GPL : Matt Mullenweg and Automattic vs. Wix

The General Public License (GPL) has been the source of many discussions since it was created in 1989 (with a few versions in following years) and applied to numerous Open Source Software projects.

Currently, there is one more such discussion going on.  It was kicked off by Matt Mullenweg, the founder and CEO of Automattic, the company behind WordPress:

Anyone who knows me knows that I like to try new things — phones, gadgets, apps. Last week I downloaded the new Wix (closed, proprietary, non-open-sourced, non-GPL) mobile app. I’m always interested to see how others tackle the challenge of building and editing websites from a mobile device.

I started playing around with the editor, and felt… déjà vu. It was familiar. Like I had used it before.

Turns out I had. Because it’s WordPress.

He proceeds with the open letter to Wix:

Dear Wix,

This explicitly contravenes the GPL, which requires attribution and a corresponding GPL license on whatever you release publicly built on top of GPL code. The GPL is what has allowed WordPress to flourish, and that let us create this code. Your app’s editor is built with stolen code, so your whole app is now in violation of the license.

What does Matt want Wix to do?  Very simple:

Release your app under the GPL, and put the source code for your app up on GitHub so that we can all build on it, improve it, and learn from it.

Did Wix respond?  Yes, they did.  First, one of their lead engineers, Tal Kol, wrote this blog post.  I think it’s quite sensible and boils down to a misunderstanding.  Or so I read it:

I apologize if I appeared to take credit for somebody else’s work. This was definitely not my intention. I think you guys are doing a great job.

Second one though is a bit less so, written by Wix CEO Avishai Abrahami.  While trying to appear friendly and casual, it does dodge the whole issue of the GPL violation, misrepresents the facts on the branding, and ends with an awkward invitation for a coffee.  WP Garage has a good summary of why this response is weak.

Here are a few more resources with commentary that help to understand the issue:

Personally, I am a big fan of GPL, Automattic, WordPress and Matt Mullenweg, who I had the opportunity to meet and talk to back a few years ago.  But as a CTO of a startup (and not for the first time), I have to admit that Open Source Software is difficult when it comes to business.  It requires a huge effort to make a company understand what Open Source Software is, what are the intricacies of the major licenses, and what are the consequences of using Open Source Software for different kinds of projects (internal tools, client projects, company products and services, etc).

Here are the important points that I want to highlight in regards to this conversion:

  • If you are using Open Source Software, make sure you understand the licensing and the culture behind it.
  • If you made a mistake, admit to it and figure out a way to resolve it.  Dodging or finger-pointing is not a resolve.
  • Legal action is not the only option.  Often, it is not even the most preferable.
  • Be nice to people. :)

I’d like to finish with this tweet, which I think highlights the most important point.

P.S.: Some people say that GPL has not been enforced in courts.  This page lists a few cases in several countries, which provide examples of the contrary.

Automattic and .blog domains

I was very excited when six years ago Automattic, the company behind WordPress, became a domain registrar.  Registering, renewing, and managing domains is still a painful process today as much as it was six years ago.

So, what have the company decided to do with its new super power? Well, they’ve integrated domain registration with their WordPress.com hosted blogging service.  And now they are promoting the new .blog domains:

Millions of short, easy to remember domains will be available when the .blog domain goes live November 21. Apply now to secure the perfect domain for your blog.

This sounds cool, until you check the prices.

leonid.blog

30 EUR per year is not cheap.  But an additional 220 EUR early application fee on top of it makes it a no deal for me.  I wonder how many bloggers out there will go for this.

I understand that managing a top level domain is not an easy thing to do.  Everything from infrastructure to technical support costs money.  But at those prices, I think I’ll wait until the technology gets cheaper.  Because it inevitably will.

Top 10 companies winning at remote work culture and their secrets

Remote work is a complex subject.  More and more individuals want to do it, yet very few companies offer it.  Communications, project management, knowledge sharing, remunerations, time tracking, team building – are just some of the issues.

Here’s the list of 10 companies that are very successful with their remote work cultures (read the article for details):

  1. Automattic (aka “the WordPress people”)
  2. Buffer
  3. Zapier
  4. Groove
  5. Basecamp
  6. Baremetrics
  7. Treehouse
  8. InVision
  9. Help Scout
  10. CloudPeeps

 

Jetpack is now available on GitHub

I can’t think of a way to put it better than WordPress Tavern did:

The Jetpack plugin code is now available on github and the team welcomes your pull requests. With the addition of Jetpack, Automattic now has 106 public repositories on github. That’s a lot of shared code!

Read the rest of the article for instructions on how to contribute.

Toni Schneider – Automattic As A Distributed Work Force

Toni Schneider – Automattic As A Distributed Work Force

Lots of Automattic employees within 7-9 months tell Toni that they can’t imagine going back to a regular job.

Automattic has been 100% distributed since day 1.

180 people, 28 countries, 138 cities make up the Automattic workforce.

Interesting point about people working from home. The assumption is that people would goof off. But Toni mentions how they have the opposite problem of people working too much.

This sounds awesome, but, personally, I don’t think I have the discipline to work this way.  I need to be in the office and I need face-to-face time.  I still appreciate the flexibility Automattic offers though.

The RedHat of Drupal

The RedHat of Drupal

Matt Mullenweg shares a piece of hilarious SPAM he received.  This. Is.  CLASSIC!

I apologize for the cold email. I was researching Automattic , Inc. and wanted to ask you if there was any gaps/pains within your CMS and website. I work for the “Redhat of Drupal”, (Acquia) and we have seen an explosion of Drupal use in the Media, News, and Entertainment Industry.

Some companies using Drupal/Acquia include Warner Music, Maxim, NBC Universal, and NPR.
If you are evaluating your current system or are looking into new web projects, I would love to connect and discuss Drupal as an option.

Would it make sense to connect on this? If there is someone better at Automattic , Inc. to speak with, perhaps you could point me in the right direction?

2012 year in blogging

I said it before and I will say it again, Automattic is an amazing company and they do a lot of really cool stuff.  Today I received one more confirmation of that – an email with the link to the report of my blogging through the year.

Blog stats

 

I’ve seen plenty reports, graphs, and analysis.  In fact, I have to go through a few pretty much every week.  But I don’t remember seeing anything that awesome!  First of all, the whole page looks beautiful.  It’s an inspiring design with many elements that work nicely with each other.  Secondly, there are no boring graphs or dry numbers.  A few, carefully selected, metrics create a perspective and make it all sound cool.  I don’t know much about other reports yet, but mine said that this blog “had more visits than a small country in Europe”!

On top of that, the report is a technical masterpiece.  Probably, not many would notice the uniqueness of the fireworks at the top of the page.  But if you just spend a moment, you’ll realize that this fireworks display is unique for every report.  It’s a timeline of blog activity.  That’s why there is a month and day shown for every fireworks shoot out.  (If you are interested in the technical aspects of it, have a look at this GitHub repo).

As I said, the whole thing is pretty awesome, original, and inspirational.  I wish more companies were doing this.  It would make the world so much better…

 

Automattic Creed

I’ve mentioned several times why I think Automattic is an awesome company to work for (no, I don’t work for them, yet).  Here is another example.  This is a bit that goes on the offer letter that new potential employees get.  This is what the company stands for.

I will never stop learning. I won’t just work on things that are assigned to me. I know there’s no such thing as a status quo. I will build our business sustainably through passionate and loyal customers. I will never pass up an opportunity to help out a colleague, and I’ll remember the days before I knew everything. I am more motivated by impact than money, and I know that Open Source is one of the most powerful ideas of our generation. I will communicate as much as possible, because it’s the oxygen of a distributed company. I am in a marathon, not a sprint, and no matter how far away the goal is, the only way to get there is by putting one foot in front of another every day. Given time, there is no problem that’s insurmountable.

Read the rest of the story as told by Matt.

GoDaddy is being sold to Silver Lake

According to GigaOm:

Go Daddy, the largest domain registrar and a web hosting provider, is reportedly close to being sold to a group of private equity firms including KKR and Silver Lake Partners. The purchase price is about $2 – 2.5 billion, according to several news outlets.

That’s the same Silver Lake that helped so much to screw up Skype.  If you haven’t yet found an alternative to GoDaddy, you should be looking.  That reminds me that Automattic has become a domain registrar quite some time ago and I haven’t heard any updates on that.