If you live in the US or the UK, it's been hard to avoid the advertising blitz for DIY website tools such as Squarespace, Wix website builder, Weebly and others.
Jeffrey Zeldman tweeted:
“With @Squarespace commercials on TV, YouTube, and every taxicab in NYC, has web design become a commodity?”
Christopher Butler, who quoted that tweet, added his own prediction:
"Five years from now, the majority of websites will be powered by Squarespace or something like it"
They aren't alone. Matt Mullenweg caused a stir recently when he claimed that DIY website tools were becoming the true competitors to WordPress:
"Naked WordPress (without plugins) is not competitive to Wix, Weebly, Squarespace"
So, I wondered, how popular are Squarespace, Wix and Weebly? How much market share have they won?
How Popular is Wix.com?
First things first, don't believe any numbers that Wix uses in its advertising. Back in late 2013 they claimed 37 million users and in 2014 they claimed 50 million users. Those figures are nonsense and probably include anyone who has ever registered on their site.
How many people actually have active websites on Wix? It's a publicly-traded company, so the real numbers weren't hard to find. Here are their official 2014 subscriber numbers:
- Q1: 908,000 subscribers.
- Q2: Over 1.0 million subscribers (up 62 percent since Q2 2013)
- Q3: Over 1.1 million subscribers.
- Q4: Over 1.23 million subscribers.
In short, Wix is overstating it's userbase by a factor of at least 50. That's disappointing and disingenuous. Wix has over 1.23 million subscribers and is growing fast - that's a great achievement and doesn't need false exaggeration.
How Popular is Squarespace.com?
Squarespace is a private company, so numbers are harder to come by. This Quora post has a very wide range of estimates:
We can ignore those guesses, but there is some clear evidence that Squarespace is smaller than Wix:
- Squarespace has 440 employees, Wix has 850.
- Squarespace has "well into the tens of millions" in revenue. Wix made $41.6 million in Q4 2014 alone, and is aiming for over $200 million in 2015.
Going by those numbers, its fair to assume that Squarespace is well short of the 1.23 million subscribers enjoyed by Wix.
How Popular is Weebly.com?
Weebly is another that plays fast-and-loose with numbers. They claim over 20 million sites which is again is almost certainly counting everyone who has ever registered with them. Weebly is so secretive, they don't even have the cost of their service on their site.
Even more so than Squarespace, there are no solid numbers to go on. In 2013, Weebly had 80 employees although that number is now climbing. It's likely that Weebly is the smaller than Wix and possibly Squarespace - certainly it doesn't seem to have the ammunition to blast back as Wix and Squarespace cover the US with their advertisements.
What do W3Techs and BuiltWith Say?
One thing we came to believe after looking at the stats is that at least one of most popular website statistic sources, W3Techs, is vastly underestimating Wix.
We really only have 2 number that we can state with confidence.
- We estimated there are about 1 million Drupal websites.
- We know that at least 1.23 million Wix sites.
However, W3Techs shows Drupal with 2.0% of all sites and Wix with 0.1%.
How Does this Compare to Other Platforms?
Last year we estimated there are a million Drupal websites. That is the most accurate number we've been able to find for any platform.
According to W3Techs, Joomla runs about 50% more sites than Drupal and WordPress runs at least ten times more, so we can make reasonable guesses from there. We can estimate Joomla has around 1.5 million sites and WordPress has at least 10 million.
I have one popular statistic claiming 72 million for WordPress sites, but that seems absurdly high and I couldn't find a reliable source. BuiltWith puts WordPress at a more realistic 14 million.
But, it's possible to create an approximate ranking showing the size of each platform. I've added the BuiltWith estimates for each platform:
- WordPress (14,700,000 sites)
- Joomla (2,800,000 sites)
- Wix (1,040,000 sites)
- Drupal (760,000 sites)
- Weebly (680,000 sites)
- Squarespace (450,000 sites)
Remember that this ranking is a best guess and accurate numbers are hard to come by. The only thing we can say for certain is that WordPress is way out in the lead.
Are Wix, Squarespace and Weebly very strong rivals to the biggest open source platforms?
Yes, if you can spend $40 million on advertising in just one year and employ famous actors (Jeff Bridges) or sport stars (Brett Favre) as pitchmen, then you absolutely have to be taken seriously as a competitor. And where numbers are available, you can see these companies are enjoying strong growth.
If you're in the web business, you need to think about how these DIY tools might impact your strategy over the next few years.