On Friday, Matt Mullenweg, one of the founders of WordPress and the CEO of Automattic, accused Wix of stealing code from the WordPress mobile app. The founder of Wix responded, admitting that they did indeed use code from the WordPress app, and further improved upon that code and submitted the improvements as open source code. Excellent. So far, no code theft. But it becomes code theft when you take that same code, (even if you wrote a different wrapper for it and open-sourced that wrapper under the same license), and package it in a proprietary app, especially without attribution.
And believe me, I looked to make sure the app carried attribution, even going so far as to spin up a Wix site using a screen reader on my desktop so I could see all the tabs. I don’t recommend doing this. Unlabeled buttons everywhere, tabindex like it’s going out of style, autocomplete that you could call works with a keyboard as long as you’re happy with waiting half a second between choice and acknowledgement of same, and I’m still waiting on my 4GB I7 to calm down. Not the fastest machine, but not the slowest either. I’ll be sticking with WordPress, thanks.
But getting back to the attribution thing, there is none anywhere in the app. There’s a copyright statement, but no statement of even partial attribution for portions of the code to WordPress, which means that Wix users wouldn’t know that part of what makes up the mobile app they’re using comes from one of Wix’s largest competitors, WordPress. Granted, that kind of attribution statement wouldn’t have covered the GPL violation problems the app has, but it would have been something.
I’m not blaming the engineer who wrote the wrapper for the code that’s being used. According to his post, he shared his modifications under the GPL, and appears to have done everything to make sure that they were seen as part of a collaborative effort. He probably also didn’t have a choice when it came to the license the entire app was released under. I’m also willing to believe that the CEO of Wix could have made a mistake, and, ideally, Wix will release the app under the GPL, and no harm done. His response is less than convincing on that front though, and I suspect that in order to save face he’ll have to walk it back. Hopefully the marketing department convinces him to do this.