In the WordPress community there’s a guy who’s become something of a legend. Joost de Valk is so famous that he’s become known by a single-word, almost-the-English-pronunciation-of-his-name nickname.
Yoast is a big deal.
Yoast has written some of the most-used WordPress plug-ins, including Yoast SEO, widely considered the gold standard of WordPress plug-ins for search engine optimization. How big a deal is Yoast? Search for “yoast seo” and Google ranks the Yoast web site at position #1. In fact, it ranks four different references to yoast.com ahead of WordPress SEO by Yoast‘s page in the WordPress Repository:
This despite the fact that the WordPress Repository, which is where Yoast SEO began its trek to market dominance, is the best place to promote a WordPress plug-in.
Yoast is so big that the official name of his WordPress SEO plug-in is WordPress SEO by Yoast. And WordPress doesn’t allow use of the word “WordPress” in product names. Yoast simply plays by different rules than anyone else in the WordPress universe, where not only WordPress publisher Automattic but most members of the WordPress community treat you as a pariah for this behavior.
Kim Gjerstad gives a little shout-out to Yoast in his 360-degree marketing presentation for MailPoet at WordCamp 2013. But aside from the name-drop, Gjerstad had a very real point to make; WordPress plug-in marketing has exposed a fallacy that’s long been a staple of business projections. The idea behind thoughts like “if we can just penetrate x% of the market … “ is no longer meaningful. Business has evolved, fragmented, and become in many cases so specialized that measuring success against a piece of a big pie doesn’t mean anything:
Powerful stuff, and largely true. I alluded to this in our previous piece; sometimes your product isn’t what you think it is and isn’t what people believe it to be when they first come across it.
As difficult a marketing conundrum as that may be, it’s also emblematic of the base changes taking place in business today. I happen to have had a back-and-forth with a long-time client yesterday about this very issue; what do you do when business is changing all around you and you don’t quite understand what the changes mean?
The answer, of course, is that you talk to The Answer Guy. We’ll get your business change and the way you implement and manage your business processes under control, so your marketing can work as well as MailPoet’s.
Or if you prefer, you can keep chasing unmeasurable and unattainable market share and market penetration numbers.
For the record, we only started disallowing the use of “WordPress” in plugin and theme names around 2 years ago. The Yoast SEO plugin was first created in 2009, much longer ago than that rule.
As much as we would like to be the masters of space and time and be able to change the past to be more to our liking, as yet, we who work on the plugins directory at WordPress.org have not been granted that ability. Until that day arrives, plugins prior to our enforcement of that rule are grandfathered in. There are many of them, picking on one of them is a bit silly.
As for why the rule exists, well, when you have a URL on wordpress.org/plugins, it makes little sense to us to have another “wordpress” in the URL, or indeed to put the word “plugin” in your plugin’s name. People are pretty sure it’s a plugin for WordPress, names should be more clever than that.
Otto, thanks for the comment.
I don’t think I actually criticized you guys for having a preference regarding use of the WordPress trademark, but I appreciate you bringing it up because it feels to me like another example of how when things change we need to learn to change with them.
Speaking as a sometimes-Intellectual Property consultant, my understanding of the idea of trademark is that (unlike patent), trademark and trademark protection’s purpose is to make sure there’s no confusion as to whether someone using the mark “is you”. If Automattic’s assumption, as I think you’ve just stated, is that calling a website wordpresstraffic.com or wordpress-traffic.com instead of wptraffic or wp-traffic will make people who find it believe they are doing business with WordPress/Automattic … well, I just disagree. Not only can a simple disclaimer take care of that (“WordPresstraffic.com is not a service of Automattic Inc.”), but it isn’t even that meaningful since WordPress users already know that the things they add to wordpress.org IP is almost never “by Automattic”.
By the way, with that said I happen to use WP-SuperCache, which IS by Automattic but I only recently found that out when @donncha got around to changing the attribution after many years. Which kind of flies in the face of your “we’ve only had rules for two years” statement.
I appreciate the history lesson, by the way, even with its holes. And as I said I wasn’t criticizing Automattic—or actually the foundation to which you guys have assigned the trademarks—wishing to protect them. If anything I was complimenting the ferocious loyalty of the WordPress community to WordPress.
Just to be clear, I don’t work for Automattic, and they don’t run WordPress.org. Also, we don’t consider the use of “WordPress” in plugin or theme names to be a trademark issue in any way. That’s not why the rule exists.
As for the “rules”, we have many guidelines regarding what things can and can’t be done in the directory. Some of them can be found here: https://wordpress.org/plugins/about/guidelines/
You might note that the rule about “WordPress” not being in the name (really the “slug”) isn’t one of them. That particular rule is just a change to our code that disallows new plugin submissions to have “wordpress” or “plugin” in the name. It’s not really a “rule”, as such, it’s simple that the system won’t allow anybody to do it for any new code. Like I said, we thought it was a bit redundant.
Again, nothing to do with trademark, IP, Automattic, or anything like that. It was simply a decision by the plugin review team and implemented by myself.
Otto, thanks for the clarification. I was as verbose and detailed as I was because, again, my story yesterday wasn’t a criticism so much as a (hopefully) thought-provoking part of the series I’m doing on MailPoet and Kim Gjerstad’s excellent presentation. And so I hear you; you’re part of the repository team, one of the many minions, as it were. I presume you’re the “Otto” Kim mentions in his talk?
The mother ship does appear to have rules about trademark in place, by the way, even if they aren’t the same or serving the same purpose as yours. I didn’t know that when we grabbed wordpresstraffic.com, but in hindsight I suppose the existence of The Automattic Foundation’s WordPress trademark rules explains why it was available!
Oh yes, there are trademarks and rules for their use. You can find that information here:
I was only clarifying for the plugin directory, as there seems to be some misinformation going around on this specific topic, and I ran across this post. No worries, I just felt like it needed to be a bit clearer to all concerned. 🙂
Thanks, Otto. Read your blog, by the way … nice to see how much Matt digs you!