WordPress and Wix Are Fighting About Open Source Software

By Kaya Ismail October 31, 2016 Articles and Editorials

So WordPress and Wix are fighting one another – and I'm not talking about them competing for customers. Instead, the two website building heavyweights are having a brawl via the blogosphere.

Here's everything you need to know:

Matt Mullenweg Calls Out Wix

A few days ago, WordPress' Founder Matt Mullenweg took to his blog to directly attack Wix. Here's why.

Mullenweg wrote that he downloaded Wix's new mobile app, which boasts a blog post editor. To cut a long story short, he first claimed to feel a sense of déjà vu before outright accusing Wix of stealing WordPress' code. Yeah, it escalated quickly.

To be more specific, he accused Wix of stealing open source code that WordPress and the WordPress community had crafted for WordPress' own mobile editor.

How can you steal open source code, you ask? Well, Matt Mullenweg pointed out that although open source code is free to take and modify, the borrower must then release the finished product under the GPL license, making it (you guessed it!) open source.

But Wix didn't do that.

They took the code and integrated it into their proprietary mobile app, sealing the open source code behind closed doors. Obviously, that grinded the gears of WordPress' Founder.

In fact, it even led him to take digs at Wix for their WordPress-inspired beginnings (they used to be called WixPress). It was a tad brutal at times, actually:

"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."

Avishai Abrahami Responds

Wix's Co-Founder and CEO Avishai Abrahami read Matt Mullenweg's rant, and responded.

He retorted by saying that Wix has a GitHub page full of open source projects, and also by admitting that they did indeed delve into some of WordPress' open source code in order to build their app (which there's nothing wrong with).

He also had some nice things to say about WordPress' contribution to the internet, alluding to the point that Wix and WordPress should be on the same page, rather than at odds with one another.

Abrahami also indicated that the source code for Wix's new app will be released, although he didn't explicityly say that:

"We always shared and admired your commitment to give back, which is exactly why we have those 224 open source projects, and thousands more bugs/improvements available to the open source community and we will release the app you saw as well."

At the same time, Abrahami defended his company. He made it clear that Wix had always been about website building, and that WordPress (in its original form) was about blogging alone:

"...your business model changed to almost exactly the one we had for years. Can it be that you guys are borrowing from us? If so, again, you are welcome to it."

Matt Mullenweg Hits Back

In response to Abrahami, Matt Mullenweg updated his original blog post. Suffice it to say, he wasn't exactly satisfied with what Wix's CEO had to say.

There were some niceties in play, but you can sense the passive aggressive tone seeping between every line of Mullenweg's second swipe at Wix. He jibed at Mr Abrahami's lack of comments on his post, reiterated his points about GPL license violations, and

"I said the app includes stolen code. It doesn’t matter if it’s 30 lines or 30 million lines: because it includes GPL code and you distributed the app, the entire thing needs to be GPL. If you release the entire app’s code, as I think you said you would, then that resolves the license violation."

What's Next?

Well, Mr Abrahami did offer to take Matt Mullenweg out for a coffee. I hope that happens, although I won't be holding my breath.

Mullenweg seems adamant that cordial relations will only resume once Wix release their app under the GPL license, freeing up all the code to to be accessed by everyone and anyone. Until that happens, I think we can expect these strained relations to remain as they are.

What's your take on the beef between WordPress and Wix?

Kaya Ismail

Kaya Ismail Author

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