I have advocated for WordPress over and over again since beginning this blog in 2005 (although back then, I used a now-defunct engine called Blogspirit to host this site). WordPress is, or maybe was, the best thing on the market for a highly customizable, easy-to-use web site or blog. I’ve made dozens of WordPress hosted sites over the years for my English courses (yes, I am still a Blackboard holdout–they’ll never take me alive), and I’ve championed it with pre-service teachers as well. I’m not alone: something like 25 percent of the most visited sites are run on the WordPress platform. I should probably get a WordPress T-shirt.

But something happened at WordPress.com. Likely they got too big, or like Ning, decided that giving the good stuff away for free wasn’t good business sense. In any case, there are a number of things that you USED TO be able to do with WordPress.com, but can no longer do. Here is my list of gripes:

EmbeddingEmbedding anything (a Scribd document, a Google map, a Vimeo video) used to be oh-so-simple, even on the free WordPress.com sites. You just cut and pasted the embed or even i-frame code into your post. And it worked. But now, the only real embed that WordPress allows is from Youtube/Google, which is very limiting. Even with the Premium upgrade, it is still nearly impossible to pull off. Here’s a recent conversation I had about this subject with a very nice WordPress support person:

rozemar I want to embed a slideshow in a Premium account blog. The Gallery slideshow does not look good, and I can’t seem to modify the CSS sufficiently to make it look the way I want it to. Is there a way to enable the embed or iframe HTML tag in a Premium account?
DW hi there
DW for security reasons, certain types of external code can not be used on WordPress.com sites, and iframe is one of them
DW you can read more about that here: http://en.support.wordpress.com/code/
DW what’s the issue you’re having with the slideshow? maybe i can help with a suggestion
rozemar It’s frustrating to pay the Premium amount and to be so limited in the kinds of things I can do.
rozemar The slideshow has the wrong color background (black), is too large, and can’t be moved around on the page very well.
DW understandable. our service is managed, which is great for those who don’t want to be responsible for adding extra features, but not as exciting for those who do 😉
DW would one of the other gallery styles work for you instead of the slideshow?
DW i agree with you, the slideshow layout isn’t one of my favourites. i’m a big fan of the tiled gallery layout, or thumbnails
rozemar I want a simple, autoplaying slide show with no background and no controls. Other gallery styles show thumbnails. I just want a single image replaced by another, by another, etc.
DW got it. are you familiar with our css forum?
DW our CSS support is done in the CSS Customization forum by expert staff and volunteers: http://en.forums.wordpress.com/forum/css-customization
rozemar No. I did find some CSS versions online, but they are not working well.
DW that’s where you’ll find the most expert help for WordPress.com
rozemar I was hoping that an individual site could have the embed or iframe tags enabled.
DW no, all sites on the network are subject to the same rules. for certain services, we build special embed functionality
rozemar If I remember correctly, even the free version of wordpress.com used to have embed and iframe tags.
DW you can use whatever code you like on self-hosted WordPress.org installations. here’s a bit of info on the difference: http://en.support.wordpress.com/com-vs-org/
rozemar Yes, I have a self-hosted WordPress at secondaryworlds.com.
DW yes! exactly.
rozemar So, what does it take to get the special embed functionality?
DW it depends on what you want to embed. we develop special embed features for certain services, based on demand
DW for instance, you can embed a youtube video just by copying the url of the video into your post, eliminating the need for iframes or anything else
DW we have the same functionality for flickr, but I’m trying to figure out if that extends to flickr galleries or just single images
rozemar Okay, so a Flickr gallery might work?
DW I’m not sure, I’m trying to find out right now 🙂
rozemar The problem with Youtube is that it doesn’t autoplay in WP, which is what I want.
DW of course
DW okay, did a test and it doesn’t look like it can display a flickr album
rozemar Boo.
DW just individual photos 🙁
rozemar So, I’m creating a site for a client with a puppy breeding home business. Site is cpuppies.wordpress.com
DW yeah, sorry to be the bearer of bad news. for slideshows, you’ll need to work with the current slideshow for WordPress.com
DW sure
rozemar Or try to modify the CSS, which may not respond well to mobile access.
DW yes, but I do really recommend checking with the css forum. they’ve seen these same modification requests time and time again, I’m sure
rozemar Hard to tell client that $99.00 year can’t get a decent slideshow 🙁
DW sure, understandable
rozemar Okay. Thanks for you help.
DW I think a lot of the slideshow design focus goes to the full-screen slideshow that’s triggered from clicking a gallery item
DW the Carousel is really popular, but you need to display your images in another type of gallery to access it
DW you’re welcome! wish I had a better workaround for you on the spot. but best of luck with the CSS, that might make a difference for you

So, the service is now managed, and embeds from sources constitute a security threat. Hmm. Makes me wonder why they didn’t represent a threat before . . .

I’m also a little miffed about the lack of access to the PHP and HTML of the site with a premium account. Paying $99.00 per year should let me modify these templates, but again, WordPress seems to be on lockdown. If I want to modify a theme to allow categories to be shown with each post, for instance, it is impossible, except on a self-hosted installation like this one.

The 3GB limit is also a little restrictive. 3 GBs is really, really tiny if you plan to include a lot of videos in your media library. Most cloud storage starts with at least 5GB (though Dropbox is down to 2GB, it appears).

A final gripe is about the wonkiness of the responsive design layout, particularly in adding images to a post. I can’t get the images to not wrap unexpectedly, for instance, and while every monitor/device looks different, it would be great to have an interface that makes responsive design a little bit simpler.

The newish login process is also needlessly confusing. I go to WordPress.com, but from there I am taken to a blue screen with some stats (which I never check), and I then have to go to WP Admin, at which time I may or may not be on the correct blog. It’s also almost impossible to find where to create a new blog! Seriously, I had to leave the site and Google it to figure it out.

Okay–that’s my big gripe. Of course, I am still using it in my courses. Still maybe the best game in town, but not as good a game as it used to be.