Does the Technical Debt of WordPress Matter?

WordPress values backwards compatibility and user experience. For years WordPress users have enjoyed a constant stream of new features in the core product as well as plugins. This all adds up a technical design and implementation that is not architectonically as sound as it could be.

But does this matter? WordPress has continued provide functionality and constant stream of releases where many other PHP CMSes like Drupal 8, Typo3 and eZ Publish have started major restructuring efforts with various level of success – mostly still left to be seen.

The WordPress REST API is equivalent to the one REST API in Drupal 8, for example. Does it really matter multilingual content and application data is stored “wrong” in a relational database (MySQL) that was originally built for blog posts and a a few info pages? What advantage does a blogger really get from switching to a platform powered with Node.js and MongoDB?

There is little immediate business or editor value in major change undertaking done in Drupal 8, other than being “better”. Front end technologies such as Relay, Flux and React look like a better investment for Automattic than a complete rewrite of an old backend platform to do the same old thing.

The fact seems to be that WordPress is good enough for the majority of content management needs. Barring any catastrophic security issues and as long as they can keep the user experience ahead of other options I can’t see this changing – WordPress is good enough as is.

In the meanwhile the WordPress-based eCommerce platform WooCommerce is kicking ass and taking names in in the online commerce market. Decoupling WooCommerce from WordPress is very hard, so any kind of rewrite of WordPress seems like a monumental undertaking.

Time will show whether the technical debt WordPress has accumulated is similar to that of the United States – it needs not be paid.

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8 thoughts on “Does the Technical Debt of WordPress Matter?”

  1. WP really is an interesting case study in technical debt. So far the simple, beginner friendly developer API seems to have worked for it’s advantage, huge number of developers have been able to contribute. Paying the technical debt might require long and uncertain process of rewriting the core parts and redesigning the architecture but also raising the abstraction level, possibly alienating a large portion of their developer user base. Simple, familiar and good enough is better than elegant and hard to understand.

    Security issues are another matter, they certainly have suffered from old design decisions. But would they be better with modern components, I cannot say.

  2. Agreed. It’s also interesting how Drupal 8 will be received. They’ve got a huge community with lots of how-to’s and articles are coming out for sure, but I think module development can be overwhelming for newbies.

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