On the GPL, Themes, Plugins & Free.

So, we’ve finally got an official word on this, the one sentence summary by Matt reads:

PHP in WordPress themes must be GPL, artwork and CSS may be but are not required.

Ok, so that’s the final truth, because the Software Freedom Law Center (who are of course absolutely NOT partial in this, even though they’re called the “Software Freedom Law Center”) said so. Nice. Really nice actually as all I’ve done and released for WordPress, ever, has always been GPL, and I chose to work with Brian because his themes were GPL and the others were not (at the time).

You’d think I’d be happy, and I am, sort of. But I’ve got an itch that needs scratching. With this final statement, there’s also a new page on WordPress.org for Commercially supported GPL WordPress theme makers, and Genesis is among those of course.

So, all the theme makers who decide to go fully GPL (their artwork and CSS included), can get listed on that page. Well, good for them. You’d think, that by now, Matt and Automattic would have been smart enough to know who their friends and who their foes are. I’m not saying these theme makers aren’t their friends. But there are these people out there, who have been building things that have been GPL all the time, who do NOT get that recognition.

Of course, we plugin authors get to host our own plugins on wordpress.org, and we can get links back to our site etc. But where’s the page for commercially supported GPL WordPress PLUGINS Matt? Don’t you think it’s time you started treating the plugin authors the same way as the theme authors? Or do we have to start a theme war for that first?

And yes I do have an interest in this, and yes I am planning on going the “commercially supported GPL” route with some of my plugins, just because keeping them all free doesn’t make any sense any more. Free does other things, just as Chris Anderson says, it has helped tremendously in getting my name out, but “free” doesn’t make me rich, far from it even. I can be quite honest in that so far, in working with Brian on StudioPress… Well let’s just say the effort to gain ratio is a LOT better.

The fact that people are able to build business models around a project, is the reason that projects grow. The premium theme market, started by Brian but also greatly pushed by my buddies at WooThemes and others, has increased development on themes tremendously: it has done the entire WordPress community a lot of good. (BTW, read Daniel Jalkut’s post on the GPL vs liberal licenses, it’s a very good read and offers some nice food for thought).

So my plea, to you, Matt, is to help people build up viable business models around WordPress Themes AND Plugins. For several reasons, including the fact that I’m loving to be able to make a living with it, but also because I think it will do the community a lot of good. And ow yeah, I’d love a haiku on WordPress.org about me too!

Tags: ,

Yoast.com runs on the Genesis Framework

Genesis theme frameworkThe Genesis Framework empowers you to quickly and easily build incredible websites with WordPress. Whether you're a novice or advanced developer, Genesis provides you with the secure and search-engine-optimized foundation that takes WordPress to places you never thought it could go.

Read our Genesis review or get Genesis now!

44 Responses

  1. Justin ParksBy Justin Parks on 2 July, 2009

    Well joost, you know my feelings on this after I heard what the returns where on plugin development I went on a mini crusade with this post: http://www.justinparks.com/have-you-made-donation-to-your-wordpress-plugin-developer/ .

    You have my support completely on this… Can I have my donation back? :P

  2. NileBy Nile on 2 July, 2009

    Amen Joost! This was one of the things for months that has been going on for some time. When I went to WordCamp Chicago, this was mentioned too. All my work has been fully supported for years and so has the few php scripts I have given out. I hope that list grows and I hope that developers and designers alike might see a little more appreciation come their way.

    While I agree with Justin on WP developers getting credit, I believe making the crusade include developers who provide anything useful.

  3. David McDougalBy David McDougal on 2 July, 2009

    I agree. I have always supported Studiopress in V1 and V2, along with Woothemes and other premium theme providers. I think that the pay for support routecan be very helpful, and if the app is truly worth it then I am willing to pay for it. Joost I would pay for your plugin support as I know that I am getting quality to start, and would quality support.

    I think that too many people start crying over the fact that people charge for a product that is free. They are not, they are charging for their time and energy to build the app that you need, and are too lazy to build yourself. Just because the underpinning are based on a free product ok. They are giving you the core source code to modify as you need so what is the problem. Ahh back to that too lazy to build it yourself, and to pompus to pay someone that wasn’t.

    I say Joost follow StudioPress and offer GPL commercial plugins. I will be the first in line to buy a support package from you. Thank you for your great work that you are doing.

  4. AnthonyBy Anthony on 3 July, 2009

    I must say I totally agree with you, I am a plug-in developer, but there is only very few recognition for us, I am thinking of making commercially supported plug-ins BUT it would help much more if there was such a page for us.

    All my plugins are GPL and will always be, but commercial support is the only way for me to be able to get something out of my work. As I said, recognition for plug-ins developer is not a common practice, simply because there is not much direct visibility for our work.

  5. Chris WallaceBy Chris Wallace on 3 July, 2009

    Always picking fights with guys named Matt (Cutts and Mullenweg). :)

  6. Stephen CroninBy Stephen Cronin on 3 July, 2009

    Hi Joost,

    Totally agree with what you’re saying in the post, but I have a bone to pick with you:

    Your site doesn’t display properly for me in Firefox 3.0.11 – the page ends halfway through the comments, can’t see them all, cant see the comment form and can’t see the footer. As a result, I have to use IE6 (the corporate browser here) to leave a comment!

    Please don’t make me use IE6 – that’s almost criminal! :)

    • Joost de ValkBy Joost de Valk on 3 July, 2009

      Hehe, we agree on that. Let me see if I can get that reproduced and fixed!

  7. Stephen CroninBy Stephen Cronin on 3 July, 2009

    Hmm, now the problem is happening in both FF3 and IE6 and I have to use Chrome to comment. I’m starting to think maybe it’s the corporate firewall? If it works fine for everyone else, I guess there’s no problem!

    • simonBy simon on 3 July, 2009

      just used FF3 ;)

  8. LuciBy Luci on 3 July, 2009

    I agree, quality (&useful) plug-ins in general take a lot longer to develop than your average nice theme. There should be at least us much recognition for plug-in developers as there is for theme makers!

  9. nourfradiBy nourfradi on 3 July, 2009

    merci mes amis de votre fidelite

  10. Andreas NurboBy Andreas Nurbo on 3 July, 2009

    Don’t expect same treatment of plugins as with themes from Matt and the wordpress.org crew.

    What about commercial plugins, any chance of them getting the same treatment?
    Commercial plugins are already seamlessly integrated with the plugin directory.

    Quick Interview: Matt Mullenweg on the Commercial GPL Themes

  11. simonBy simon on 3 July, 2009

    how is it going with free + donations? Could something be released GPL + donation warnings?

  12. LefterisBy Lefteris on 3 July, 2009

    I’m not a plugin developer and I totally disagree with what is stated here. I’ve been developing sites with WP for years now due to the fact that it is totally free and open, including the themes and the plugins. In fact, I came to your site because you are offering a useful free plugin. If it wasn’t for WP I don’t think you and your site would enjoy this popularity. If you’re not satisfied just go the expression way and built your business model with them.

    • simonBy simon on 3 July, 2009

      agree +100 karma points + <3 4evah

    • NileBy Nile on 4 July, 2009

      I agree, do not buy the plugin. For curiosity’s sake, I have been checking out some plugins that were offered for free and then later a pro version was offered for money.

      My own issue was that I was finding that the developer decided to leave the free ‘enticing’ plugin in limbo and eventually when the newer versions of WordPress, that plugin was no longer compatible or even worked. However, when going to check out the pro version, it was the price that deterred me from buying it.

      How much should a plugin cost?

    • LefterisBy Lefteris on 4 July, 2009

      Carl, there is nothing new in what you’re saying, already some developers offer support for a fee or some extra features to their plugin.

      Why you need Matt’s blessing for this?

      Is it because you count on the free publicity from the official WP support? Surely, this is one thing that Joost is aiming at. But this something to expect from a person that forced his site feed onto my own (and yours) backend.

  13. Andy BeardBy Andy Beard on 4 July, 2009

    Just to correct one statement.

    I was buying commercial themes long before Brian launched Revolution, such as the Optiniche package and though I am not a customer, Denis from Semiologic has been around with his premium themes since 2005 probably as well… maybe before.
    There were lots of people selling commercial themes in 2005

    The Software Freedom Law Center gave an opinion on the code they were specifically given to evaluate, but that doesn’t really hold much water if people create commercial classes used in their themes, or create alternative WP functions.

    • Joost de ValkBy Joost de Valk on 10 July, 2009

      Sorry for the late reply Andy, but you’re obviously very right in both regards! (BTW Denis is doing an AWESOME job these days in keeping WP trac clean and fixing bugs left right and center).

  14. that girl againBy that girl again on 4 July, 2009

    Commercial plugin developers don’t have the same critical mass as commercial theme developers (it’s a cultural thing — as a group, coders are more enthusiastic about GPL than designers) and that’s why they get no love. Maybe if there were a few more of you and you made a lot more noise you might win a few concessions, but Automattic are not going to cave in and help out rival commercial ventures without a fight.

  15. Karl FoxleyBy Karl Foxley on 4 July, 2009

    I totally agree with you on this one. Free is a great if you are using a typical online marketing strategy of upsells, one-time-offers, back-end sales etc… I think your plugins are awesome and your Studio Press venture seriously rocks for the company and the end-user.

    You deserve props for the great plugins you have created and the knowledge you share…


  16. Sci-Fi SiBy Sci-Fi Si on 5 July, 2009

    Ah the age old problem of being a programmer rears it’s ugly head again. You can whistle a tune, you can stare at a nice looking graphic, but how exactly is it a human shows they appreciate a decent bit of programming logic?

  17. Kevin LawBy Kevin Law on 6 July, 2009

    Hey Joost, I am trying to make a donation to you, but seems like there a few donation links. One leads to AlthA Webdesign, and another leads to paypal@yoa.st

    Which one? :)

  18. Bart van MaanenBy Bart van Maanen on 7 July, 2009

    I’m not a developer or plugin author but your comment seems to be spot on. By the way, pretty smart to put your latest news on the dashboard.

  19. BrianBy Brian on 7 July, 2009

    Can’t agree with you more. I’d love to see a page of commercial plugins.

    If there was such a page, I would have found shopplugin.net much faster, and not had to waste dozens of hours of time on trying to get the OTHER pseudo-GPL ecommerce plugin to work.

    Plugins can save time.
    Time is money.
    If a plugin is priced reasonably, and saves me loads of time, of course I’m going to use it.

    Anyway, thanks for your soap-boxing.

    • BrianBy Brian on 7 July, 2009

      Of course, I’m glad so many of yours are free. :)

  20. VincentBy Vincent on 8 July, 2009

    Hi Joost, my donation on yoa.st got returned last time I tried? (21 mei)

    My account stated: paypal@yoa.st (De ontvanger van deze betaling is Niet-geregistreerd)

    Regarding commercial plugins. One of the reasons I love working with WP instead of anything else, is that you can tune it with ‘free’ plugins. Test different plugins and get the best one for the purpose. I once started with Drupal and Joomla, but all good plugins need payment. So you don’t know what you get, buy things that don’t solve your problem and get anoyed by the platform. Also I think ‘free’ stimulates innovation. I try new plugins all the time. If I had paid for a certain plugin once, I probably wouldn’t change it for another, newer plugin as I’d be paying again.

    But hey, I DO make donations for good plugins, but I can imagine not everybody does, undermining the essence of ‘free’ I would vote for the ‘app store’ pay a buck or a couple for your download.

  21. haitsam shiddiqBy haitsam shiddiq on 10 July, 2009

    hello yoast. i want to ask you. what your blog theme is free ????
    i had found it at abibakarblog.com
    if free, where is the download link..???
    i’m very love your theme

    • Joost de ValkBy Joost de Valk on 10 July, 2009

      No it’s not. I’ve already emailed that bloke to take it down and will otherwise start taking legal action.

  22. Eric BlackwellBy Eric Blackwell on 14 July, 2009

    Hey Joost;

    I am 100% with you on this. That may sound weird coming from a guy who (admittedly) has not donated to any free plugins and but HAS paid Brian for a developer license with Studio Press themes and many others as well.

    If you build quality stuff it should IMO be able to stand the test of the market and get what the market will bear. Plugins are no different from themes in that regard IMHO.

    Brain’s stuff will only get better (SE firendly-wise) from your work.

    Rock on.



  23. AndrewBy Andrew on 14 July, 2009

    So what’s the deal on other commercial themes? Will the Thesis theme have to become free to download?

    • Joost de ValkBy Joost de Valk on 14 July, 2009

      No, GPL does not mean free to DOWNLOAD, it should be free to REDISTRIBUTE for everyone who purchases it… You can probably find download links for all of them should you wish, but is that really what you’d want to achieve?

      • AndrewBy Andrew on 14 July, 2009

        OK. Thanks for the clarification.

  24. Asif2BDBy Asif2BD on 18 July, 2009

    I am Big time WordPress Enthusiast. Yes Plugins needs to be treated same as Themes, Though still me & my company mainly working on themes, but we did lots work on Plugins and functionality. Most of the commercial Plugins are hell difficult to code. We create functionality. Themes are look, front end. Plugins is the module that create various lovely functionality.
    Matt understand all of it. We all love him. His understanding in commercial is different, like the idea of enterprise Akismet. He love it that way. Give everything free, if some body need extended he could hire a developer or hire the creator. Thats why all GPL.
    Love you too Buddy.

  25. Kevin EklundBy Kevin Eklund on 27 July, 2009

    I fully support what you’ve said. I found this quote from Matt Mullenweg in response to the following question by Thord Daniel Hedengren that was taken from a Blog Herald post on July 3rd, 2009 entitled “Quick Interview: Matt Mullenweg on the Commercial GPL Themes”:

    Thord Daniel Hedengren: What about commercial plugins, any chance of them getting the same treatment?

    Matt: Commercial plugins are already seamlessly integrated with the plugin directory.

    This is such BS, I can’t believe he is equating a separate commercial theme directory (which doesn’t include free themes) with a plugin repository that contains nothing but free themes. For the most part, the only way to find a commercial plugin is to go to each plugin author’s homepage.

    I really don’t think this kid had thought this whole thing out. I’m afraid you may be right Joost; plugin developers are going to have to follow the footsteps of theme developers and force Matt’s hand. I have more thoughts on this here if you’re interested:


  26. ErikBy Erik on 7 October, 2009

    Maybe an option would be to set up an independent commercial plugin and themes directory.
    Someting like an Itunes store for plugins with plugins priced from $0.99.
    Surely that’s not too much to ask?
    Unless something like that already exists?


  1. [...] Was gabs die letzten Tage? Themes are GPL, too. Matt hat gesprochen und viele Premium Theme-Schmieden sind auf den Zug aufgesprungen. Ich warte bloß auf den Tag, an dem sich einer vom Gardner ein Theme für 59.95$ kauft, das DIV wrapper in DIV superwrapper umbennt und das Theme für 9,95$ an alle weiterverkauft, die es haben wollen. Und Joost de Valk möchte wie die Premium Themes auch eine Seite bei WordPress.org für kommerzielle Plugins. [...]

  2. [...] for some back and forth with block quotes. Thankfully there are others that also have the guts to stand up to Matt Mullenweg and demand he recognize the error of his ways to help provide a better business model for WordPress [...]