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Is 100% GPL Better For Your Business?: WordPress’ GPL, Split Licensing & Community

Is 100% GPL Better For Your Business?: WordPress’ GPL, Split Licensing & Community

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  • We sympathize with the idea behind 100% GPL.
  • We think the paid distribution of plugins and themes leads to better quality products, which leads to happier users.
  • From an unemotional, detached standpoint, we believe going 100% GPL, rather than using a split license, is the best option for both developers/designers and customers.
Is 100% GPL Better For Your Business?: WordPress' 100% GPL, Split Licensing & Community Click To Tweet

Freedom, Growth, 100% GPL And Happiness

It’s been a while since the discussion around 100% GPL began. Since then, WordPress has experienced an incredible rate of growth capturing more market share every year and winning the support of more people around the world.

Why is that? There’s only one way to explain it: “Freedom.”

That’s not “freedom” as in “free,” but “freedom” as in “rights,” “happiness,” “friendship,” “collaboration,” “cooperation,” “high five”! Within the Open Source Software community no other CMS or software package has shown the amount of growth that WordPress has.

However, we can’t say that it’s simply the GPL license that has driven this success. It is also,

  • The early adopters who established a community.
  • A huge amount of discussion that has taken place.
  • Large volumes of source code were written and rewritten.
  • A wide range of other activities, such as translation, were carried out by people from all over the world.

That is to say, its success is driven by the efforts of countless people to make WordPress the best it can be. It worked out pretty well, right?

The place that the source codes were written and rewritten at.

We continue to reap the benefits of being part of such a remarkable phenomenon. It’s been truly moving to experience.

Just writing this, we find our hearts welling up with appreciation for those who built this community. Thank you all so much!!

You could think of this as, “Why distributing a free product via a paid model is awesome.”

Why? It offers support for creators of plugins and themes to continue making them to a higher and higher level of quality. We’re always delighted — and tempted — whenever we see a great paid plugin or theme (and inevitably end up buying it in short order!)

To put it another way, we think $50-100 is a reasonable price to pay for continuous maintenance and updates. As for why…

  • developers/designers receive monthly/yearly profits…
  • …which buys them more free time…
  • …which they can use to further improve their software/products and satisfy their customers even more.

This creates and drives an awesome loop, continuing to make both developers and customers happier.

Since this allows creators to continue making software that more and more people use and love, we think paid distribution is a good thing.

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So, what’s the difference between 100% GPL and a split license?

We’ll now briefly explain the difference between 100% GPL and a split license.

To put it simply, the gist of the dispute is as follows:

  • Only the PHP of a WordPress site is bound by the GPL. It’s okay for developers to release their Javascript and CSS under non-GPL licenses.
  • So, by releasing their Javascript and CSS under non-GPL licenses, developers can protect their code against copying without permission, right?
  • This allows the developer to protect their rights.
  • So, in order to be able to do business, developers choose to use a split license (sometimes inavoidably).

In a business context, whether this is right or wrong is irrelevant. It’s not an emotional decision, but a choice made for the sake of the growth of the business.

Does the existence of piracy sites drive developers to choose split licenses?

However, the idea of protecting against copying without permission is a little bit of a fantasy. In reality, any kind of content on the web will make its way onto piracy sites. Unfortunately, there are people selling pirated versions of paid plugins and themes.

Without putting any effort into making the product and lacking any knowhow regarding WordPress’s source code these people get hold of source code and sell it on the black market. The existence of these pirates unfortunately gives developers a reason to choose a split license.

Therefore, our current thinking is to focus on the benefits that going 100% GPL could offer to your business.

Going 100% GPL could offer benefits to your business

Since the 100% GPL debate began, the circumstances have changed.

Currently, going 100% GPL offers the following benefits (mainly from the WordPress community):

  • The worldwide WordPress community is extremely large.
  • As such, the business model of offering a free version via the official WordPress repository, as well as a paid Pro version, is well-established.
  • This approach is perfect for acquiring brand and product awareness. Via the WordPress Administration Screen, developers can reach an unbelievable number of people worldwide.
  • Furthermore, developers can officially sponsor the WordCamp events held around the world (totaling 128 in 2017!), reaching WordPress’s core talent.
  • The key influencers in the WordPress community are keenly aware of the GPL, and generally do not recommend split license products.
WordPress’ communities and events around all over the world. You can see them on


As the WordPress community is generally welcoming to business players; if you feel inclined to adopt 100% GPL you can rely on the above benefits.

As the WordPress community is generally welcoming to business players, if you feel inclined to adopt 100% GPL, you can rely on the benefits. Click To Tweet

You might also think of it as choosing to throw away those benefits by choosing a split license. Additionally, a split license does not offer complete protection against those determined to use illegal methods, regardless.

For these reasons, right now it seems better to do away with the mentality of protecting against copying and, instead, opt for an approach to developing your business more suited to WordPress and to the open web.

While raw numbers about sales and market share are important, we’d like to deal with those in another article.

One of my most favorite plugin that has been loved by WordPress community and continue evolving – BeaverBuilder

ReadyShip’s Plan: WordPress Community Support (Participation in multiple WordCamps)

Based on the aforementioned logic, we at ReadyShip would like to announce our complete support for the WordPress community’s way of thinking.

That is,

  • We will proactively sponsor and participate in the WordPress community.
  • Through those activities, we will do our very best to make developers/designers happy.
  • We will participate in the WordPress community only in ways that the existing members of the community are happy with (i.e. we will not violate community policy just because we sell sites as service).

In fact, ReadyShip will be sponsoring WordCamp Europe 2018. Our whole team can’t wait!

Additionally, one member of our management team is a member of the WordCamp Tokyo executive committee, and we would like to continue to contribute to the community even outside of our business activities.

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Tell us what you think!

100% GPL vs. split licensing has been a regular subject of discussion for a long time now. We described it as an unemotional and detached comparison of the two.

What did you think? Please let us know!

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