I’ll just say it: I think tag clouds suck.
At one point in time they were definitely seen as the cat’s pajamas, the soup du jour, and a general icon of the Web 2.0 movement (remember that?!).
But now I think they have very little place in our economy – their usage statistics and engagement statistics are terrible. And sadly I would know since I used them heavily when they first came out and yet their click-through rates were paltry, to say the least.
Not to mention that they were ugly as sin, and still are. There has never been a sexy implementation as far as I’m aware and when the “3D rotating” tag cloud appeared I wanted to hurl.
So why do we still have the wp_tag_cloud() function call in WordPress? Aren’t we better than that?
For those that have recently wandered into WordPress and the social web you may not have really ever encountered this thing called the “tag cloud” – lucky for you as you will not have the scar issue from which to tell tales of wasted blog real estate and the ugliest of sidebars.
But what it was essentially was a “cloud” of tags that were ordered in size by use. In other words, the more often a tag was used in a blog post the larger it would get in the cloud.
The original intent was to be some visual cue for the reader to see what tags were the most popular on a blog so that they might actually click through that tag and view the more popular or read articles. Or that was the idea.
What ended up happening was massive tag bloat, completely repetitive, senseless, and ignorant use of tags in general, and wild abuse that created a near-impossible to comprehend user experience.
But they got bigger, and bigger, and more fancy as time progressed. Until suddenly, they disappeared. You don’t see them, do you? Go to any blog that you read on the daily and see if they have a tag cloud. My bet is that 10 out of 10 times you won’t find one.
So, why do we still have that function in WordPress? If I’ve gotten this correct, it was first introduced back in 2007 with version 2.3, codename “Dexter” and in 2.8 the taxonomy was introduced. 6 years in technology and blogging is like 6 light years for as fast as we move, right? I couldn’t remember where it was first introduced completely but this might be it – a port from bbPress.
Why Kill It?
My proposal is quite simple – if it’s not an often used function by both developers and users and is generally lambasted as an implementation by popular culture then we should consider taking it out.
Oh wait, did I mention the use of inline styles (wait, we still use that?!)? Or what about those classes that are generated (useless)? A fully qualified URL (unnecessary).
In addition, WordPress is getting so “heavy” with each new release (with great new features, I might add) that it’s worth considering removing other things to offset the growing girth. This isn’t just a removal for removal’s sake either.
Allow plugin authors to come up with even better and more creative (and useful) implementations – it’ll force this innovation upon the user-developer so that we can all be inspired.
All-in-all, I think we’re better than that. I think we’re beyond the tag cloud and should look to sunset wp_generate_tag_cloud() and wp_tag_cloud(). Convince me that I’m wrong and I’ll give you a tag cookie.