It’s official, we’ve been blacklisted by Matt / WordPress

OK, so I can take a hint and I can see where we’re not wanted, and I’d rather get it all out so I don’t have to mention it again – we can just focus on the good stuff we’re doing and planning on doing.

So, consider this my last ‘we’re getting picked on by Matt / Certain members of Automattic‘ post / flame / troll whatever you want to call it :)

But the fact of the matter is that just ‘not liking’ us has gone from disapproval to actively trying to damage us over the last few weeks, I mean the whole ‘getting rid of MU’ because of us was bad enough already, but just recently it’s started to get concrete… and I felt I just had to share it with you, to get it off my chest:

1. (a free, GPL, plugins hosted site) is removed from the WordPress codex by Matt, without explanation.


2. – the earliest surviving (and second largest by all accounts) WordPress MU site is removed from the page (I asked Matt for comment, he just ignored me):


3. You now can’t leave a comment in the regular MU forums recommending one of our WPMU DEV Premium plugins (although other people get to spruce their paid downloads as much as they want!) without it getting deleted (unfortunately I can’t *prove* this, you’ll just have to take my word for it)


4. Despite the fact that we fulfill all the criteria and then some, we’re simply not allowed on the Commercial Themes directory. We don’t get any response from them, zero, zilch.


I even wrote one of those stoopid Haikus… sheesh I feel like such a Twatt!

5. We submitted a core security patch to BuddyPress the other day, privately, not making a big deal of it (like we could have) and forcing the latest release… we didn’t even get a mention :/

And, believe me, there’s  heap of other stuff, it’s just been building and building over time :(

So, all in all, we can take a hint, we’re not only not wanted, Matt actually wants to take the time to aggressively pursue us.

Despite the fact that he’s such an important person on the web, and is leading such a top company.

And despite the fact that we’re playing within the rules of the GPL, doing the ‘right thing’ wherever possible, providing valuable services to thousands and thousands of people (who seem to like what we provide for them!), promoting WordPress and ‘giving back’ left right and center.

As we have been for years, and years and years!

I mean, have we honestly done anything to deserve this kind of treatment?

But then again, what can you do?

Get over it I guess… hence I’m done with this whole bitching and complaining thing, and at least things are now 100% clear.

Now we just need to get on with doing what we do well, helping our customers out and building a great business regardless of the obstacles that get thrown is our way by the very people that you’d hope we could work well with, and stop playing these stupid games of personal politics.

46 Responses

  • Wow man! Pretty shocking really! I can’t believe it actually…
    It makes me like WordPress less to be honest. I have been wanting to develop a site based on MU for a while and planned on using some of the DEV plugins you provide, but this makes one wonder what the future will hold…

    Sorry to hear the crap news!

  • I’m sure Matt will be along soon enough to explain the reasons.

    Will make a nice talking point for the upcoming WordCampNY :)

  • I’ve been developing wordpress sites using WordPressMu for about 18 months. I am not a coder so it’s been an interesting journey. I’m happy automattic is finally paying attention to WPMu..

    It pisses me off that automattic seems to forget that the only support I could find as a WPMu user was @ – if memory serves, when I went to to find WPMu plugins, I was sent to – I thought that was a wordpress site.

    I became a paying member @ WPMUDEV to get my sites working more quickly. I didn’t like having to pay to download plugins. I planned to stop my membership after getting the goodies that I wanted. I stayed because my membership paid for itself each month. The combination of plugins, themes & forum work for me. I’ve a paid member since early this year and I don’t see letting the membership go any time soon as long as the development continues as promised and I keep getting value – I’m a customer.

    Personally, I don’t know what happened between James & Matt and I don’t really care. I find the politics a pain in the arse and a big distraction. But it seems that Matt has the reins on this one – it’s his platform. My guess is that he will reveal more this weekend in at Wordcamp – NY.

    As a business person, I know that the playing field is constantly changing and we have to adapt to the changes quickly or die. I have not been asked, but as WPMU gets included in the WordPress Core, I see that Incsub has an opportunity to greatly increase it’s member base to the WordPress community at large.

    Here’s how, I love your plugin’s functionality. I like your themes. It’s your support forums that kick major ass and keep me as a paying customer. I can get specific answers quickly to my problems quickly and reliably. The goodies pulled me in – the forums keep me paying.

    Lastly as a paying customer. I would like to see how you plan to adapt to the new playing field and how you will rebrand and reinvent Incsub to keep providing a much needed service. I would love to see Incsub, play the game under the new rules and win? Which would be the very best revenge.

  • WPMU DEV Initiate

    Well… I’m sorry James but I think you really got yourself into trouble with Buddypress. IMHO You have three out of the 5 really functional templates (ie compatible post 1.1 release) out there and there are behind a HUGE paywall. With them trying to get Buddypress off the ground and adopted by a wide range of users, it is discouraging to the little guys and girls like myself who certainly cannot afford a high cost subscription just to get at these themes or some of your Buddypress plug ins. By not contributing these things freely (or more afford ably) to the fledgling Buddypress community you are in one sense stiffing widespread adoption/experimentation which is vital at this stage of development.

    For example I can tell you that if you contributed just your themes alone to the Buddypress community there would probably by 2x the number of Buddypress sites up and running right now.

    I think that your work is great but I think that if you want to successfully integrate into the WP eco system and not have such a controversy you should really re think some of your business practices (lower you cost of entry). No offense but it actually made me feel good that Matt is actually looking out for the little people who can’t afford your subscription, but want to contribute too.


  • New Recruit

    @Derek I’m all for the little guy — I’m one of ’em! Automattic could have a hundred good reasons to treat WPMUDEV the way they do, but I don’t think it would be fair to discriminate them because of the cost.

    In fact, many of the commercial theme authors listed on charge upwards of $75 per theme. For $50/month WPMUDEV offers 100+ plugins and themes.

    I’m not a customer of WPMUDEV (though I once was) partly because of the cost, but that doesn’t mean that I should expect them to change their prices. If there are people willing to pay, then go for it!

  • New Recruit

    I swear, this little ongoing drama never ceases to amaze me.

    (1) James, if the picture you’re painting is accurate, I sympathize. It’s one thing to take issue with WPMUDev Premium… quite another to take that out on Edublogs and plain ol’ WPMUDev. You also deserve a shout-out for the BuddyPress patch, IMO.

    (2) I’ve often wondered why Automattic doesn’t just buy an annual subscription to WPMUDP and post all the GPL’d content and updates to the WP repository/codex, instead of arguing the whole issue. It’s possible that they’ve decided this “pretend IncSub doesn’t exist” approach is kinder than the alternative, or at least *looks* kinder. I’m not sure that it’s better for the community, though.

  • WPMU DEV Initiate

    @Patrick I can agree with your point but the dichotomy should never be “have” and “have nots” when you are dealing with GPL software. Someone mentioned it earlier but there is definitely a tone issue going on here as well. My point is that if you are one of the most visible developers and you have such a high cost of entry to access of your experience, you EXCLUDE people. If you want WPMU to just be a commercial platform that’s one thing but this open/pay model is obviously tripping over too many ideological boundaries.

  • While contributing the BuddyPress themes would have been good, original premium pay themes and plugins are popular and permitted elsewhere in the WordPress ecosystem.

    I think the bigger issue is the taking of other’s GPL contributions, modifying them, and putting them behind the paywall. The Farm’s Theme Pack, for instance, is (or at least was last I saw it) all other people’s GPL released work that James modified and is now charging for. This is both a violation of GPL copyright terms as well as just bad form. If they were original works that he was charging for, there would be much less of an issue.

    Also, playing out this drama on the blog here has been unseemly and probably did more harm overall than the GPL issues. It’s just bad business to air dirty laundry publicly like this.

    Let this not be taken as a complete slam of the incsub sites. I appreciate everything (else) has done to promote and support people interested in using MU that aren’t capable of supporting themselves.

    I personally think though that a modification of what the paywall is for (support vs access to GPL material), and participating more in the larger wordpress community such as contributing to the core and turning the free MU plugin/theme listings into a better front-end directory for the libraries instead of creating a separate repository (cooperation instead of competition) would go a long way in repairing the relationship.

    And no, I have no affiliation with Automattic. I’m just a MU site dev/admin looking to help the larger MU community rather than play favorites of “us” vs “them”.

  • GPL does not mean free. The GPL also does not mean that you have to give whatever you created away to anyone who asks for it or make it freely available to download.

    Everything WPMU.ORG is doing is completely in line with the GPL license. They aren’t using some loophole to do anything underhanded. They are doing what they love to do and getting paid for it by users who see the value in the service and products they provide.

    It is also completely okay with the GPL to take a plugin someone else has created, modify it, and then sell it.

    Blaming WPMU.ORG for the lack of development and free plugins that are available for WordPress MU and BuddyPress is downright ridiculous.

    Nobody is stopping anyone from developing free plugins. If you don’t like the fact that there are a wealth of free plugins available… instead of pointing the finger at WPMU.ORG and blaming them… make it your damn self.

    If you can’t afford to sign up for WPMU.ORG, don’t blame them if you can’t find good alternatives to the services they provide.

    I want dual 30″ Apple CinemaDisplays but I can’t afford it. That doesn’t mean i’m going to go cuss out the Apple Store employees because I can’t have what I want or i’m not willing to pay for it.

    James, you aren’t doing anything wrong. Continue providing your users with an excellent resource and service. Don’t sweat the “everything must be free” crowd.

  • The Incredible Code Injector

    I have to say this bums me out considerably, but I can’t say I’m surprised.

    @Derek: WPMUDEV is no more stifling BuddyPress adoption then Ferrari is stifling your racing career by not giving you free and or cheaper Ferraris. Do you think there might possibly be a correlation between why “3 of the 5 really functional templates” might be paid templates vs. free? Are you seeing a relationship there that might possibly explain why dozens if not hundreds of other developers that are more than capable of building high quality buddyppress are not building, maintaining and releasing free buddypress themes?

  • @kevin I think you need to learn more about the GPL. It is perfectly legal and okay to modify someone else’s GPL code… put it behind a paywall and then charge for your version of the code.

    The GPL licensing does not prohibit charging for code. All the GPL says is that end users can do what they want with the code after they have it… including modifying it and reselling it or giving it away for free.

    James and the WPMU.ORG team are not doing anything that violates the GPL. The GPL is also not some mythical thing, nor is it a philosophy. It’s a software license and the terms are spelled out for you in black and white.

  • The Incredible Code Injector

    @Kevin: There is a difference between airing dirty laundry and sharing their experience of how they are being singled out and treated differently. Since there is an undefined WP, BuddyPress and MU ecosystem, there are general rules of play and acceptance that participants in that ecosystem follow and play by. When contributing members of that ecosystem are singled out and treated differently and not given the same opportunities to participate as others, the community has every right to and should know about it.

  • WPMU DEV Initiate

    @Trace come on man! You really think $415 is a fair price if I only wanted those 3 themes (with availability to upgrades)? Hey I said before this is not a question about the work because it is very high quality. It’s a question of access and ideology.

    @Carl I think there is an implied “spirit” to GPL that is not being addressed in your argument. It is not that everything must be free (I am not for that either) but that in sharing what we know collectively we can ALL benefit. Practices that are antithetical to the “spirit” of GPL have always come under some fire, this is nothing new.

    I am simply trying to get James and you all to think about what might be some of the stumbling blocks here in the relationship to Matt and others in the WP camp.

  • New Recruit

    The GPL doesn’t have a spirit ( implied or otherwise ), it’s a legal document, pure and simple (as far as a legal document can be). It says what you can and can’t do. There are no “between the lines” here, or “this is the way it was intended to be read/interpreted”.

    If it’s not in the license then it doesn’t exist, and no amount of wishing or wanting is going to put it there.

  • New Recruit

    I’m 100% not wrong at all, but hey, you show me the word spirit in that license and I’ll eat my words.
    You have to think like a lawyer here, because it’s a legal document (see how that works). If you went into court and said “Yes your honour, the license does say that, but I also think it means this” then you’d be laughed all the way to the door.

  • The GPL is not a philosophy nor is it an opinion. The GPL is a black and white software license that spells out what you can and can’t do with the software and how it can and cannot be distributed. Nothing more.

    Don’t voice your personal beliefs as that of the GPL.

  • The Incredible Code Injector

    @Derek: you need to do your homework, you’re saying some silly things here. The only conflict of ideals here is that you aren’t getting your ideal price and hence the gripes about pricing.

    More importantly, you’re failing to observe that WPMUDEV’s core service is not themes, in my humble opinion it’s plugins. So taking a non-core component of their service and making a pricing argument based off that supplementary part of their service isn’t fair on a number of levels. That being said, you’re argument is still weak, if you bought 3 themes for $415, you’d pay $138 per theme for lifetime developer licenses, that’s on scale or lower than what I see elsewhere for developer licenses with unlimited uses. I probably see $150 on average out there for single themes. So not only is their pricing cheaper than elsewhere based on your argument, nobody else is really even building what they build, so there’s an argument they’re underpriced based on your 3 theme argument.

    Vote with your dollar, if you don’t like the pricing somewhere, go somewhere else. If you can’t find what you’re looking for elsewhere, it might be time to recalibrate your definition of value.

  • I understand that GPL doesn’t have to equal free. But the protection for original authors is that the original license is supposed to stand. So if the license was freely available, then distributed derivative works are supposed to adhere to the original license. The right to charge for physical distribution (Section 1) was intended for physical media costs for things like retail box copies of Linux (from what I’ve read of Stallman’s reasons). Of course, legally it’s not black and white and digital distribution has certainly made it muddy the waters. The law is never black and white, which is why we have lawyers. And GPL debates have been waged for years.

    @Barry, there’s a modified version of the 100 pack in the premium side.

    My point is that it shouldn’t be an us vs them ( vs automattic) argument. I’m not trying to attack James, but rather point out the pain points where there are options to improve the relationship. James is free to do as he chooses, just as the WordPress folks are free to not give James free advertising. Personally if I were James I’d be grateful for the years of free advertising he got by having the prominent links on the site. I know that’s how I found incsub. Glass half full thing.

    There are other discussions like this going on in the WordPress community about how to strengthen the community, what GPL means, what the plugin/theme libraries should be, etc. It’s not just about singling out James. It just appears to me to be that he’s going in a different direction than how the core wordpress community is going and yes the changes on the wordpress sites reflect that.

  • WPMU DEV Initiate

    OK guys… You all seem to want to look at the GPL and other issues literally (and in black and white) but I think it is very clear from the previous statements made by Matt himself that his problems with WPMUDEV are ideologically rooted. We are not in a court of law here either so if you don’t want to deal with the subtext I don’t think you are going to sway Matt’s (or the WP camp’s) opinion and you should expect the blacklisting will continue.

    I personally think that would be a shame. Good luck!

  • Anyone who thinks GPL software must be freely distributed and given away for free seriously needs to read this…

    “Except for one special situation, the GNU General Public License (GNU GPL) has no requirements about how much you can charge for distributing a copy of free software. You can charge nothing, a penny, a dollar, or a billion dollars. It’s up to you, and the marketplace, so don’t complain to us if nobody wants to pay a billion dollars for a copy.”

  • New Recruit

    @Derek, you keep bringing these words in. Ideology? It’s a license. You can live your life to whatever ideology you want, but don’t try to drag licenses (and everyone else) into it.

    If you say, as has been said many times, that if it’s GPL then it’s ok. You can’t then decide that there is good GPL and bad GPL because there isn’t – just GPL.

    “So if the license was freely available, then distributed derivative works are supposed to adhere to the original license.”

    I think you are confusing Free with Free here :) The distributed derivative works have to have the same free license, but they don’t have to cost the same. If that was the case then people wouldn’t be able to take a “paid for” GPL item and release it for free either would they?

  • “I understand that GPL doesn’t have to equal free. But the protection for original authors is that the original license is supposed to stand. So if the license was freely available, then distributed derivative works are supposed to adhere to the original license.”

    You are 100% wrong.

    If you create a free plugin and release it as GPL code… I can take it, modify it, and sell it. The GPL is still in effect. It hasn’t changed.

    The original author has no protection when it comes to how their code is used or distributed. As long as the modified code maintains the GPL license, the person modifying it can sell it or give it away…

    Some of the people here need to seriously learn more about the GPL because there is a serious lack of understanding on what is and isn’t allowed.

  • Well is does not surpise me, since I saw the Trac update a day or so after it was done, shortly after the comment Matt made here in September.

    Let’s face facts; makes a lot of money and it seems like Matt is regretting today WPMU to be offcial out there and that a lot of grat communities opening all the time. More communities, less users at I guess.

  • New Recruit

    Something to consider for both sides of this debate:

    All anyone has to do is purchase a 12-month subscription for $419, and because all of their plugins/themes are licensed under the GPL, you can then redistribute that code for whatever price you want (including for free). You can literally take every character of code, and give it away.

    I’m guessing the folks here at would love that. You know why? Because they make their money on support. At least, that should be their business model. Selling GPL software comes with the explicit understanding that you do not own the code or control what is done with it once it reaches the hands of those you are distributing it to.

    You might ask yourself, “but I’m still *paying* for the code?!”. True, but maybe a better way of looking at it is that you could set up the exact same site they have set up here, and sell for less. Make the price point what you feel is “reasonable”. You could end up making money. I think you’ll find that the time you put in is probably worth more to you than the $419/yr. But maybe not! All you really would have to do is charge 10 devs approximately $42/yr, and you’ve just paid for your membership. Of course, you are the only one that gets access to the support here based on that model. But maybe the 10 devs only want the source code, and feel $42/yr is “reasonable”.

    The thing is the folks here should not get upset at this if someone executes that idea, because (as pointed out) it’s well within the rights the GPL grants. People also do not have to “better” the code, as I have heard recently with the arguments against the Premium Mod theme site.

    The reason that the GPL works the way it does, is that the emergent business model is giving the software away for nothing and charging for other scarcities. It recognizes that the code itself can be replicated and supplied infinitely. I personally don’t like the idea of putting it behind a paywall that forces me to pay for both the code and support, because I can support myself.

  • Ok, here’s from another ‘little guy’. I’ll start by saying that I’m a marketer, couldnt honestly careless about GPL (sorry, only discovered what it stands for the other day!) and couldn’t care less about the politics.

    Here’s what I do know…

    I started a project 9 months ago. Searched endlessly for the ‘right’ company on Elance to work on my wpmu / buddypress site.

    I pay thousands only to have them mess it up to the point that I have to walk away from the job losing half my money.

    I hire someone else to clear the mess, all promises, do the same thing.

    That’s 5 months into a job that was suppose to take 6 weeks!

    I find wpmu, get the plugins that solve my problem within days for a measly couple of hundred bucks. Worth it? You tell me.

    Was anyone going to do that kind of work for me for free? I doubt it.

    If you’re a small guy, even more reason to have paid support than free support.

    If I found these guys a about 6 months ago, I would be several thousand dollars in pocket.

    The guys at premium WPMUDEV are providing an excellent service for a couple dollars, far less than any customization would cost by some outsourcing guy that won’t back you up with any support afterwards.

  • @Barry, of course there is a GPL spirit. You could alternatively call it a goal, or, better, a “reason for existing.” Every law and contract in the world has a spirit in which it was written. We don’t write laws and contracts out of the bluw simply for the sake of having laws and contracts. We write them for reasons that exist before we think to write them, to acheive an overaching goal. Sometimes we even write them badly so that strict adherence to them doesn’t necessarily achieve the goal (or spirit) we were aiming for.

    GPL was written to guarantee people’s freedom to share and change all versions of a program—to make sure it remains free software for all its users. This is the spirit of the GPL.

    Whether or not you’ve been violating the spirit of the GPL or not is not something I’m particularly interested in, but there’s no point in pretending it doesn’t exist.

  • I think you all missed the point here. GPL is clear. That’s NOT the issue.

    The issue is WordPress and MU are open-source projects. The community should have control of the projects. I would assume that also means the .org site. But it doesn’t. We have some say, we have some influence. Matt and Automattic have veto power, final say. That’s what’s bothering incsub.

    GPL, free-software; These issues will resolve themselves. A business model is either effective or it’s not. An effective business model can survive free distribution of source code. Not an issue here.

  • A final thought on GPL:

    No one can stop you from using code from a GPL, copyleft software. They have no recourse. That’s what its about. You can do anything you like with it… Except tell someone they can’t do what they want with it.

  • I think he’s trying to drive you into forking, and you’re almost certainly going to end up having to fork anyway because as far as Automattic are concerned MU is dead in the water. Somebody must have finally pointed out that handing code over to the community was against Automattic’s commercial interests.

  • Matt wants to centralize the control over Wodrpress.
    That includes shading all weblogs that get the attention of the WordPress community.
    I gave up in the fight over the domain name and just hand it over to Automattic.
    Your case is different but sooner or later you’ll give up to :)

  • i think many are missing the point, and get caught up in the small picture. WordPress wants to be THE operating system of the internet, like microsoft is THE OS for computers, Google is the defact Search, WP will be the defacto OS for Internet where most published thoughts will be published through WP, all controlled by a single entity powered for free by the community. And to accomplish this goal WP needs to stay free for the time being or at least in the current shape of form, until in controls 70-80 % of the market share, much like google. And anyone that interferes and stands in the way of this goal will simply get their head chopped off or simply be ignored.

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