So far in GPL Week we’ve heard from three WordPress theme developers and their perspectives on one of the most divisive topics in the WordPress community. Today, however, we have the pleasure of hearing from plugin developer Carl Hancock, one of the creators of Gravity Forms.
While the GPL debate is most often discussed in terms of WordPress themes, the topic is just as contested & contentious in regards to WordPress plugins. So, what does one of the creators of the hottest plugin on the market think about the GPL? That’s what I hoped to find out.
You decided to license your plugin under the GPL. What things did you consider when making this decision?
We considered a variety of options when deciding on the licensing for Gravity Forms. Ultimately we settled on the GPL license primarily so it was in line with WordPress and allow us to be more involved in the WordPress community.A lot of licensing schemes are in place specifically limited to stop piracy. The fact is you can’t stop piracy. All you can do is market a high quality product and service to honest users that are willing to pay for it. That is what we do. There is value in purchasing Gravity Forms because we provide a high level of support and ongoing updates to the product.
How have your experiences with the GPL compared to your expectations going into it?
Our experience with the GPL has been in line with what we expected. We didn’t expect it to have a negative impact on our business, otherwise we wouldn’t have done it. Ultimately the average user doesn’t know what the GPL is, it’s primarily only the hardcore WordPress enthusiasts that have any clue what the GPL is all about.
Do you think your plugin would have been received differently if you hadn’t adopted the GPL?
Yes. I think our plugin would have been received much differently by the WordPress development community. We would have most certainly received negative press and comments thrown our way for not being GPL. I disagree with it, but that’s just how it is. By being GPL it has enabled us to avoid that baggage.I know that is blasphemy in the WordPress development community, but until it is proven in a court of law… I don’t agree with the notion that ALL plugins and themes must be GPL. Is Gravity Forms GPL? Yes. But i’m not going to look down upon anyone who chooses not to release their product under the GPL. If it’s a good product i’ll gladly use it, GPL or non-GPL.The average user wouldn’t have received it any differently. As I mentioned, the average user doesn’t know what the GPL is, how it works, or why it matters.
Do you feel you’ve been helped or harmed by the GPL?
It has helped us as far as gaining acceptance within the community. I don’t think we have experienced any harmful effects. We just had to be creative with how we implemented our support license key system, which unlocks automatic updates, so that purchasing the plugin is more attractive than downloading it for free from a 3rd party.
Do you think the GPL impacts plugin developers differently than theme developers?
I think the major difference is the GPL debate is much clearer when it comes to themes. Matt Mullenweg has said that themes don’t necessarily have to be 100% GPL. Despite this fact, WordPress.org has taking the stance that themes must be 100% GPL in order to be allowed in the WordPress repository or on the commercial theme page.I think any theme developer that releases 100% GPL commercial themes is crazy. Design and code are not the same thing. Theme designers should be releasing the PHP as GPL and the images and CSS under a difference license.Sure they won’t get the benefits of being on the commercial theme page, but is it really that valuable? I don’t think so. Sure Matt Mullenweg won’t give you the thumbs up, but is he really out there pimping your themes now?Nope.Don’t let someone else dictate how you run your business. Leverage the fact that you can have more control over your product by releasing it under a dual license. It just makes sense.But what do I know, I’m just a plugin guy…
Carl is certainly a lot more than “just a plugin guy” and I appreciate him taking the time to share with us a few of his insights on the WordPress community especially in regards to the GPL.
If you haven’t checked out Gravity Forms, you really are missing out. I’ve written up a full Gravity Forms review and give the plugin my highest recommendation. I use it in all of my WordPress projects and the support and responsiveness you get from Carl & the rest of the rocketgenius team is second to none.
Due to a couple of delays that simply couldn’t be avoided GPL Week is going to stretch into a second week. Sure it’s not technically a week but 8 or 9 days of GPL just didn’t have the same ring to it. Up next for your reading pleasure, a GPL interview with Thesis theme creator Chris Pearson. Stay tuned GPL fans!