Is WordPress/WooCommerce/Automattic Losing Respect For Customers?
I’ve been an ardent fanboy of WordPress for many years now. I was initially less enamored by WooCommerce. In essence, WooThemes wanted to acquire the JigoShop copyright and rebrand it as their own eCommerce platform. The owners felt the offer wasn’t reasonable and rejected it. So WooThemes simply forked the project as WooCommerce and presented it to the world as its own work. Not illegal, but not very ethical, in my book. As time went on they added functionality, the free plugin grew in dominance, and a healthy theme and extension ecosystem grew up around WooCommerce, with both WooThemes and third party providers making commercial value-adds for the platform . The project gained my respect, and that of Automattic (the company behind WordPress). In fact, as the ad goes, they liked it so much that they bought the company.
The extensions were seen as pricey, compared to their counterparts on other marketplaces, and the licenses were quite restrictive also. The basic license allowed you to install on one website, and provided updates for a year, Other providers often allowed you to install on unlimited sites for a lower price, and some provided lifetime support. At least you could renew a WooCommerce.com extension for 50% of the initial price. Or at least you could until a few weeks ago, when they quietly changed the renewal price to 100% with no announcements. The news only emerged when various people quizzed support about the unexpected renewal costs.
At least the cost of admission gets you priority support, right? Well… no. I opened a ticket for a licensed product several days ago. On a fully patched system a mission critical function which had been functioning perfectly, stopped functioning after an update. I’ve still not had a response from customer support.
I feel very disappointed. I loved what Automattic stood for. The open source community values are what propelled the company to total dominance of the Content Management Systems market. Maybe it’s not possible to command the market without compromising on values?
On the other hand, there’s a great opportunity here to build a competitor that can win market share. I’ll even tell you how to do it. First of all, fork WooCommerce – what’s good for the goose is good for the gander, right? Next, you purchase several of its top selling plugins, fork those and merge them into your new eCommerce platform. Automattic insists that all plugins and themes built for WordPress must be open source, as WordPress itself is open source, so you’ve got their explicit blessing to fork their software. The license pays for them to distribute the software and updates to you, and to support the software during the license term. You are not, as many mistakenly believe, paying for the software.
Imagine a platform with all the features of WooCommerce, built-in support for all the major payment gateways, extended support for matrix shipping. Furthermore, imagine how simple it would be for existing third party WooCommerce extension vendors to adapt their software to your product. Instant extension marketplace! You’d have an extremely profitable winner on your hands…