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Why Not Open Source?

In the WordPress world, a recent piece of news is WordPress founder Matt Mullenweg cancelling his $10,000 Kickstarter pledge for Pressgram, an Instagram-style iOS app that would allow you to save your photos to a WordPress blog (that you own and control) instead of a third-party service that you don’t. Matt cancelled his pledge because Pressgram’s developer John Saddington announced that Pressgram, while free, would not be open source. If you don’t know anything about Matt, know that he is a very strong believer in open source software so this move isn’t surprising (to me at least).

The question burning in my mind, though, is why isn’t it being released open-source?

pressgramJohn writes on Pressgram’s blog that, stated simply, it will not be released open-source because he said so. He, rightly, says that’s all the justification he needs to provide. I agree with that; it’s his effort so, assuming he’s not reusing any code that requires a certain licensing requirement, like WordPress with the GPL license, he gets to do with the code as he pleases. He does expand the answer to say that he wants to ship the code, so closed source it’ll be.

I don’t understand his expanded answer to the point of needing to write a post about it. I’d usually just leave a comment on his blog, but that isn’t an option in this case.

The explanation, as I read it, is that it takes longer to develop something and release it as open source than it does to develop the same thing and release it as proprietary. John mentions refactoring a fork versus starting from scratch, but you don’t have to fork anything to release a product as open source code.

I can only assume that he’s using code under some type of license that prohibits him from releasing it as open-source? If that’s the case, this makes more sense to me; although, that wasn’t mentioned at all under the rationale. He mentions in an afterthought that there may be issue with the iOS App Store and the GPL, which is a stronger explanation to me than the original, but there are other, more permissive, open-source licenses that perhaps could be a compromise pending the GPL/App Store issues.

Stated in another way, given the explanation, I don’t understand where he is coming from to the point of losing a $10k high-profile backer, except on the philosophical “I don’t want to release it open source”.

Can anyone shine light on this for me?

All of that said, I have nothing but respect for John. I’ve been a passive follower of his for some time now. My first WordPress purchase of any type (plugin, theme) was his company’s (8bit) Standard Theme. I’m just damn confused!

ADDED: To explain my point a little better, in light of John’s comment below, here’s what I’m thinking. I write some code.

php echo "I love my mom!"; ?>

I didn’t refactor anything. I wrote something from scratch. Now, I want to release the program. I can, among other options, release it:

  1. Open Source
  2. Closed Source

For open source, the code would look like this

php
/* ©2013 Brandon Kraft
This program is free software: you can redistribute it and/or modify it 
under the terms of the GNU General Public License as published by 
the Free Software Foundation, either version 3 of the License, or 
(at your option) any later version. 

This program is distributed in the hope that it will be useful, 
but WITHOUT ANY WARRANTY; without even the implied warranty of 
MERCHANTABILITY or FITNESS FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE. See the 
GNU General Public License for more details. 

You should have received a copy of the GNU General Public 
License along with this program. If not, see http://www.gnu.org/licenses/. 
*/ 

echo "I love my mom!"; ?>

For closed source, it could look like this:

php 
/* ©2013 Brandon Kraft

You are allowed to use this program for personal use only. 
No modification, duplication, transmission, distribution, something-else-tion are allowed 
without the express written consent of Really Short Code Works
*/

echo "I love my mom!"; ?>.

My question is why some variant on the latter and not the former.

By Brandon Kraft

My life is an open-source book.

3 replies on “Why Not Open Source?

First of all, thanks for this post!

To clarify (and this should provide a lot of clarity) I’m not saying that OS slows things down. Not one bit. What I was saying is that looking at the native iOS app and refactoring THAT would take more time than building from scratch. That’s a big deal and I don’t want to delay launch.

Obviously I’m not “anti-OS” because I lead a very successful full-GPL-compliant WordPress business! I love OS!

John—thanks for stopping by!

I follow what you’re saying there, but my question is why not release the from-scratch product as open source?

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