What is the WordPress Foundation?

The controversy over GPL licensing and WordPress was sparked once again last week when theme developers who contribute to Envato’s ThemeForest marketplace were banned from speaking at WordCamp’s . Jake Caputo, a WordPress developer,  was banned from WordCamp Chicago by the organizer, Andrea Middleton.

The original post : http://www.designcrumbs.com/automatically-blackballed

I think it’s safe to say that the aftermath has left an overall tone among developers which is negative towards WordPress. By throwing his weight into enforcing the GPL Matt Mullenweg is clearly trying to protect the core values of WordPress, something I certainly agree with. But why has the move come across as somewhere between overly aggressive, down right arrogant and altogether confusing?

Is it possible that underlying issue is not the GPL itself but rather one of transparency, control, and consistency on how it is being applied to the community? More specifically,

  • How are the WordPress Foundation goals kept in check by having the same director and employees as Audrey Capital, Automattic and wordpress.com?
  • Where exactly is the line is drawn in the sand between the use of GPL assets for distribution or as a service?
  • Most importantly, how exactly are the decisions being made, reviewed and enforced?

As we all know WordPress harbors a huge and varied community, WordPress.org is managed by what is referred to as the WordPress Foundation.

Automattic handed the WordPress trademark to the newly created WordPress Foundation, which is an umbrella organization supporting WordPress.org (including the software and archives for plugins and themes), bbPress and BuddyPress. (ref: wiki)

The WordPress Foundation home page states that it’s inspired by the Free Software Foundation, and Mozilla Foundation. Sound pretty good right?  Well not really,  unlike those two foundations (and most open source ones), WordPress had no apparent board of directors and very little transparency. Matt has been asked several times over the years and no one has heard a word about it. How does this lack of insight and governance align with their core mantra,

We hope to gather broad community support to make sure we can continue to serve the public good through freely accessible software

I guess one if left wondering how it  can “serve the public good”  behind closed doors. An open source framework with hundreds or core contributors, tens of thousands of developers and millions of users has according to the IRS and the State of California Department of Justice , only one founder, Matt Mullenweg. That’s it, no other information is available.

One can conclude that the WordPress Foundation fails the basic tenets of a charity by not being:

  • Transparent –  an obligation or willingness by a charity to publish and make available critical data about the organization.
  • Accountable –  an obligation or willingness by a charity to explain its actions to its stakeholders.

Is it not time to provide a more solid structure to the foundation, as can been seen by some of these great examples below.

The current foundation seems to mimic the early code in WordPress, a disorganized mess. I think it time Matt steps up to the plate and lays out a proper structure with clear goals and process for the benefit of the whole community.

TL;DR: The WordPress Foundation needs to come out of the shadows.


3 thoughts on “What is the WordPress Foundation?

  1. Much probably all energy and focus went to other parts of the ecosystem, but, as the pointed examples show, a Foundation homepage cannot be “Just another WordPress site” (/wp-admin/includes/schema.php#L361).

  2. The Foundation is just a holding entity — 99% of what people attribute to it actually comes from the teams and volunteers on WordPress.org, which you can see on make.wordpress.org, and is extremely open and transparent since the discussions happen via IRC and P2s.

  3. Thanks for the reply Matt, please know that my intentions are only for the good of WordPress. I think this issue was raised mainly by experienced developers who are already very familiar with how .org works , it is unclear how the GPL decisions fit into the regular workflow. The foundation acts a lot like the Linux Trademark Institute, so maybe the http://wordpressfoundation.org/ webpage is confusing. I was just looking into how GPL related decisions are managed, I don’t see any public discussion on the recent decisions (for example Jake Caputo was banned, yet Obox had a theme on .com, among other inconsistencies).

    GPL issues has been brought up in the past and it’s always a confusing topic, maybe the foundation should be just rolled into make.wordpress.org or in some way provide more transparency for the community. When seasoned developers are confused it makes it hard to explain to new users.


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