The WordPress mobile team announced today that it will be pulling all the Jetpack and WordPress.com features from the official WordPress mobile apps. They will be moved into the Jetpack app through a gradual process that is anticipated to conclude by the end of this year.
“Over the years, the WordPress app has evolved to meet a diverse range of site administration needs and use cases,” Automattic mobile engineer Paul Von Schrottky said. “Features like Stats, Reader, and Notifications were introduced with the hope of meeting some of these needs. However, these features require the Jetpack plugin or a WordPress.com account to function and can make the app overwhelming for folks who want a simpler experience.
“For the sake of clarity and closer-to-core experience, the mobile team will be working to refocus the app on staple features you’d find with a fresh download of WordPress.”
The following features will be removed and relocated to the Jetpack app:
StatsActivity LogBackupSharing (Jetpack Social)ReaderNotificationsJetpack blocks (Gutenberg Editor)@-Mentions and Crossposting (Gutenberg Editor)More features as the team goes about this effort
Automattic’s products in the official WordPress apps have been a source of controversy for nearly a decade. Two years ago, when Automattic tangled with Apple over a lack of in-app purchases in the WordPress for iOS App, the community renewed its call for the company to separate its commercial interests from the official apps. Because Automattic has heavily subsidized the apps’ development, it has been able to add WordPress.com and Jetpack-specific features without contest, but these pose a conflict of interest and are unnecessary for many self-hosted site owners.
In 2014, Automattic CEO Matt Mullenweg said the goal with the mobile apps was to get more mobile app users, which included developing things that Automattic deemed most compelling on mobile – notifications, stats, and the reader. The company has now changed its stance on this, citing “less user confusion” as a primary motivator for the upcoming change.
“By attempting to cater to such a diverse range of users and needs, there are flows in the app that present many options to users,” Von Schrottky said. “An example of this is the current login flow. User feedback (via the app reviews) and support channels indicate confusion around which username and password people should use when authenticating.”
Historically, the mobile apps have had almost zero contributions from people outside of Automattic. Improving the contributor experience is one of the goals in decoupling Automattic’s commercial interests from the official apps.
“Although everything is open source, new contributors need to understand the blurred line between community-owned features and 3rd-party hosted services if all they want is to contribute to one or the other,” Von Schrottky said. “Also, it can be challenging to understand what functionality and which features are available based on the user’s authentication.”
The user confusion and contributor complexities have been evident for years. Providing a more straightforward experience for users has just now become an actionable priority. It appears that this is because Automattic is planning to add more paid features. At this point, the more principled move is to expand commercial features in the Jetpack app, instead of bombarding self-hosted users with upgrade prompts.
“The mobile team has been trying for years to provide a solid, modern experience on mobile, with the goal of helping all users start their WordPress adventure,” Von Schrottky said. “We’ve learned from the diversity and evolving needs of the app user base. In addition to the confusion caused by the current arrangement, the team found that user expectations are confounded by a lack of paid features, such as domain purchases. To better serve the needs of both self-hosted and Jetpack/WordPress.com users in the future, the team is now convinced that adding these specific features in a separate app is the way forward.”
Automattic plans to continue maintaining the official mobile apps, advancing the block editor development, and will be listed as the publisher in the store listings for the apps. Once the Jetpack features are removed, users will still be able to do everything included in the core publishing experience, as well as manage settings.
“With this change, we plan for the WordPress app to be a more focused companion to the WordPress.org open source project, leaving the Jetpack app to complement the WordPress.com experience,” Von Schrottky said. “This is more straightforward for users of the WordPress open source project and simplifies the relationship between the WordPress app and platform owners like Apple and Google.”
Von Schrottky said Automattic is not considering renaming the Jetpack app at this time. WordPress.com users will be able to access the Reader and other .com platform-specific features there. The transition will happen in phases and the mobile team will soon start introducing messages in the app to inform users about which features will be moved.
“The team is still working out the details of the plan as explained in the post, but this will be followed up with other relevant communications to make this change as frictionless as possible for users,” Von Schrottky said.