The WordPress web publishing platform has been used by podcasters since it began to receive widespread adoption about a decade ago. WordPress began as an open source project and it has remained that way. This has allowed the platform to cater to a variety of plugins and extensions that have made WordPress one of the most powerful and popular content management systems in the world.
Most open source software is released under licenses that encourage developers who use it in their own projects to, at the very least, credit the original developers who created the software. It’s a tradition that’s at the heart of the open source movement. And while theres no legal body that governs the use of open source code, the communities that thrive on it have done a good job of respecting this tradition. That’s why it can be problematic when a developer decides to crib a bunch of open source code and treat it as their own.
In an open letter recently published to his blog, WordPress founder Matt Mullenweg called out web design service Wix for “borrowing” some open source WordPress code for the latest Wix mobile web-editor app:
If I were being charitable, I’d say, ‘The app’s editor is based on the WordPress mobile app’s editor.’ If I were being honest, I’d say that Wix copied WordPress without attribution, credit, or following the license. The custom icons, the class names, even the bugs. You can see the forked repositories on GitHub complete with original commits from Alex and Maxime, two developers on Automattic’s mobile team. Wix has always borrowed liberally from WordPress — including their company name, which used to be Wixpress Ltd. — but this blatant rip-off and code theft is beyond anything I’ve seen before from a competitor.
Mullenweg goes on to explain that Wix released its editor without any attribution to WordPress developers. He implores Wix to fall in line with the terms and spirit of the open source license. He’d like Wix to give the proper attribution to the WordPress dev team and also for Wix to make its own code open source and release it to the community.
It’s obvious that Wix is a competitor to Automattic, the company headed by Mullenweg that runs the fully managed WordPress services at www.wordpress.com. Business aside, Mullenweg’s assertion that Wix is into some shady business here seems reasonable. Hopefully, Wix will make things right and follow the rules set forth in the open source license.