the survey opening for hosts who want to apply. Inclusion is completely arbitrary, but includes criteria such as: contributions to WordPress.org, size of customer base, ease of automatic installation and automatic updates of WP, avoidance of GPL violations, design, tone, historical perception, use of correct logo , proper WordPress writing, don't blame us if you have a security issue, and up-to-date system software.

WordPress co-creator Matt Mullenweg recently hinted at the possibility of reopening the survey, inviting contributors in the WordPress Hosting Slack channel to comment on any questions or data the survey is expected to collect.”to help us discern who we recommend“. It linked to questions from the survey used in 2016 when the page was updated to include Bluehost, DreamHost, Flywheel, and SiteGround.

The new draft for the survey states: “It's time to take a spin and give every host the opportunity to be on the recommended page, and also make it international because we have never been able to have recommended hosts in non-English speaking countries".

The WordPress Hosting team is working on a related effort called “Project Bedrock” which aims to create a directory where any hosting company that meets a set of predefined requirements can appear as a recommended or compatible WordPress CMS hosting.

Yes, the bedrock project is a goal, a few months ago we left the project on standby to create a pre-release of the project, creating a list of hosting companies within the Make/Hosting, an 'everyone can be in the 'list' (if they meet the criteria) as a complement to the hosting, but the idea is that the hosting, this pre-project or the project should have the same criteria (the base)

We know Matt is responsible for hosting, our idea is to create a 'longer list' for the Hosting Handbook / Make/hosting page. The idea is to have the same criteria. Hence, both are complementary.

said the representative of the Hosting team, Javier Casares.

While project contributors see this as complementary to the official recommendations, it can be confusing for WordPress to have multiple similar hosting resources with the same criteria but different listings. These appear to be conflicting efforts that have a lot in common but may ultimately be at odds with the goal of simplifying the hosting process for new WordPress users who don't know which ones to consider.

Casares suggested a few technical criteria the survey should focus on, including PHP versions, database versions, SSH access, automatic updates, one-click WordPress installation, free TLS certificates, backups, and more.

The 2023 survey is still in the early stages in draft form. Contributors to the WordPress Hosting team suggested that page review requirements would be a good topic of discussion at the upcoming WordCamp US Community Summit next month.

On the Post Status hosting channel, Namecheap co-founder Matt Russell suggested that Mullenweg leverage performance data from WPHostingBenchmarks.

whostingbenchmarks

"[WPHostingBenchmarks is] probably the most open, fairest, and long-term performance rating in the WP spaceRussell said. He also advised Mullenweg to review the page as a directory with options to select budget, regions/country, and more.

Review Signal founder Kevin Ohashi, who publishes the WPHostingBenchmarks site, shared concerns about transparency he's had since the page was last updated:

Who is reviewing this information? What criteria will be used in their evaluation? I know last time you said you were involved, as were other people at Automattic. Automattic is a competitor in the hosting space, and no matter the role you're playing, there's some concern about sharing sensitive business information with a competitor.

Being listed on that page is probably worth millions of dollars to any company in terms of business generated. I think the process and criteria should be transparent and clear from the start. I also think whoever is involved in the evaluation should be known in advance. At least give companies, and consumers, the information they deserve to evaluate participation and the result.

Ohashi recommends that no person employed by a hosting company should be involved in evaluating presentations. This would eliminate the bias of competitors in the space who seek to suppress those they view as a threat.

I would like to see more ethics and accountability, a code of ethics for any company that gets listed would be a positive point in my opinion, companies should compete on quality and product, not on deceptive billing practices and other shady behavior we often see in the space . In my benchmarks, I push default performance measurements because I believe this benefits the most clients. I think there's an opportunity to push for a better ecosystem here and I'd love to see you take it.

Ohashi said.

Conclusion

The removal of SiteGround from the list of recommended WordPress hosting has raised new questions about the transparency and objectivity of the selection process. In particular, doubts arise as to how a hosting provider with unsatisfactory performance like SiteGround could benefit from the privilege of being among the recommended hostings. This raises questions about the validity of the selection criteria and how they are applied.

Plus, there's added complexity with services like WordPress.com and WordPress VIP, which are enterprise hosting offerings powered by Automattic, the same company that develops WordPress and WooCommerce. This inevitably leads to questions about potential conflicts of interest. Automattic is in a unique position as it develops WordPress while also offering hosting services that compete directly with other companies in the WordPress ecosystem.

Therefore, it is crucial to ensure that the selection processes for recommended hostings are completely transparent and objective, and that conflicts of interest are avoided. One solution might be to have an independent assessment team that has no ties to any hosting company, or to develop a rigorous and clearly defined code of conduct for the selection process. Either way, it is clear that there are aspects of the process that need further discussion and improvement to ensure that you can trust the WordPress Hosting Recommendations page.

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