Jeff Clough

The Great Wordpress Purge


I created this website in 2020 using Wordpress. In 2023, I became so frustrated and annoyed by Wordpress that I deleted everything hosted here and went back to hand-hacking HTML.

This is an insane thing to do, so I figured it would make an amusing story.

I put my first website together in 1992. In early 1993, I was hired by a company to help build their website. In late 1993, I finished that job and was hired by another company to help build their website, maintain it, build websites for their clients, and assist in sysadmin and tech support duties.

This was all back when building a website meant firing up a text editor and writing all of the code by hand. This is back when the only way to do things like sidebar navigation meant abusing tables. This is back when testing your website meant checking that it worked in both Netscape and Mosaic.

Those were interesting times.

Fast forward about ten years, and suddenly we get this glorious new technology called Content Management Systems (CMS). A CMS is basically a set of server-side scripts attached to a database.

To create a web site today, you can install a CMS, connect to an "admin" area, and put in your content. The CMS takes care of all of the HTML for you. Even the earliest CMS products could save web developers uncountable hours and headaches.

That's a really, really good thing.

In theory.

In practice, Content Management Systems have became pretty goddamned terrible.

Even the simplest CMS today relies on an ever-growing list of languages, frameworks, libraries, package managers, themes, and plug-ins. They've become enormously complex balls of code which are inscrutable even to the people maintaining them.

That's a really, really bad thing. You know, assuming you value little things like security and privacy.

Known vulnerabilities and exploits abound in modern CMS systems. Some of the most popular ones average at least one high-severity bug per month.

As for privacy? A lot of these systems, themes, and plug-ins insist on phoning home to their developers with every request. They constantly collect data from your users. The privacy implications of running these packages has become so tragi-comically awful that there are now plug-ins to automatically build privacy policies based on all of the other plug-ins you have installed.

Let me say that again: The software is so obtuse and privacy-violating that we now need other software to analyze it and tell us how bad it is.

And yes, all of this applies to Wordpress.

I've used Wordpress for about a decade, which is almost the entire time that Wordpress has been around. I've never loved it, but I'm used to it, and it made things simpler.

But it got to the point where even with my bare-minimum needs, I had to have seven different plug-ins installed. Every single one of them would phone home with every request. Half of them wouldn't stop trying to up-sell me on paid subscriptions every time I logged in. And every single day I had to update at least one (usually more) because "Oh no! Someone found another vulnerability!"

Somewhere in between all of this, in between the tracking and the complexity and the total lack of security, I just...broke.

I've been on a kind of cleanse, recently, purging software and services from my life which cause me more grief than joy.

Today, that meant ditching Wordpress.