The news is a few weeks old and details are becoming more palatable. Automattic, the company behind WordPress, announced on May 19 that they were buying WooThemes, the makers of the wildly popular e-commerce engine WooCommerce. Typically, a big fish gobbling up a little fish means bad news for fans of the little fish. I was excited to hear the news that Samsung bought Boxee, my favorite home media player. I figured with the R&D power of Samsung, they would help usher in a new era of cable cutters and lift Boxee to a place of permanent replacement for the cable companies.
Nope. They shut Boxee down. And now I have a sad little dying box sitting on the TV stand with no updates that will ever come. Once it dies (or its control), I’ll have to adopt something new…
But… Automattic’s Acquisition of WooCommerce is actually good news
I’m sure you’re thinking… that’s completely antithetical to what you just got finished saying. And it is. However, Automattic has proven trustworthy. An astonishing 74,000,000 websites run WordPress representing 18% of all the sites on the Internet. And outside of WordPress’ hosted solution along with a few optional plugins and services, Automattic, doesn’t make a dime off of WordPress. It’s a true testament to the power of open source. Automattic has transformed how content creators publish on the web. And now they’re about to take that same mantra and apply it to e-commerce.
Prior to the acquisition, WooCommerce was developed and managed by the team at WooThemes. Don’t get me wrong, those folks are incredibly talented, but their size is limited. With Automattic getting their hands on WooCommerce, they’re likely going to unleash the incredible authoring force behind WordPress on the ecommerce engine. Surely Automattic will make some dough off of the independent plugin and extension authors by maintaining the marketplace for these add-ons. But the breadth and might of WordPress will be translated over to WooCommerce making it more native to WordPress all the while more efficient by each pending release.
As a shop owner, you’re going to get access to an application that is under constant development and supported by capable developers worldwide. Think of it as Shopify… without the outrageous transaction fees.
Some tweaking under the hood
WooCommerce is great, but has its drawbacks. Because WooThemes did such an incredible job at making WooCommerce native to WordPress, it had to use WordPress’ native data structures to play nicely with the rest of application. This created some inefficiencies – namely, the load time required if you have complicated and large sets of product variations. Depending on how many, the process for loading new products can take quite a bit of time. For 95% of the users out there with variable products with just a few variations (ex, t-shirts with a variable size and color), it wasn’t a problem at all. But to position WooCommerce as a viable alternative to established enterprise e-commerce engines such as Magento, there definitely needs to be a hard look at how data is stored to maximize backend efficiency.
The community will no doubt take a look at this issue along with a shortlist of a few others. The end result is going to be a quicker, faster, more robust, and more mature product offering in WooCommerce.
Industry Standards and WooCommerce
WordPress is the king of content management. It holds a 69% marketshare among sites with a content management system in place. WooCommerce holds position #2 in the e-commerce market with a 21% share, a single percentage point behind PrestaShop. With this acquisition, I expect the hurdles to implement WooCommerce will be drastically shortened. With a few clicks of a button, a user could have a copy of WooCommerce installed and functioning. The WooCommerce marketshare could jump drastically while riding in the comfortable coattails of it’s papa application.
With a rise in marketshare, users will start to see some added maturity and flexibility to WooCommerce. The one-two punch of WordPress and WooCommerce could be a knockout blow to both established platforms and those looking to break in.