EP445 – WordPress Apps: The Big Unbundling

February 17, 2023

This week on the show we’re going to be discussing the unbundling of apps by Automattic – WordPress, Jetpack, and even Woocommerce!

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Episode Transcription

[00:00:00] Jason Tucker: This is episode number 445 WordPress Apps, the Big Unbundling.

[00:00:18] Jason Tucker: I’m Jason Tucker. Go to my website at Jason Tucker dot blog. This is Sé Reed, you can go check her out over@kieran.com

[00:00:32] Jason Cosper: And y’all know who it is. This your boy Jason Cosper aka Fat Mullenweg back at it again on the world’s most influential WordPress podcast.

[00:00:40] Jason Tucker: and those podcasts can be listened on a variety of places where you find great podcasts. And if you want, come hang out with us on Discord. Links are in the description. Blue,

[00:00:53] Jason Cosper: It’s the Jason and Jason show today. We,

[00:00:55] Jason Tucker: whoop.

[00:00:57] Sé Reed is out on assignment with a sick child and trying to juggle everything else. Tucker and I thought that we would, Chat a little bit about, this kind of thing that has been going on lately in,the iOS and, and Android, for those folks who use it, app space of unbundling, and specifically the unbundling of Jetpack features from, the WordPress.

[00:01:24] Jason Tucker: Yeah. Yeah. Which I haven’t,I feel like I haven’t really used either app all that much.

[00:01:32] Jason Cosper: Not really.

[00:01:33] Jason Tucker: until I started doing stuff I’m mastered on which is funny, but it’s be because of that. and some of the tools I’m using on my website, plugins and whatnot, I wanna be able to, look at those comments and see what people are doing and all that fun stuff.

[00:01:48] yeah. Very interesting to see. the latest developments. How these things are happening over at, which mainly feels like wordpress.com. I was gonna say, tell me a little more about how, specifically tying your site into the Fed averse has got you using the, phone apps a little bit

[00:02:07] Jason Tucker: Yeah. So for me, web mentions have been a big thing and when someone goes and, mentions me on,on. mainly mastered on at this point, but probably other places as well. and include a link to a particular blog post or something that I wrote on my website, Jason Tucker, about blog that what ends up happening is, the website’s, gets pinged saying, Hey, there’s a comment.

[00:02:34] Jason Tucker: Go take a look at it. And then, I go into my comments, which currently I’m doing that in the WordPress, the WordPress app. going into that app and then looking at the comments, I see that there’s a mention and I’ll even get a notification that there’s a mention. I’ll see that there’s a mention and then I’ll, tap it saying, I approve it and I allow for it to show up on the. then it shows up as a comment down below. my blog post, where someone’s chimed in about something or they liked it or they did, one of the different verbs that you can do with,like activity pub type stuff.

[00:03:08] Jason Cosper: Sure. Now,so you are actually going through and approving what makes it back to your site as opposed to, to just letting the fire hose go.

[00:03:18] Jason Tucker: No. if I did that, it would be crazy. Cause there would just be too much stuff. There’s plenty of spam that gets picked up. that, that site’s been around for a while. Even WPwatercooler, we get tons of spam,and stuff like that. And even on the WPwatercooler site, which we do have, ma it’s tied to Mastodon and we do have those sorts of things.

[00:03:36] Jason Cosper: but I can go in and, approve comments and stuff like that through, various web mentions as well as just comments straight on the website. But yeah, so that’s how I’ve been, approaching it. I do a lot of my computing, on my phone. I’d say probably 50 50, of my personal stuff is occurs on my phone,Okay.

[00:03:56] Jason Tucker: Yeah. So I don’t really set at a computer. I set a computer when I’m at work, but when I’m at home, I, this room’s kind of dormant until Friday.

[00:04:04] Jason Cosper: Right.

[00:04:05] Jason Tucker: a play the game.

[00:04:06] as opposed to, me where I spend, the majority of my time on my laptop. And, although my wife Sarah might argue that I do also spend a majority of time on my phone, a after work is over. But,that’s a personal problem that I’m a attempting to deal with a little bit. but yeah, I really.

[00:04:27] Jason Cosper: That is remarkable to me that you spend so much time, doing that and I know that, but I, it actually absolutely makes sense because I know that you, also really have, , like some of the things that you, end up doing, like you’ve complained in the past about editing, stuff on your site in Gutenberg from your phone is

[00:04:48] Jason Tucker: the worst.

[00:04:49] Jason Cosper: to do.

[00:04:50] Jason Cosper: Yeah. So that makes sense really, that you do actually spend a lot of time,doing stuff from your phone. you’re an IT guy. You may have to be in a server room, you may have to.

[00:05:01] Jason Cosper: Go, run over to somebody’s desk and do something. I absolutely get that. But,

[00:05:07] Jason Tucker: supposed to be mobile first. Cosper. We’re supposed to be mobile first. this is what has been ingrained in our brain here. It’s supposed to be, it’s supposed to be mobile first. You need to make sure that the mobile stuff works. and I always feel like mobile is last and it’s always treated as last, and it’s never, why would you edit your website on your phone?

[00:05:26] cuz I read a website on my phone as well.

[00:05:29] Jason Cosper: Yeah.

[00:05:31] Jason Tucker: Yeah.

[00:05:31] Jason Cosper: a, it’s not mobile first. It’s mobile worst. Oh yeah. Yeah. it’s, yeah, that really can be,it is a second class citizen because a lot of people who are building the software that we’re using, they’re not building it on mobile devices. They’re not,there are, folks who I know that.

[00:05:52] Jason Cosper: Gosh, who is, I’m probably gonna butcher their name, but, Federico Vichi, who writes Mac Stories, is primarily somebody who, works like day-to-day off of their iPad. and they run, a Mac news site and, write big long articles and everything else, off of their iPad and espouse that, it is possible, it is something to do, but,still at the end of the day, the majority of folks that are developing WordPress that are, developing the apps that we depend on, the plugins and everything in the WordPress ecosystem are all mostly tied to laptops tied to.

[00:06:35] Jason Cosper: To all this other stuff. my, my friend and one of our, one of our compatriots over on our Mastodon server, Simeon Rodeo, is my friend Jeremy Kitchen who, he, has like basically decided, he’s, got the funds saved up and he is,currently. bike touring through New Zealand for six months.

[00:06:57] and he was all set to spin up Word, like a wordpress.com site. And he had everything ready to go, and everything else. And I said, Hey, this is just a right around the same time. I said, Hey, do you want an account on this master on server? Like he, he hasn’t really been enjoying Twitter all that much.

[00:07:14] Jason Cosper: I said, do you wanna just do that? And he found using. the interface on Mastodon and for micro blogging, like so much easier to post updates from the road than, using, Gutenberg or the WordPress, app off of his phone. and, doing and posting some of this stuff can still be, incredibly painful.

[00:07:37] Jason Cosper: which now that we’re, now that we’re 10 minutes into the show, just, in, in pure WPwatercooler fashion,let’s talk about why we’re here. So it seems like automat lately has been unbundling. A lot of, their functionality. It started out, about a year and a half ago with Jet Pack.

[00:07:58] Jason Cosper: They started taking jet pack and it’s been going on for a lot longer than that. back when George used to come on the show regularly, they started componentizing, different bit. of Jet Pack. So basically every component inside of Jet Pack, every feature inside of Jet Pack was like its own.

[00:08:17] piece that could then be assembled into the big monolith, like jet pack, plugin, each feature. And I remember saying to George at the time, Hey, come on. does that mean that we’re gonna start getting individual jet pack features as like individual plugins so I can just install what I need?

[00:08:35] Jason Cosper: And he goes, I don’t know about that. And I’m sure he couldn’t say. . But, that’s the direction that it seems like they’ve ended up going in within the past, like I said, about 18 months or so, is that, you’re starting to see, they have,all the different verticals,where it’s okay, in this bundle we’ll give you, like protection on your site or,performance features or things like that.

[00:08:59] Jason Cosper: And so you only have to install. they still have clumped together things that kind of dovetail with one another, but they have the jet pack performance plugin that is now, you don’t have to have core jet pack to run it. You just have jet pack performance running on your site and then you’re all good.

[00:09:17] as if you need. Yeah, it’s

[00:09:19] Jason Tucker: they have comments with threaded comments and they have,login. You can log in that way. there’s, I don’t know, there’s just, there’s a whole bunch of stuff that’s wordpress.com specific that’s worked its way out of wordpress.com. And I don’t know, I don’t want to compare it to Facebook, but there’s like these pieces where you essentially get a like.

[00:09:40] Jason Cosper: you can get a little star that you can click on. That’s every time I see one of those stars, I always think with a whole bunch of Ians all liking it, Right.

[00:09:49] Jason Tucker: I always think, oh, this got to be a very popular thing in the automatic sphere. But, it’s, it, I’ve never clicked one of those star buttons.

[00:09:57] I, I’ve never done any of that stuff. it’s, I dunno, it’s very, WordPress and very much wordpress.com Ians that are going about it, that way. But yeah, looking at those and the way you’re saying here with all of these different components, those components are now being,interacted with within the wordpress.com mobile app.

[00:10:17] Jason Tucker: And the way that they’re talking about this is the idea of grabbing some of those pieces and, having them exist in the Jetpack app instead of the WordPress dot,the WordPress app itself.

[00:10:31] Jason Tucker: I don’t know. Seems a little interesting. I was I was looking at their website and seeing, what’s being, shown here.

[00:10:37] Jason Tucker: But the idea is that, you can go and edit your posts and, and publish ’em anywhere, as it says. stats. Stats is one of those things, Cosper that you’re talking about, where it’s you don’t get stats from WordPress. It has to use Jetpack in order to pull in those stats, unless you’re using third party stuff like, some analytics package or something like that.

[00:10:56] Jason Tucker: And then those notifications, getting the notifications as well, Those, two of those things is something that I use. and the notifications thing is definitely an important one cuz you’re just gonna randomly go to your website to see if you actually got, a comment or something like that.

[00:11:11] Jason Tucker: But even looking in their stuff here, you receive 50 likes on a particular blog post or, stuff like that. Some of those things are very wordpress.com focused, which again, we’re on WordPress dot com’s news page here. , but, very wordpress.com focus. But one of the things I was reading through here is the simple fact that, they’re wanting to extract some of these things from the wordpress.com app and only have them exist in the Jet Pack app.

[00:11:38] we used to joke that word, that WordPress, at some point you’ll install jet pack and then Jet Pack will let you install WordPress . And I feel like we’re getting to that point with, at least with this part,

[00:11:50] Jason Cosper: Sure. Yeah. it’s really, interesting to me cuz I think initially when, and you keep calling it the wordpress.com, app and effectively Yeah. It is the iOS app, has really been, wordpress.com first, even though it has just been the WordPress app, and. A lot of,and the way that Jetpack has, Like Ben from the Jump has been to bring the features of wordpress.com to the folks in the self-hosted space.

[00:12:22] the way to,get those stats that, may not give you as much granular detail as,something like a Google Analytics. But in a lot of cases, most folks don’t need. Google Analytics, they just need to see that their posts are getting traction that,their site is getting visits and things like that.

[00:12:41] as, as much as, there has been some fairly, valid criticism, over the years,we have just in our, chat here, proof creative, said that they’ve never had a site whose performance didn’t plummet as soon as Jetpack was enabled. I, I haven’t personally. it’s been a few years since I’ve seen, performance get super bad on a site.

[00:13:03] Jason Cosper: The second jet pack, gets turned on. They really have, worked, quite a bit on performance. I think, componentizing, all those little bits, instead of having it be, this huge monolithic plugin, has really, helped that. however, Yeah, it’s one of those things where, you th this has always been, automatics push.

[00:13:28] and of course this is coming from somebody who,has always been outside of automatic looking in, but this is,they, if they’re not gonna be able, to host your site on wordpress.com, they want to at least get an idea. of what is going on inside of the WordPress sphere.

[00:13:47] Jason Cosper: And,jet Pack is a plugger,like a plugin mainly for, beginners for, there are experienced folks like, you and my and myself. I run Jet Pack on a few sites where,I don’t wanna bog things down with Google Analytics where I don’t want to,Go find some random plugin that, that may or may not be supported.

[00:14:10] Jason Cosper: I’m just like, Hey, you know what, I don’t really feel like messing with, ninja forms or gravity forms or whatever. I just need a dumb contact form and I know Jetpack has one, so screw it. I’m just gonna use that. all of these little things where it’s just you know what? I know Jet pack does that.

[00:14:26] it’s not horrible. If I turn basically everything hustle off like ethanol use it, I hate putting kitchen sink plugins on my site. And, my, my own personal sites aren’t running,jet pack stuff at all. that’s fine. they don’t need it. I don’t need it. But. jet packs. it seems and like I said, I’m speaking from the outside here, that, jets, jet packs, sole purpose is to give automatic an idea of what is happening with the larger self-hosted WordPress world.

[00:15:03] they, with Jetpack search, they make a copy of every post on your site to put it into their elastic search. So then you get. quick search results cuz WordPress search has always been terrible. and elastic search is remarkably better. but they’re scraping, every post on your site, which they could do if if they just subscribe to your r s feed, but you’re effectively giving them a, a.

[00:15:28] door into your content, into your posts, into, the various like pages and drafts and everything else on your site. you’re giving them all of this data to work with. They may be doing nothing with it, but. that all depends on their motivations not changing. and we’re coming up on WordPress’s 20th birthday,they want to keep growing, the install base of WordPress, they want to keep,pushing and everything else.

[00:15:57] it’s interesting to me with how they’ve been unbundling the apps though. I don’t necessarily think that these jet pack features, I understand why they did it, but I don’t think that these jet pack features needed to be tied into, if they were gonna argue for, we’re building this wordpress.com or see how I’m doing it.

[00:16:18] Jason Cosper: The iOS app.

[00:16:19] Jason Tucker: right?

[00:16:21] Jason Cosper: For just WordPress users in general, they wanted an easy way to log in case there wasn’t, or there were some, tie-ups with XML RRP C on your site or whatever. So they’re like, okay, we’ll let you log in through your Jetpack account, through your wordpress.com account to your site using Jetpack and bundling it in there.

[00:16:41] made it work easier. there were, there was less support and troubleshooting around, I can’t connect to my site. It’s if you’re using jet pack, and then they’re like, okay, now that we have jet pack, we will, add stats, we’ll add notifications. We’ll, ad reader, which, again, one of these things outside of automations, I do not know a single person who uses the reader functionality, in the app.

[00:17:06] people who are serious about following, blogs for the most part that I know use an r s reader use. Or, after Google Reader folded, maybe some folks moved on to Feedly, but they just got sad and they’re like, or assess is dead, even though it wasn’t, and it’s still, been there the whole time.

[00:17:25] but for the most part, okay, fine, split out all of these things. you can have a Jet pack app. You can have, just a basic straightforward WordPress app where,the tendrils of the parent company of automatic aren’t just in there rooting around and everything. that’s fine.

[00:17:45] I think that’s a great thing. I think we should have done it sooner. oh, here we go. No, man. Skateboarding uses the reader exclusively. I think that’s,

[00:17:55] Jason Tucker: I think that’s great too.

[00:17:56] Jason Cosper: yeah. any way that you can consume reading, sites outside of,outside of just,browsing ’em or,getting stuck, subscribing to a bunch of cks or,whatever.

[00:18:11] hey,

[00:18:11] Jason Tucker: I am curious though, so Nomad skateboarding, are you, is your website hosted on wordpress.com or are you using a self-hosted website? That, that, that kind of makes me think if the, if he’s using, a wordpress.com site makes sense cuz you know, it’s all right, there’s other, you’re already in that app.

[00:18:33] I loaded that app today and it asked me like, what’s my favorite color kind of thing. It’s prompt. And I was like, oh, wow. I have that stuff to, to answer as a blog post if I wanted to. Let’s see here. I subscribe to the email list of those that I’m interested in and everything else I put in the reader feed.

[00:18:54] Jason Tucker: I like the topics as well, and being able to connect with new WordPress users. That’s cool.

[00:19:00] Jason Cosper: Yeah.

[00:19:01] Jason Tucker: Which also means that you’ve probably pushed the stars

[00:19:05] Jason Cosper: Right.

[00:19:06] Jason Tucker: you’re not an aian. Or maybe if you ever thought about becoming an aian, because, , that might be a way of approaching it. But seriously, one, one of the, one of the things that I was looking at, when I was, prepping for this topic is the idea of logging into my wordpress.com site using the WordPress app, and, I have XML RPC disabled on my site.

[00:19:27] Jason Tucker: Cuz it’s do I really need, yeah, another endpoint for them to connect into and start messing with. And so I, I have that disabled. when you go to log in using that, it asks you, Hey, do you wanna log in this way? If you do, we need to have access to XML rpc. Where the Jet Pack app, I, I haven’t dug into what the, what it is that it’s using in order to do the login, but it may be what you were saying, it’s logging into jet pack and then jet pack on the jet pack Servers are then communicating,through that in order to be able to get into the website. Through the side door, if you will. So I don’t know. It seems I know we’ve told people so many times, disabled xml, R P C, turn on like security plugins, do all this stuff and now we’re left with an app that, that isn’t being marketed very well. looking at the website for the app, it’s not being marketed very well and it feels if you go look at the jet pack, the Jet Pack site, or even looking at, this site here, they really want you to use the Jet Pack app.

[00:20:29] Jason Cosper: Sure, of course. there’s, there’s money to be made in using, jet pack services and,what was the, I feel like somebody, it was maybe. Matt Maderas, someone, put the numbers together, at least I’ve heard Matt Maderas like cite the numbers. Is that, after the first year of paying for like the introductory prices, For, all the different jet pack services that you can get, protect and all of these, additional things, you can lay out, close to if you decide to keep all of the services, if you’re paying for the big bundle, it, the price jump and like the second or third year, I can’t remember when it jumps up to a thousand dollars a year.

[00:21:13] Jason Tucker: Wow.

[00:21:14] Jason Cosper: Yeah. They’re like, Hey,you see the little slash through the price, but if you were to go through and buy every additional, add-on that you can get through Jetpack and, I see why maybe they’re unbundling. some of this stuff, now man, skateboarding pointed out that yeah, it was Matt and after the first year discount, is all that kicks in.

[00:21:38] getting that sticker shock of the second year, then you go through and pick and choose the little, the pieces that you need. I think moving forward, Hopefully, I, there it’s claimed that the unbundling of Jetpack and the Jetpack features from the WordPress, app is really about, giving.

[00:22:02] like independent development points,all the Jetpack stuff, they can, still work on that internally at automatic. Everything else. I have concerns that the WordPress app is going to end up languishing. because a lot of the people who,maybe had to work on,getting, notifications and reader integrations and stuff like that also maybe had some free time to, polish up like their little favorite part.

[00:22:30] Jason Cosper: Of, the iOS app, and now, they might still work on that, but now it’s gonna be a separate code base. It’s gonna be, I mean it’s still got all of the original components and everything else, but what you’ve gotta go contribute to a second, GitHub project. Now, if you want to go,do some work on, the core iOS up, I’m hoping that the community takes it and runs with it.

[00:22:56] Hopefully

[00:22:57] Jason Cosper: Yeah.

[00:22:58] Jason Tucker: need to learn objective C in Swift Deeply, and then we can,we can make it better. I did wanna mention one thing before we, we end here, which was, the Woo Commerce app.

[00:23:08] Jason Cosper: yes.

[00:23:08] Jason Tucker: the Woo Commerce app, if you noticed down here at the bottom here, it says, the WooCommerce mobile app is free and powered by Jet.

[00:23:17] Jason Cosper: Yes.

[00:23:18] the idea here is that it’s using that jet pack interface to connect to the website and be able to get your notifications, pull in your orders, and look at, the various products that you have on there. Take a look at your stats and if you have multiple stores, you can manage the multiple stores.

[00:23:37] do you need jet pack? this is the way in which you should connect to it. And you have all of that sort of stuff. Yeah, I can see where the Jet Pack app and the WooCommerce app are essentially like the same type of setup. And that the wordpress.com app, or rather the WordPress app, is going to be its own separate thing entirely.

[00:23:57] Jason Tucker: And it even mentions on the site it’s, says that it’s the, and that they’re open source just like WordPress. if you wanna make it better, you can make it.

[00:24:08] pull request. Welcome.

[00:24:11] Jason Tucker: right? Just, go learn objective C in Swift Deeply, and, and go from there. I don’t know, man, I feel like the WordPress app never got like the fit and finish that it needed in order for someone like me to be able to use Gutenberg. and the trying to use the mobile site on my phone is next impossible, especially if you have any, accessibility stuff turned on.

[00:24:37] Jason Tucker: So if you make the font a little bit bigger on your phone or any of that sort of stuff, everything gets blown outta whack and looks horrible and it’s very difficult to manage. yeah.

[00:24:49] from like an accessibility standpoint, especially,anybody who has,any sort of, boomer or older Gen X people in their lives, you know when you start bumping the font size up,this is a, an interesting thing and it’s something I’ve heard about,mentioned about accessibility.

[00:25:05] Jason Cosper: Is, accessibility applies to everybody because, there’s, you’re always just one step away from needing accessible considerations yourself, and that includes having to bump up font sizes because you can’t see so well. I don’t know if you’ve noticed over the past few years that I’ve been on the WPwatercooler, now I’m wearing glasses.

[00:25:24] Jason Cosper: Yeah. , Jason and I both have glasses and,if I’m looking at my phone, if I’m looking at things, without my glasses,like I, I have to bump the font size up or I have to just squint through it, which is normally what I do because I don’t want to be, one of those, old a holes.

[00:25:42] Jason Cosper: With, with a larger font size on their phone. but I think it’s really interesting and I’m glad you called out the Woo Commerce app. I’m really surprised that we didn’t get to it sooner. but so if you’re running a Woo Commerce site, and you want the Woo Commerce app, And that integrates with Jetpack, with get you all your stats.

[00:26:01] but also occasionally you wanna post blog posts from the WordPress app and you are primarily a mobile, first mobile forward person like Tucker. Then you have to have three different WordPress apps installed on your phone and, again, I have long railed against monolithic plugins. the monolith of specific things, but it does start to feel like three apps is beginning to be too much.

[00:26:32] Jason Tucker: and I have to use Google Analytics. I have to pull in a Google Analytics app to look at it that way, and you know it, the list can just go on and on as the various apps that I need in order to make things work. Yeah, it’s funky. So shall we wrap it up?

[00:26:48] Jason Cosper: Yeah, I guess so.

[00:26:50] Jason Tucker: Perfect. I think we made a show.

[00:26:52] Jason Cosper: Huh?

[00:26:54] Jason Tucker: So here’s our outro. All right.

[00:27:04] Jason Tucker: Our content over there, we’d really appreciate it. we’ll be, we’ll be posting stuff on WPwatercooler as well as over on Dev branch once a month. Feel free to go take a look at those. Talk to later. Bye-bye.

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