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The Battle Between Thesis And WordPress

by DiTesco

thesis vs wordpress

If you haven’t yet heard about it, there has been a very heated “battle” between Thesis developer Chris Pearson and WordPress headed by Matt Mullenweg. Before anything else, the reason why I am writing about this is because I am a Thesis user and an affiliate, while at the same time running it over the WordPress platform (no options there). I think that there is an important lesson to learn from it and so I decided to share about this here as well.

The Problem
The basic issue that Chris and Matt were clashing about is that the Thesis license agreement appeared to be in violation with the WordPress GPL license. GPL or General Public License, states that “software can be sold commercially but the user must be free to share the software, free to modify it, free to redistribute it to the community and free to share copies of his modified versions.” Now, obviously from a business standpoint, that is though to swallow for Chris as it could hurt his revenues.

The News About The Battle
I first found out about this on Chris Cree’s blog Success Creeations. Having read what he had to say about it, I searched for more information and landed on TechCrunch’s blog post that mentions the end result about the face off between Chris Pearson and Matt Wullenweg. As it appears, Chris Pearson has backed out, from his original point of view about the GPL violation and has now made Thesis available under a so called “Split GPL”. Split GPL apparently will allow some parts of Thesis code to be freely shared. How this will affect current Thesis users or the WordPress community still remains unknown to me at this time, although Chris Pearson said that there is no implications for 99.9% of its users. Do any of you know what that means?

The Face Off
Below you will find the hot interview that Andrew Warner conducted between the protagonist of both Thesis and WordPress. I warn you though that this is a very long interview and if you have already heard about this hulabahloo or seen it, you may want to skip on it. I have viewed it all the way and I was surprised about how both Chris (angry) and Matt (calm) handled this issue.

To make things worst, Copyblogger Brian Clark’s decision on leaving DIYThemes/Thesis Theme obviously has triggered an important issue about Thesis’s future. As you all know, Brian has spearheaded the all important marketing of the Thesis Theme.

The Conclusion
Chris Pearson appeared to have satisfied Matt Wullenweg and the WordPress community by making Thesis partially available. His decision clearly is an attempt to avoid a legal battle in the making. If you ask me, I think that it was a wise decision, although this could have shaken a little his credibility. On the other hand, it may have given Chris Pearson an added motivation to further enhance Thesis functionality and take advantage of all this fuzz. Where all this will end, I still don’t know, but I am convinced that it does not stop here. We’ll see.

Anyway, do you think that this decision will be more favorable for the Thesis users, as WordPress developers can now dig in and provide fixes that would make the Theme more compatible to current and future WordPress versions? Do you think that this will hurt Chris Pearson’s revenue and his motivation to further improve his theme? What do you think will happen (if any) to other WordPress Premium theme developers? And BTW, did you figure out what lesson I learned about all this?

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+DiTesco is a Business and Inbound Marketing Consultant, and founder of iBlogzone.com. iBlogzone's main objective is to help startups and small business owners achieve success in their online ventures. | More About Me and my Consulting Services.

Francisco has written 881 articles at iBlogzone.com



August 5, 2010 at 4:11 pm

Interesting! Hmm…not a wordpress user so no worries for me. I came to know about the same from one of my friends. Anyways, I cannot comment much on such issues but definitely, it is a problem. Hopefully…everything should go well in the end.

2 DiTesco August 5, 2010 at 4:38 pm

Yeah! This is more about WordPress and more specifically for Thesis users. Hopefully, as you said, things will get settled fairly well and will benefit users in the end. As you know, I am a Thesis user and I love the theme. Unless it disappears from the sphere, I will for now remain loyal to Thesis. We’ll see.

3 lawmacs August 5, 2010 at 8:13 pm

I guess it is safe to say that good sense prevail in the end i think and this is my view that if you buy something it should be yours to do what ever you want with it thanks for sharing

4 DiTesco August 6, 2010 at 2:44 am

I agree in part of what you said Gary. But in the “software” world, I think that there should be some sort of limit to that. It is just like saying, hey I bouth this ebook and it is now mine. I can redistribute, share and everything else. That’s just not right. The thing is, Thesis runs on WordPress and the rules of engagement, their GPL, clearly states that it should be free to share.. In any event, I agree with you that “good common sense” will prevail and it will be to the benefit of everyone. We’ll see.

5 Fractional CFO August 5, 2010 at 11:52 pm

I have never used Thesis, but I love Wordpress since it’s user-friendly and easy to use. I have to side with WP on this one, if the person who purchases Thesis is not free to distribute and share the theme then Thesis IS infringing on the WP license.

6 DiTesco August 6, 2010 at 2:45 am

Exactly. And this is why I think Chris backed out on his initial decision and moved Thesis to a split GPL. Part will be available to everyone and the CSS and Javasripts remains his propriety.


dan keller

August 6, 2010 at 12:09 am

I didn’t know that CopyBlogger left the Thesis camp. I have been watching the debate but don’t have a strong opinion. I am not a big Thesis theme fan. I guess I am in the WP camp.

8 DiTesco August 6, 2010 at 2:39 am

Considering that there is a sort of “rule” (not law) about WordPress GPL, I too am of the opinion that WP stance is stronger than that of Thesis.Chris’s arguments are all but agreeing that the theme is in breach with WP License. That’s an initial opinion htough as he backed out already and that in a way was his form of saying that he agrees more to what Matt what saying than the other way around.

9 Harsh Agrawal August 6, 2010 at 12:28 pm

I was monitoring the whole scenario very closely and realized that Pearsonified was wrong till some extent.. But making Thesis SPL licensed (Though split), he saved the Thesis community. Else at one pint #thesiswp tag was getting bashed badly and people were actually moving from Thesis to other GPL compliant themes

10 DiTesco August 6, 2010 at 7:25 pm

I agree Harsh. I heard the video interview all the way and I have to admit that at a certain point, I felt that Chris was slightly arrogant. His decision to go SGPL has (hopefully) been received well by Thesis users as did the WordPress community. I for one will remain with Thesis as long as Chris continues to provide support and upgrade his theme.

11 James August 8, 2010 at 8:18 pm

What I found telling was the initial Pearsonified interview on mixergy. I found it very disturbing to hear Chris making light of stealing copyright by distributing knock-off goods, then try to paint himself as being in the right. His credibility took a hit for me with that interview.

I’m still running Thesis… but paying a lot more attention than I used to.



August 16, 2010 at 5:27 am

It has been hot and it seems not calm down and hope Thesis community still exist and I knew that Pearson was wrong in terms of GPL license. Anyway it is fine now 🙂



August 17, 2010 at 12:25 am

RT @ditesco: The Battle Between Thesis And WordPress http://su.pr/3cmV8w – this will also hurt other paid premium WP developers as well.


Nikki Groom

August 17, 2010 at 12:50 pm

RT @ditesco: The Battle Between Thesis And WordPress http://su.pr/3cmV8w


Nikki Groom

August 17, 2010 at 12:50 pm

RT @ditesco: The Battle Between Thesis And WordPress http://su.pr/3cmV8w


Suzan Gray

August 17, 2010 at 1:03 pm

Battle Between Thesis & WordPress http://su.pr/3cmV8w RT @ditesco (As GPL licensing concepts are testd – spats like these are inevitable.)



August 21, 2010 at 9:53 pm

I haven’t seen (m)any comments that agree with Chris’ take on the GPL. I wonder if that steered him toward compliance with WP licensing?

18 DiTesco August 22, 2010 at 1:34 pm

Hi Steven. Indeed, I have not seen anyone who backed Chris on his take about WP GPL and maybe this is the reason why he decided to make it compliant. Funny thing is that I have not heard anything about it since this broke up.



August 24, 2010 at 2:52 pm

I think Chris is on the right track. Whether or not it hurts his revenue is irrelevant from a legal perspective. Of course I don’t want him to go under, but if the only way Thesis can survive in its current system is by Chris breaking the law (of course this is assumed as no legal charges have been brought to the table yet, but is likely true) that’s still no excuse to break it.

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