There's a massive shakeup in the world of managed WordPress hosting.
WPEngine, one of the industry leaders, has announced that it's acquiring Flywheel - one of its biggest competitors. The price of the acquisition has not been announced.
By acquiring Flywheel's 200+ employees and 2 offices, WPEngine now has access to more than 120,000 companies in 150 countries - and a team of over 900 employees in 7 worldwide locations. Together the two companies have the annual recurring revenue (ARR) of over $150 million.
In the press release, Heather Brunner, the CEO of WPEngine expressed excitement in the potential of the things the two companies can achieve together. And the Flywheel CEO, Dusty Davidson mentioned that together, the companies will be able to offer completely unparalleled support to the entire WordPress community.
Well, let's take a deeper look.
What does WPEngine acquiring Flywheel mean and how will it affect the users of both platforms?
Are WPEngine and Flywheel merging together?
No. At least not yet.
Despite offering very similar services - managed WordPress hosting - the two platforms have a fair share of differences. And so, it would be impossible for the Flywheel customers to merge into WPEngine platform overnight.
Flywheel offers some great WordPress exclusives, such as Local, which allows users to keep a WordPress website within their own machine, and only deploy it to a public domain when ready.
Together with features such as Teams, allowing for users to edit on separate workspaces, streamlining the overall workflow, Flywheel is as much a workflow solution as it is a hosting provider.
On top of that, Flywheel has proved to be a useful platform for freelancers - allowing them to hand over the prepared website to the clients so they could be charged individually.
For now, WPEngine can not offer a similar product - what they do have, is various WordPress hosting solutions, but the platform is separate.
And of course, the customer support teams will remain separate as well. So if you have an issue with Flywheel, you won't be able to get any help using the WPEngine customer support.
So overall, WPEngine and Flywheel are not merging together. Simply because the platforms are just a little bit too different as they are now.
What changes will happen to Flywheel?
In the press release, Flywheel reassures its customers, that it's going to be "business as usual" - at least for some time. No changes are planned for the platform, plans, or overall product experience.
But here's the interesting part.
There's going to be some "collaboration between the brands" - and one can only assume what exactly this is going to lead to.
It can be expected for the two platforms to separate, so they wouldn't compete with one another. WPEngine focusing on major businesses and personal users, and Flywheel firmly targeting freelancers and developers is certainly a viable option.
But also, there's a big chance that WPEngine would use all of Flywheel's experience in order to build similar products of their own - and then either create a separate platform or moving all the Flywheel users to WPEngine. All should be more clear in the future - right now, it's mostly speculation.
But overall, one thing is clear: with this acquisition, the world of managed WordPress hosting loses one of its biggest competitors. And to many, this may be a serious disappointment.
WordPress community doesn't know what to think
The official announcements on social media have received a flurry of comments and requests.
We're incredibly excited to announce that Flywheel is joining the @wpengine family! Together, we'll be able to build a better creative workflow and accelerate our investments into the WordPress community.
— Flywheel (@HeyFlywheel) June 24, 2019
The WordPress community had an overall mixed reaction to the acquisition. One of the main concerns shared by a lot of the developers is a bad track record of hosting product acquisitions. The concern has merit - a lot of the hosting providers actually got worse after being purchased by a parent company.
Please, please, please don't have this be the beginning of the end! Flywheel rocks and I hope you continue to do so! I've been down this acquisition road before (remember when Host Gator got bought?) and it usually doesn't end well.
— samsonmedia (@samsonmedia) June 24, 2019
However, some users also reacted positively. Namely, mentioning that the two strengths of the companies could end up making one perfect product.
So overall, it can be said, that the WordPress community reaction is mixed - skeptical, but hopeful.
What are the alternatives?
So, what's left in the business? Actually, there are still several other options you can choose if you want neither WPEngine nor Flywheel.
As it is now, Kinsta is going to be one of the biggest competitors to WPEngine and Flywheel. It's a managed WordPress platform, focusing on ultimate ease of use, extensive analytics, and high performance.
Starting at $30 a month, it's an interesting pick, including regular backups, uptime checks, and expert customer support. Great pick if you're looking for something that's not WPEngine or Flywheel.
A2 Hosting is a hosting provider, that focuses on much more than just WordPress hosting. But that's in no way a bad thing.
Starting at just $11.99, A2 managed WordPress hosting plans are run via Plesk, include a Jetpack license, free website transfers, and many other features and perks often discovered in much more premium managed WordPress hosting plans.
This is the original managed WordPress solution. Offering virtually unlimited resources of Amazon Web Services, perfect performance during traffic surges, and much more, it's a managed WordPress solution for big businesses.
The plans start at $199/month, but the limits are virtually nonexistent.
For example, there's a Pulsar plan at $20,000 a month, which includes a private Slack channel, 2 support seats, and a dedicated account manager.
So overall, even though Flywheel and WPEngine are now one and the same company, there are still alternatives you can choose from.
WPEngine Acquires Flywheel - Conclusion
Overall, this acquisition marks a very interesting period for both WPEngine and Flywheel.
When a company swallows its direct competitor, it's expected to lead to a lack of progress and innovation, as there's one fewer challenger to worry about. That being said - a combination of WPEngine's scale and Flywheel's innovation sounds very promising.
There should be a lot of interesting products coming our way very soon. But the way it's going to be carried out, still remains a secret.
So we can't wait to see what's going to happen next.