WordPress is the most popular and widely used content management system (CMS) in the world. Since it was created by Matt and Mike in 2003, it has matured steadily, thanks in no small part to the GNU Public License version 2 (GPLv2), which encourages the codebase to grow in a collaborative and distributed way.
Take, for example, WordPress’s most recent major release, WP 5.4. It was contributed to by “552 generous volunteer contributors who collectively worked on 361 tickets on Trac and 1226 pull requests on GitHub.” Each of these contributions changed WordPress in a small way, and built on top of a codebase that has had tens of thousands of individual contributions over the years.
So, then, if WP is built incrementally, who actually owns it? Put simply: nobody, and everybody.
Although thousands of people over more than 16 years have contributed to WordPress, none of them have ownership of the codebase as a whole. This guarantees that the amazing talent, hard work and peer review of thousands of contributors is always available, and never at the mercy of one single person or corporation.
What This Means For Enterprises
The GNU GPLv2 Preamble outlines the specifics of GPL as it applies to any codebase. But knowing is not understanding, and we wanted to outline a few misconceptions that we’ve come across when talking with brands that are considering WordPress.
Myth 1: WordPress Requires Your Codebase To Be Public
”The GPL does not require you to release your modified version. You are free to make modifications and use them privately, without ever releasing them. This applies to organizations (including companies), too; an organization can make a modified version and use it internally without ever releasing it outside the organization.”, quoted directly from the GPL FAQ.
With WordPress, your codebase will always be under your control, and whether you choose to release it to the public is solely at your discretion. You fully control all modifications specific to your business requirements, add-on code that adds functionality and secret sauce that helps differentiate your business from its competitors.
And since you control your codebase, you can set the pace and direction of all technical development of your platform. In contrast, closed-source systems often make their users jump through hoops just so they can access their own data, or require payment of constant licensing fees even if new features and development do not line up with their business goals.
Myth 2: Freedom = Devoid of Ownership
The beauty of open source really shines through in its ecosystem. From indie websites to the enterprise-scale web platforms, solution providers that cater to every niche and budget are abundant. They also are involved with the process of building WordPress itself:
With GPL software like WordPress, vendors like rtCamp (that’s us!) can take complete ownership of the solutions they deliver and pitch WordPress as though it were their own product. Businesses get the most out of their investment in software because they benefit from the maturity, power and flexibility of WordPress as a software, but also on the technical leadership from their solutions providers.
In short, WordPress has no shortage of people and vendors who take ownership of the tech on your behalf, so that you can continue to focus on your business mission.
Myth 3: WordPress Cannot Be Used With Closed-Source Tools & Systems
While the specifics are nuanced, WordPress can, and has been used with non-free programs, provided it “communicate[s] at arms length” and is “not combined in a way that would make them effectively a single program.” (GPL FAQ)
WordPress has a powerful API that lets it communicate with the closed-source systems and programs that enterprises rely on, while continuing to remain functionally separate. For example, rtCamp created a newsletter creation workflow for MBA that plugged right into a their proprietary email distribution platform so that they could continue using their existing user database.
WordPress’ open nature allows it to integrate well with other software and services in order to cater to your specific business needs.
So, Who Owns WordPress?
In short, nobody and everybody. And that’s a great thing, not just for the millions of individuals in the global WordPress community, but also for business at any scale.
WordPress is a robust, mature and proven platform that plays well with other systems and leverages the best that the Internet has to offer. Its philosophies of freedom and openness enable vendors to deliver end-to-end solutions for specific business needs. Brands that embrace WordPress and open source can build for the future on codebase that they control and always will.
We’d love to hear about the misconceptions that you’ve come across via the comment section below. You might also be interested in our recent whitepaper on the business case for WordPress, as compared with a closed-source software like Adobe Experience Manager (AEM).
Finally, drop us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions about WordPress and how it can solve a business problem that you have.