Not quite a month ago, I mentioned that I was going to begin open sourcing the themes (and potentially plugins) that we sell on WordPress.com. Right now, this is only a single theme (though others are in development and I’ll talk more about that later).
The initial post was met with some great conversation via both the comments and tweets – some pushback, some not – but I’m excited to see where this goes and I do feel that this is the best decision, for now, with respect to this particular theme.
Why Open Source a Premium Theme?
The way I see it, though I know not everyone does, is that the theme itself is open source by default. How easy it is to access the source code is another story, but it falls under the GPL (or a compatible) license which means that the source code is able to be freely distributed.
The advantage to this means that all of the work that the team and I have backlogged for this project (and for future projects) is publicly visible if for no other reason that for accountability. Ideally though, we’d be able to benefit from the open source community that comes in the forms of code reviews, pull requests, or just general conversations to help make the core product better.
Anyway, if the code itself fall under an open source license, then I’m willing to make the code freely available. This does not mean that I’m willing to support the code base for those who haven’t paid, but that leads into an entirely different discussion.
From Development To Service
If you’re in the business of software and you take your core product offering and make it freely available, then I’d say you’re moving out of the software business and into the support business.
I mean, how could you not be doing this?
In order to turn a profit, people will need to purchase and/or subscribe to support in order to have their questions answered. This isn’t too far off from what people are doing already, right? I mean, sure, you can make a case that people are paying a price to access the source code, but they’re also paying a price to ask questions, get support, and – for some projects – get updates.
Personally, I think that if you’re in the business of WordPress products (versus services), you’re in the support business whether you intend to be or not. Everything that you release – regardless of where the transaction actually happens – is going to yield support from some of the customers, so in order to gain access to said support, the transaction just moves back one step from after accessing the source code rather than before accessing the source code.
What About Mayer For WordPress.org?
As we begin to work and release future themes for WordPress, we’re hoping to creating a single version of the theme. Personally, I’m not a fan of having two versions of the same theme named the same thing with a different feature set.
This means that when we release, say, The Acme Theme, then it’s going to be the same feature set that you’d get on both WordPress.com and on self-hosted installations.
Any additional features that aren’t compatible with WordPress.com would be released and theme-specific plugins (or theme extensions, I guess you could call them). This is really getting ahead of ourselves, though, as right now we have a roadmap of a few themes planned first.
Anyway, Mayer for WordPress.org will still be available at The Pressware Shop, though that entire site is going to undergo a facelift at some point as we begin to make this shift in the way we’re serving our core offering.
Just Because It Works For Some…
I know: Just because this model works for some people doesn’t mean that it’s going to work for other people.
Pressware has largely always been a services-oriented business which I’ll talk a little bit more later in the article. This is the first foray into really taking a hard turn with products.
I’ve written past articles about my own personal take on themes, as well. Generally speaking,
- I think the model needs to be completely changed,
- I think themes should be simplified,
- I think we should be charging more,
- And I think the rush to the bottom isn’t doing anything to help the WordPress economy.
But I digress.
In short, if this doesn’t work, that’s fine. We’re in a place where we can always go back to selling themes as they’ve always been sold, but this is something we’re more than willing to try.
Grab Your Copy
So what does this mean in terms of grabbing your copy of Mayer?
This means that you’re able to grab your copy of the latest version of the theme as well as track with the outstanding issues from the GitHub project page.
Note that this version of the theme is currently the version that’s for sale on WordPress.com, has been for the past year, is up to version 1.9.0, and has undergone the usual code audit via the WordPress.com theme team prior to release.
Right now, we’re going what we can to get the project into the world of truly open source software.
Perhaps it’s an ignorant move not to offer a purchase page for support, but that’s a risk we’re willing to absorb right now if for no other reason than we believe Mayer is that easy to use out-of-the-box.
If not, no big deal. We can setup a payment gateway for support and we’ll go from there. Being a small team trying new things is a very exciting and has very little friction to adding new features like this.
And as we go about doing this, we’ll be sure to share what we’ve learned.
What About Future Projects?
This is really content for another post, but for the past several years, Pressware has largely been a services business. That is, we build custom solutions for other people based on WordPress and then support it as necessary. There’s a lot of [great] things to say about this model and I absolutely love it; however, as the business continues to grow (which is exciting in and of itself), we’d like to begin creating a products division, a products vertical, or whatever term you want to call it.
I’ve never been one much for business speak.
To that end, we’re likely going to be placing more of our work on GitHub and experimenting with this particular model. Again, though, this is content for another post.
In the mean time, enjoy Mayer and we welcome any and all conversation in the posts (or on Twitter).