We believe free and easy communication of ideas through computers is important.
From growing up with BBS’s and IRC, through the early web, and now social media, we still believe computers can bring people together in meaningful ways.
Clearly people do not always do good things with these tools. The old jokes about the value of sharing cat videos are quaint compared with today’s concerns about privacy and manipulation through social media. These are not easy times to be a cyberpunk utopian - but we still believe in a bright future of online community.
When concrete5 was released as open source in 2008, we were young and spirited professionals who just wanted to keep making cool websites. My dream was to fill a warehouse full of creative people doing interesting stuff. We knew we loved the interactions, experiences, ideas, and people we met online. They were central to our success and growth as individuals. I’m not sure we fully believed we could build a product that would be a meaningful part of the history of digital media, but clearly after a decade with concrete5 - we have.
It’s been a bumpy journey over the years. We’ve seen the market demand for small website design services change dramatically with the introduction of quality SaaS web builders. We’ve weathered the pain of releasing a non-backwards compatible version. We’ve had countless ideas we couldn’t really execute without the VC-level funding our competition had behind them. The opportunity to raise capital over the years never materialized for us. Taking on investors can make the purpose of any organization become very immediate and financial. We aren’t motivated by making a billion dollars. We believe digital publishing should be easy, for everyone.
Today it is still not.
The tools of our craft and the opportunities to make truly innovative communication networks have exploded. And yet, the leaders of online communication are mostly driven by the needs of marketers and venture capitalists. Their goals naturally gravitate towards monetizing communication for the benefit of the few. When trying to figure out how to deliver a 20x return on millions of dollars of investment, I can’t say I wouldn’t do the same.
Happily, now we don’t have to.
I am beyond pleased to announce that after 3 years of work and over 13 months of negotiation we have secured a new contract with the U.S. Army that is a game changer for all of us. You know I’m always weary of sharing more numbers than my grandmother would approve of, but given my reticent nature these past few years I owe you something real. Our contract with the U.S. Army covers the next decade, and it is for many millions of dollars. They want us to make concrete5 great. They need it to be easy for thousands of service members to use it to share information important to them. They believe in open source, they appreciate the ease of use of concrete5. They want concrete5 to grow and be healthy. They believe in us. Now, I want to renew your faith in what we’re doing here together.
You’re going to see some big changes around here. You may have noticed we’re hiring. We’ve already brought on an amazing UX designer who will be working on both the core CMS and the marketing content at concrete5.org. We’re bringing on more developers and people dedicated to training, documentation and support. We’re building new features into the core like multi-site. We’re sponsoring PHP events. We’re working on a devops solution that will make the processes of managing a complex web presence simple. We’re pursuing compliance with a whole range of security certifications. We’re looking at online messaging and we’re thinking about what identity means and how you can really own the content you create. We’re even moving into new offices.
There’s so much going on that it’s been hard to know where to start. We’re putting a communication plan together so we can be better about letting you know what’s up. I know we haven’t been great at sharing in recent years, and we’re going to work on moving the pendulum back toward some of the open transparency we had in the past.
I won’t promise you that the days of making tens of thousands of dollars selling a superfish drop down menu will ever come back. The marketplace is an important part of what we do here, and we’re going to spend some real energy improving it. I know we will make decisions that some of you wont like. We don’t have all the answers here, so we will undoubtedly make mistakes we get to learn from. But I can promise you a renewed focus on our vision, and a new level of activity from a growing team here at PortlandLabs.
I’m so happy you’ve managed to stick with us all this time. We all deeply believe that a vibrant community is central to concrete5’s success. We know without you promoting, offering services, squashing bugs and suggesting new features, we’d be stuck at the starting line. The opportunities for talented concrete5 developers, designers and agencies are going to explode in the coming years. We’re going to prove you made the right call by believing in concrete5 all this time. With your help, we’re going to turn the web into the place we’ve always wanted it to be.
It’s been a crazy adventure we could have never predicted. We’ve reached a place where we have all of the talent, experience, and resources of a well funded VC startup, but without any of the baggage that typically comes with it. We’ve got some of the brightest talent in the world worried about making digital publishing easy for everyone, and I couldn’t be happier you’re all with us too.
Thank you so much for your attention, patience and belief in concrete5. More soon!