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WordPress.com rolls back its botched ‘experiment’

So, WordPress.com has restored the family of premium plans that it had until April this year, and has done away with the controversial ‘Starter’ and ‘Pro’ plans. The announcement on the WordPress.com blog yesterday has already garnered a high 65 comments, even as the post itself was brief and didn’t contain indication that WordPress.com had screwed up with the new plans. Excerpt:

Our philosophy has always been one of experimenting, learning, and adjusting. As we began to roll out our new pricing plans a couple of months back, we took note of the feedback you shared. What we heard is that some of you missed the more granular flexibility of our previous plans. Additionally, the features you needed and pricing of the new plans didn’t always align for you. This led us to a decision that we believe is the right call.

You might recall that when the new plans were announced in April, my blog post reacting to them became a big deal on the Hacker News forum on that day, and (probably) first drew the attention of Automattic chief Matt Mullenweg and WordPress.com CEO Dave Martin. Since then, WordPress.com has been working to adapt the ‘Starter’ and ‘Pro’ plans for different markets as well as introduced à la carte upgrades to remove ads, add custom CSS and buy more storage space. However, the company continued to receive negative feedback on the changes from the previous plans.

One vein that I really resonated with was a rebuttal of WordPress.com’s claim that the older plans were messy whereas the newer ones are clearer. That’s absolutely not true. But on July 21, they seemed to have finally really listened and changed their minds for the better. (And even then, there are many expressions of confusion among the 65 comments.)

I also want to point out here that WordPress.com is being disingenuous when it claims its new plans were an “experiment”. That’s bullshit. No experiment rolls out to all users on production, is accompanied by formal announcements of change on the official blog and, in the face of criticism, forces the CEO to apologise for a hamfisted rollout process – all without mentioning the word ‘experiment’ even once. WordPress.com is saying now that its development has followed the path of “experimenting, learning, and adjusting” when all it did was force the change, inform users post facto, then solicited feedback on which it acted (before doing that in advance), and finally reverted to a previous state.