Matt‘s “State of the Word” address has become a staple at WordCamp’s, and now I see why. There was a lot of generic background info that’s common knowledge to anyone that knows much about WordPress. Even most of the current info was common knowledge to most of the people that follow the Subversion updates and idles or participates in the WordPress-dev IRC channel. However, there were also some great nuggets of information that came through. Enough that I was a little overwhelmed as I tried to get it all into one post, so I decided to break it up into a few posts.
Matt started with a quick history of WordPress. For those that don’t know, WordPress was a fork of B2 and was later officially recognized by the B2 creator as the “official” continuation of B2. A couple of the more major milestones he mentioned include that plugins were introduced in WordPress 1.2 and themes were introduced in WordPress 1.5. He then proceeded to give some rather impressive statistics. They’ve had nearly 10 million downloads in the last twelve months, nearly twice what they had in the twelve months prior to that. They are tracking approximately 5.5 million installed (.org) blogs.
Everyone knows that Matt’s a huge proponent of the GPL, so he couldn’t let a chance slip by to talk about it. He summed it up as embodying three basic freedoms; freedom to use the software for any purpose, freedom to modify the software, and freedom to redistribute the software. However, just because it’s free doesn’t mean you can’t make money with it. To punctuate his point, he welcomed to the stage Alex King, who runs Crowd Favorite. Crowd Favorite now has eight full time staff in Denver and WordPress development and support is their primary revenue stream.
Speaking of the GPL, one of those nuggets of info that I talked about was relating to the WordPress.org themes repository. Matt talked about the fact that WordPress.org would be featuring free GPL themes that offer paid commercial support, which he sees as perfectly in line with the essence of the GPL (and I agree). He stressed that they wouldn’t be selling themes, but that they would support people who offer paid support for their themes. Nothing was mentioned about the plugins directory, but I can only hope (and assume) that the same support will be extended to plugin authors.
I don’t want this post to be a pedestal for preaching about the GPL, but I would like to take the time to say that I really appreciate Automattic’s support of the GPL. Their support is aggressive, dogged, and yet open minded. Just because the GPL offers certain freedoms that we all want, doesn’t mean that people shouldn’t be able to build a business around it. In the end we can all benefit.