the fork in the road

If WordPress 1.5 is officially released on Tuesday, and if MT is still having comment spam issues, the wordpressers are going to have to come up with some sort of coherent line on commercialisation.

So far, making money out of wordpress users has been akin to trying to get blood out of a stone. Either they're zealots who think there's something impure about attempting to profit from an open-source project, or they fled MT in horror at the prospect of having to pay for stuff, or (like most of us) they don't see any point in paying for something they can get for free. I charge for wordpress installations; how many people have taken me up on it? None. They'd be a bit daft to do so, when others refuse to put a monetary value on their time and expertise and will do it for nothing.

But we're getting to a stage now where the userbase is large enough for paid services to no longer be unthinkable; where wordpress is starting to become a serious competitor to MT. How about MT-style paid support? A site devoted to supporting the commercial site of WP? A wordpress book, to go with the half-dozen about Movable Type?

No, no, and no, say the wordpressers. I get that, completely. I get that they're scared of losing the community they have, scared that things will change, scared that the market will intrude on their little corner of the internet and start exploiting it, scared that others will make money out of doing what they've been doing for free. But that's what happens when you're successful. That's what happens when you grow; you become a victim of your own success. All they can do to stop it now is make sure that 1.5 ships with a bunch of bugs and be even more obnoxious in the forums than usual. I'm not sure even that will be enough.

There will be a WordPress book, sooner or later, whether they like it or not; it'll attract new users, whether they like it or not; and if the wordpressers take umbrage and leave, there will be other volunteers stepping in to fill the void, whether they like it or not, because the whole point of open source is that nobody is irreplaceable.

In the meantime, I don't think we've seen the last of the skirmishes.

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