Léonie Watson has posted a very well-written article explaining what “semantic” means in the context of the web, along with some demonstrations. It’s worth a read for anyone who’s making things on the web, (including people who don’t consider themselves developers), and it can serve as a quick reference to file away for later when you’re in the middle of building and you need a reference.
This is a move I’m glad to see, and, I’m also glad the plugins team is considering similar guidelines for the plugin directory.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not against upselling. I use the Genesis framework, after all, and I use a lot of premium plugins in my work. These guidelines aren’t addressing upselling in general so much as “in your face” upselling within the WordPress.org directories, along with crippleware. Both crippleware on .org and obtrusive upselling are bad for the community, in my opinion. I’m of course not saying that everything should be no charge, all the time. But WordPress.org is where new users get their start with WordPress, and if we nickel and dime them to death, we’re leaving a bad taste in their mouths.
As someone who builds websites, works on themes and builds custom plugins for a living, I’ll be the first one to tell you that a good website is an investment. But I also remember what it was like to come across WordPress for the first time, and at that time, I wasn’t looking for something to invest in. I was looking for something that would solve a very specific problem, and I had no idea where things would go from there. I think that’s where all new users of WordPress.org are, and for a lot of the users who continue there, building a top-notch website isn’t what they’re looking for. They’re looking for something to play with, something to help with a hobby, or something to put up a quick and dirty website that doesn’t look like it escaped from the 90’s and that they can add features to through plugins. Eventually, if they decide to become full or part time developers, they’ll switch to paid plugins and themes for a lot of their clients, depending on budget. But I think we as a community need to work hard to make sure that WordPress.org doesn’t become a vehicle for turning people away from WordPress the project and WordPress the community. These steps by the theme and plugin teams are definitely in the right direction.