Blogger v. WordPress

When I’m working on a project, I tend to get stuck in the weeds of what might outwardly seem like some pretty inconsequential decisions. Should I post vlogs on my main channel, or start a new one? Should I post this thing to Patreon? Which theme should my blog have?

The answers to these questions elude me endlessly. I usually just end up chasing what feels right, until it doesn’t. Which is fine, you might think. None of these decisions matter all that much. I’m not the president of a country deciding whether to launch an arsenal of nukes, after all. But it is annoying!

As you might imagine, keeping a blog has been no exception. The main question I keep hemming and hawing over has been: Blogger or WordPress? I’ve used each at various points in this blog’s life, and I still haven’t come down firmly on one side or the other.

And so I’m using the medium itself to play out this continuing argument, in the hopes that maybe by posting it to the internet I’ll finally get somewhere.

Option 1: Blogger

The service I’m currently using, at time of publication. It’s been around forever. Or at least since 1999. Here are some reasons I do and do not want to keep using it:

Pros:

  • Entirely free
    • You don’t have to pay a single red cent for any bit of Blogger’s functionality. Granted, there isn’t much, but that could also be a draw. There isn’t too much going on here, and you get it all for free.
  • Able to use own domain without paying
    • I wanted to call this out specifically because it’s probably the main sticking point that has kept me from moving to WordPress. If I already own and pay for a domain, why should I have to pay another fee to connect that domain to my website?
  • Antiquated design
    • Yes, this is a pro for me. When you build a blog on Blogger, it looks like a blog. You are instantly transported back to the heyday of RSS feeds and blogrolls and not being able to check your email on the toilet. Part of me loves that.
  • Barebones, simple
    • Blogger doesn’t have a lot of menus to dig through or extra services to offer. It’s there to get out of your way and put words on the internet.

Cons:

  • Antiquated design
    • Alright, so… while the retro aesthetic of Blogger appeals to me most of the time, it can also be kind of messy and hard to navigate. And even harder to build new functionality into. When you step into Blogger’s time machine, you’re greeted by the beauty of the web in 2003, but you’re also constrained by its capabilities at the time.
  • Editor is kind of a pain in the ass
    • Yeah, about those constraints. They really hit you where it hurts. When you’re evaluating blogging platforms, having “I hate the thing you use to write blog posts” on the list might make it an obvious choice for a lot of people. It’s hard to look away from this one, seeing as it’s the main way you interface with the service. 
    • Text editing is wonky, sometimes line spacing doesn’t turn out looking the way you’d expect, and embedding videos and images can be fiddly, too. It’s a shame, but this is probably the biggest area where Blogger shows its age and limitations.
  • Limited theme and layout options
    • This is tough to ding the platform for, because if you’re just looking to make a blog-ass-blog, they’ve got you covered. But the number of ways you can edit and manipulate those themes and layouts is really limited. If you have a specific vision for your blog in your head, it can be difficult to achieve it with Blogger’s library of themes and tools without some level of compromise.
    • While it’s true that there are still some third-party sources for Blogger themes, they’re becoming fewer and farther between, and are also free much less often.
  • Difficult to tune without knowledge of HTML/CSS
    • Of course, if you know some HTML and CSS, you might be okay. I, however, do not! I know the limited amount of HTML code that I think every Very Online person born before 1995 probably knows, but it’s certainly not enough to bend a blogging platform to my will. If you want something centered and bold, though, I’m your guy.
  • Owned by Google
    • It might seem silly, but this is a big one for me, for a lot of reasons, not all of them political. There’s no avoiding the fact that Google is one of the world’s biggest megacorps, and while that’s definitely enough to give someone like me pause about using their service (especially such a clearly outdated one), there are reasons beyond their constant union busting and monopolizing of various web infrastructure that make this a con.
    • Firstly, Google has endless resources, yet Blogger still looks and feels the way it does in 2021. That kinda shuts down any hope for some quality-of-life updates.
    • And second, you might think, “well, since Google has more money than god, there’s no reason they’d ever shut down a tiny service like Blogger, especially when they clearly don’t devote many resources to it.” Well. Maybe. But Google is also Google. Their track record for shutting down services out of the blue, beloved or no, speaks for itself.
    • Not to mention the fact that when using a Google product, especially a free one, I cannot guarantee that my privacy or the privacy of my readers is being respected, or if I even own the things I’m publishing at the end of the day. That’s a pretty high price to pay for aesthetics.
  • Lack of support
    • So yes, those retro aesthetics I so love, while both beautiful and messy, are unfortunately also representative of the fact that Blogger just kind of stopped dead at some point, and it’s pretty clear that it won’t be updated or meaningfully supported anytime soon.
    • This extends to updates to the way the service works and feels, and also the human element of supporting folks who have questions or issues they need addressed. Every time I’ve waded into the Blogger help forums, it’s largely been a slog through post after post of someone asking a question, a reply asking for more info from them, followed by the post being locked and archived, meaning no one can ever respond. This is true of posts from mere months ago! To me, that says that if you choose to use Blogger, you’re on your own.

Option 2: WordPress

Alright, who’s our other contender? No spring chicken itself, WordPress has been around since 2003 and is seen as a cornerstone of the web, and the go-to for most people starting a blog or website. Its name is basically synonymous with blogging, even today. Here are my pros and cons:

Pros:

  • Plethora of themes
    • There are a LOT of different WordPress themes at this point. They add more every year, and I think they’ve kept all or most of their old ones as well. Just a wealth of options, really.
  • Extremely customizable
    • On top of having a lot of themes, each of them is really easy to customize to different needs. Do you want a sidebar? Great. You don’t? Done. Should featured images show on every page? How about in a list? We don’t have the specific block you’re looking for? Here’s a block that just straight up accepts HTML, make whatever you want. It’s kinda great.
    • There are still some restrictions, it’s not like you’re molding the very HTML of every site theme to your every specific need, but it offers more options than Blogger for sure.
  • Independently owned by Automattic, still owned by original founder
    • Now this is great. WordPress was founded by Matt Mullenweg and Mike Little in 2003. In 2005, Mullenweg founded parent company Automattic to encompass WordPress and other projects. And the story ends there.
    • Automattic is still here. It’s not secretly owned by Facebook or some other giant entity. The original founder is still here. That’s all good for a lot of reasons, not the least of which being stability. It also speaks to the fact that WordPress has kind of just…been WordPress this whole time. They’re just making a really solid blogging and site-building platform.
    • They’re not trying to deliver internet via balloons, they’re not destroying democracy around the world, they’re just making WordPress.
  • Lots of modern and antiquated style options
    • Speaking of having themes galore, WordPress has me pretty much covered whether I still want to evoke those retro-blogging styles or update things to look a little more modern.
    • Since they’ve kept all the old themes they’ve offered along the way, I’m able to create a blog that would look right at home on a tangerine iBook if that’s how I’m feeling.
  • Currently developed/supported and frequently updated
    • Hey here’s a novel idea: a platform that’s actively developed and supported by its creator! Wild stuff from WordPress here.
  • Open source, 5 star privacy rating from the EFF, supports positive causes
    • Alright. Yeah. Automattic kinda seems like a great internet citizen. Companies are not moral, and are not people, but compared to Google…
    • WordPress was actively against SOPA in the good ol’ SOPA days (so was Google, to be fair), they’ve gotten a 5-star privacy rating from the Electronic Frontier Foundation, something Google will NEVER be able to claim, and the WordPress platform is open source. It was founded that way, and it’s stayed that way all this time. 
    • Developing open source software means that anyone can dive into the code and use it to create their own thing if they want. By developing open source, you’re not just enriching yourself with your own work, you’re enriching the wider web community as well. That wins big points with me.

Cons:

  • Some features behind paywall
    • WordPress offers some features (both ones that Blogger does and does not offer) exclusively to its paid tiers. Things like Google Analytics (see? you can’t escape them!), site monetization, advanced video options, installing custom themes and plugins, and removing WordPress branding can cost anywhere from $4 to $45 per month.
    • However, I don’t really need or care about any of the more expensive features, it’s understandable that more premium features would cost something, and in some ways it can be seen as a positive thing that WordPress serves things up in this way, allowing them to put more resources into supporting and improving the site as a whole.
    • Do I sense the scales tipping?
  • Unable to use custom domain without paying for a higher tier
    • This was the main reason beyond aesthetics that I switched back to Blogger. It just seems so weird and arbitrary that I should have to pay to use a domain that I already own and pay for!

So there you have it. The main crux out of all of these is, for me, the competing points of cost vs ownership. On one hand, Blogger is entirely free, up to the point of letting me use my own domain without having to pay for the privilege, whereas WordPress requires me to pay $50 a year in order to connect a domain, even one I already own. However, on the other hand, Blogger is owned by Google, one of the biggest tech behemoths in the world. One who has an unquestionable monopoly over the online ad market, owns a LOT of the big important internet things (YouTube, GMail, etc), is one half of the global smartphone duopoly, and makes frequent flubs in the areas of privacy, labor, and other social advocacy.

Automattic is a company that specializes in little sites that keep the internet free and vibrant. They make WordPress, the notes app Simplenote, and in recent years they’ve acquired Tumblr and even Pocket Casts, my favorite podcast app, and I truly feel like they’re all in good hands. They seem like the better company, and while they would charge for a blog with a custom domain, you get what you pay for. In this era of internet history, that’s becoming more and more clear.

Well, dear reader, I think that settles it. I think in carrying out this little experiment in “blogging it out,” so to speak, I’ve actually come to a decision. It’s going to require an XML file and a good chunk of my time this week.

Blogger has that 2003 aesthetic that I love, and that was perfectly suited to The Go To Hell Space and quickly setting up a blog in the early 2020 pandemic era. But that just doesn’t quite fit the ethos of Dream Avenue. And I can’t in good conscience continue my blogging journey on the wrong side of the above pros & cons list any longer.

This will be my last post on Blogger. Hopefully you will not experience too much of an interruption in your ability to follow/read this blog. I’ll do my best to avoid that. However, I’m confident that the blogging experience on WordPress will be better for both of us.

And who knows! Maybe the math in my brain will work out differently, and I’ll be back in another year! What on earth is wrong with me.

Thanks for reading! Onward!

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