Everything should be open source, says WordPress founder

Everything should be open source, says WordPress founder

Summary: WordPress is one of the most popular CMS tools ever, but what elements of the open source world can be applied to your business model?

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SAN FRANCISCO -- Can relying on open source technology as the backbone for an entire company really be feasible? WordPress.com's founder Matt Mullenweg certainly seems to think so.

"I believe morally and philosophically that not just software, but everything should be open source," asserted Mullenweg, while speaking at the GigaOM RoadMap 2011 summit on Thursday evening.

It's a bold statement, but it's the ethos that Mullenweg admirably stuck to, pointing out that sites like Wikipedia replaced Encyclopedia Britannica, and how far Android has gone for mobile.

Although he later backtracked and admitted that Android is "not a great example from an open source point of view" because of things like patents, Mullenweg still noted that you can download the code and run it on almost anything.

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Describing himself as "an open source hippie," Mullenweg explained that WordPress has been built up over the last eight and a half years of "doing right on the open source side."

However, he acknowledged that there haven't been many examples of big corporations with thousands of employees where the open source side is in concert with commercial side.

Hoping that it will be the case some day, Mullenweg cited that one of his big goals is to "democratize publishing," and fundamentally, he wants to show through the WordPress community that this can be done right.

Right now, there are more than 65 million WordPress sites worldwide, and WordPress.com hosts about half of them. (Mullenweg added that the other half are spread out amongst cloud providers like Amazon Web Services and Rackspace, but also smaller hosts like GoDaddy, Bluehost and Dreamhost.)

“You can create a really fantastic business that changes the world, but still does the right thing along the way," Mullenweg posited.

Mullenweg acknowledged that he gets inspirations from all areas -- at least "selectively" -- including from Apple and Google. But he argued that these two, "open source-wise, they're the most kosher."

Yet WordPress has had more interesting effects more than just publishing but the enterprise world too.

"One of the most interesting trends for me is that enterprise software has always sucked, but now people are complaining about it more," Mullenweg said, explaining that so many employees are asking why does it take 10 seconds to publish here (presumably somewhere like WordPress), and 10 minutes elsewhere (probably with whatever outdated CMS system the company is still using).

Mullenweg theorized that the "infiltration of Apple" into the enterprise has had an effect somehow, continuing on to say that he is happy that employees are no longer acting satisfied with whatever the company's CTO picks.

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Topics: Enterprise Software, Banking

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41 comments
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  • Wrong!

    The timing of this foolish "open" rhetoric from WordPress is comical.

    WordPress is on the path to extinction, with the likes of Tumblr already approaching ten times more traffic.

    http://www.readwriteweb.com/archives/tumblr_reels_in_big_traffic_now.php
    Tim Acheson
    • RE: Everything should be open source, says WordPress founder

      @Tim Acheson

      Quoting from your link:

      "Tumblr vs. Wordpress.com, in visits per month.

      The two services offer different things, so this is somewhat of an apples and oranges comparison. Wordpress.com is a fully-fledged hosted blogging platform, while Tumblr is a light blogging and curation service. I myself use both products. However, both are blogging services and so it's worth comparing the statistics."

      and

      "What's the upshot of all this? Maybe just that Tumblr has scaled incredibly well and shows no signs of slowing down. Wordpress.com hasn't had the same exponential growth, but it's certainly been no slouch either. Both services are enormously popular and many people use them side by side"

      So according to your corroborating evidence you're talking bull.
      AndyPagin
    • RE: Everything should be open source, says WordPress founder

      @Tim Acheson - LOL at this comical attempt at logic. A social bookmarking site has more traffic than a fully fledged blogging + CMS platform .. therefore "OSS IS DEAD!!11!" :|
      Psdie
    • RE: Everything should be open source, says WordPress founder

      @AndyPagin and @Psdie<br><br>+ 1 (thumbs up)<br><br>Not to mention based on that website, WordPress currently gets 100m more visits than Tumblr
      ScorpioBlue
  • Matt Mullenweg - Nice but naive

    Sorry, Matt but business doesn't work like that. <br>Many 'open source' vendors are adopting lock-in strategies because you need customer dependency to scale your business. You can't have customers calling the shots. <br>There are more important 'moral' issues to concern yourself with than the openness of code imho.
    doggStarr
    • RE: Everything should be open source, says WordPress founder

      @doggStarr: PHP, MySQL, Linux and Apache are all OSS. Those in combination are often called a LAMP stack. And it's not exactly hard to find hosts that let you just upload your PHP code as-is, and it's not exactly hard to just move the files to the next provider. Same for the database, you pretty much just have to fetch the database contents and reupload once configured. phpmyadmin is not an unusual tool to have access to.

      So there ARE OSS service providers that don't lock you in.
      Natanael_L
  • RE: Everything should be open source, says WordPress founder

    What I don't like is people calling Open Source "morally superior" or something. Both have their places. I like Open Source but I don't like "hollier than thou" attitude...
    Roque Mocan
    • RE: Everything should be open source, says WordPress founder

      @Roque Mocan: The idea is simply that it is Good to share information (or sometimes more specifically, tools), and since it's easy it should be done. You don't have to agree, but it's hard to argue against the benefits of Wordpress, Linux, the TCP/IP protocol, HTML, etc...
      Natanael_L
      • RE: Everything should be open source, says WordPress founder

        @Natanael_L <br>well, let us troll on the idea that physics and the other sciences are as closed system as what most of the bloggers want the software industry should be. and imagine what could have happened if unix was not made available to the public, particularly the students of those days. well, to protect your investment/MONEY is very very important (that is why M$ is closely guarding its IP), but to bottle up creativity of the majority is more damaging to the economy. we must remember that the chinese and indians have more engineers and scientists, and it will not be long before they got their act together and gather the experiences needed to take the lead. my point is, OSS made the knowledge available to more people who are otherwise in the dark and not interested what is behind the seemingly magical software that is making their hardwares do magical things. if the young people are given an early chance to play with software development, they will be the force to reckon in the future, just like the unix geeks that powered the software boom of the 90s and are still in the forefront of software development to date. so lambasting the open source is something that we have to think twice or even seven times before even worth considering... so, i hope that your point is made more clear by my post.
        kc63092@...
  • RE: Everything should be open source, says WordPress founder

    I have to agree with this completely. The world would be a better place if more things were open source (note that he explicitly said not just software). Open source in the software realm takes a project that is the vision of one person of company and makes it into what the users want. However, I would say it isn't feasible now, as many companies require commercial support, especially in the case of certain defense contractors where this is required by law.

    @doggStarr -- please name an open source vendor who is locking people in, this is something ive never heard about, and quite frankly makes no sense under any of the common public licenses.
    Queuecumber
  • RE: Everything should be open source, says WordPress founder

    Open source is great for the end user but not so much for the company/programmer. Why would/should a company spend $ for software development & salary for programmers only to have another company just piggyback off of their hard work? Why would/should freelance programmers do the same thing? People on these forums hate on MS, but they are a business that has to make a profit. Microsoft is a software company,for them as well many other corporations, open source just wouldn't make sense.
    step69
    • RE: Everything should be open source, says WordPress founder

      @step69

      Yeah, Matt's in the poor house because his software and company have been completely open source. He's only worth $40 million. Open source didn't make any sense at all for him, did it?
      benched42
      • RE: Everything should be open source, says WordPress founder

        @benched42 <br><br>There is not just one business model. The wordpress model is not built on software sales while others are (MS).<br><br>It's a horrible idea to lock everyone into a business model of making their money off of advertising revenue and/or hosting and support services, etc. <br><br>I'm not against open source but I see nothing wrong with either model. Freedom of choice.
        CJArnola
      • RE: Everything should be open source, says WordPress founder

        @ CJArnola:

        "There is not just one business model."

        Who has said or implied that there is just one business model? It would make no sense to say so. The article is about and we are actually talking about different business models here...

        "The wordpress model is not built on software sales while others are (MS)."

        Again, this is not actually news...

        "It's a horrible idea to lock everyone into a business model of making their money off of advertising revenue and/or hosting and support services, etc. "

        How is anyone (or would be) "locked into" making open source software? Customer/general demand or competition is not called "lock-in". The article is about benefits of the open source model, not about locking anyone into it. How would you lock some one into open source anyway? There's a reason for the word "open" in the name. ("Lock-in" is something makers of proprietary software are often accused of; did you wan't to confuse things by accusing open source about the same thing? A hint: most of the readers here weren't born yesterday.)

        "I'm not against open source but I see nothing wrong with either model. Freedom of choice. "

        Freedom of choise is something that open source (free software) aims to preserve. Companies making opensource think your data is your own; the same can not often be said about the makers of proprietary software. Companies making proprietary softare have been repeatedly trying to destroy open source model by unethical and even unlawful actions.
        Ademeion
      • RE: Everything should be open source, says WordPress founder

        @benched42 Given how many users Wordpress has, why isn't Matt worth $400 million? Would it really be evil if Wordpress cost $10 a year for hosting, or $50 for the software? If you're worried about digital exclusion, or something, why would cheap not be cheap enough? Why free, exactly?
        Xenia Onatopp
      • RE: Everything should be open source, says WordPress founder

        @Ademeion "Freedom of choise is something that open source (free software) aims to preserve. "

        No, freedom of choice is something that open source aims to destroy. If I'm a well-funded organization, and I want to destroy the choice in a given software market, then releasing an open source product will do it. Before OpenOffice, there were many minor players in the desktop office software market besides Microsoft. Now these minor players have all dropped out, because their cheap software cannot compete with free. Meanwhile, Microsoft still rules the desktop. A similar thing can be said of MySQL and Oracle. Ditto, Eclipse and Visual Studio. Only big capital can produce major software projects and sell them from $0.00. The little guy is killed off completely.
        Xenia Onatopp
      • Get a clue

        [i]No, freedom of choice is something that open source aims to destroy. If I'm a well-funded organization, and I want to destroy the choice in a given software market, then releasing an open source product will do it.[/i]

        Get a clue! Who's financially and legally in a better position to kill off the other side? Microsoft? Or open source?

        Ask yourself that before you start whining...
        ScorpioBlue
      • RE: Everything should be open source, says WordPress founder

        @ScorpioBlue

        Get a clue yourself. Microsoft is in the stronger position, both financially and legally. Not only do they have assets of over $100 billion and revenues in the order of $70 billion, they also have a huge amount of IP. If a rival were to develop an open source product that competed directly with Microsoft's major products, they would almost certainly end up having to pay royalties to Microsoft. In fact, that's what's happening with Android right now.

        Anyway, we can look to recent history to see how open source works when it tries to compete against commercial software. Sun Microsystems launched a strategy based on open source that was supposed to kill Microsoft, or at least dent it badly. Who got killed? Sun Microsystems. Meanwhile, Microsoft's reign on the desktop continues.

        Sun's strategy was stupid. It killed off many small players, but did no real harm to Microsoft at all. Apart from that, the Microsoft-hatred itself was very stupid -- a childish case of sour grapes.
        Xenia Onatopp
      • RE: Everything should be open source, says WordPress founder

        [i]Get a clue yourself. Microsoft is in the stronger position, both financially and legally.[/i]<br><br>Well NO DOH. You just proved my point.<br><br>So, next step: Why do you feel so threatened by open source?
        ScorpioBlue
      • RE: Everything should be open source, says WordPress founder

        @ScorpioBlue
        <br><br>
        "Well NO DOH. You just proved my point." -- I proved my point, not yours.<br><br>The big players in the software industry are not significantly harmed by open source. They can exploit it, one way or another; e.g., Oracle uses Apache servers, and controls MySQL and Java, and Microsoft earns royalties from Android. Hardware companies also profit from open source. Intel and IBM can use open source to sell their hardware, knowing that nobody can enter competition with them unless they have billions of dollars of capital behind them. The consumer doesn't give a damn about open source. When they download an app for $1.99, do you think they want to see the source code? Hell, no! They would spit at you if you tried to give them the source code. Nor is there anyone who owns a computer who is too poor to pay a few dollars for software. The ONLY group that is substantially affected by open source is the jobbing programmer, whether running a small or medium sized business or working for a salary. Their income is lower than it should be because of open source.
        <br><br>
        According to the economically naive idealism of open source fanatics, computer programmers are supposed to behave as if they lived in a giant monastery or Maoist commune, even though in fact they live in a capitalist society. I suppose the open source fanatics believe that by some magic this behaviour will undermine capitalism. No, it won't. All it means, fundamentally, is that the money that should have been paid to programmers for the work they did will be paid to someone else instead.
        <br><br>
        A further side effect of open source is that it tends towards stagnation. After driving out all the small players in a particular market segment, an open source product (whether it originated as open source, as Apache did, or as a commercial product, as OpenOffice and Eclipse did) becomes like a monopoly, and it's rate of futher improvement becomes glacially slow, but there are no new entrants to compete, because those new entrants would have to compete against "free", which is just not feasible.
        <br><br>
        "So, next step: Why do you feel so threatened by open source? " -- ALL programmers should feel threatened by open source. Skilled programmers should feel especially threatened, since it means that individuals with almost zero programming skill can undercut them in the market by merely chopping and pasting code. As I said at the start, programmers voting for open source is like American turkeys voting for Thanksgiving.
        Xenia Onatopp