Recently, Automattic CEO Matt Mullenweg’s accused Wix of stealing source code from WordPress and using it in the company’s mobile app “without attribution, credit, or following the license”. Wix, deciding it was best not to let Mullenweg’s stipulations go unchallenged, has fired back with a double-barrelled, if wishy-washy, reply.
Abrahami’s letter reinforces Wix’s positive position on open source software, linking to the company’s 244-project GitHub page. He goes on to state that Wix has “submitted back as open source” everything “[it has] improved … or modified”.
On the other hand, Kol’s reply doesn’t focus on the accusations much at all, except for the final few paragraphs:
I love open source and I love contributing back to the React Native ecosystem. We have a rule in our team that everything difficult we develop for the app that can be reusable, we open source from first commit.
What both letters fail to cover is following the GPL, under which WordPress is licensed. By using any GPL code in its app, Wix must make its entire application source available under the GPL also, which it hasn’t done. It’s not enough to only do it for the bits you’ve used or changed.
Kol even alludes to this in his reply:
I know some developers are scared of using GPL, apparently for a pretty good reason. The WordPress GPL Rich Text component in question, is actually a wrapper around another Rich Text component named ZSSRichTextEditor which is licensed MIT. In retrospect it would have been easier to use it directly.
To be fair, Abrahami does as well, but puts it forward as a non-committal, “only if you ask for it” proposition:
If you need source code that we have, and we have not yet released, then, most likely we will be happy to share, you only need to ask. We share your belief that making the internet better, is best for everyone.
Honestly? It’s a pretty lacklustre response to some very serious allegations. If Wix wanted to shut Mullenweg down, it’d have a GitHub repository of the Wix app under the GPL available right now. But it doesn’t, which means it’s going to hold out on doing so until the situation is untenable.