Stick around the WordPress community for a period of time and you’re bound to come across a few folks who say Automattic is an evil company or Matt Mullenweg is evil in the way in which he runs WordPress.org. The more time I spend talking to Matt and with other employees of Automattic, the more I don’t understand where these thoughts and feelings of evilness come from. Sure, there is a decision made from time to time that a vocal group of people disagree with but you can’t make the right decision 100% of the time. Let’s take a closer look at Automattic as it relates to WordPress.
When I interviewed Matt at WordCamp New York, one of the things I asked him to address is the notion that Automattic commercially benefits from those who work for free. This indeed happens but on the flip side, Automattic gives a ton back to the project and to the community. For example, I think there is a lot that can be said for the progression of WordPress thanks to the resources that Automattic has been able to provide due to their funding. It’s also worth mentioning that Automattic pays a couple of folks to work on WordPress the majority of their time such as Ryan Boren who is always slaving away committing code and Jane Wells who works on the usability front.
It’s not like Automattic hoards the contributions to the project and gives nothing back. Matt said something during the interview that really stuck a chord with me and that is “Automattic is just one member of the WordPress community. We are a huge contributor. Myself, Jane everyone involved tries to give as much back to the WordPress community as possible.” So far, I can’t see anything that portrays the individuals or the company as evil.
Throughout the history of Automattic, they have developed and released a number of WordPress plugins to the community. They have also taken some of their paid offerings such as VideoPress and released those to the public as well. The entire VideoPress framework to be exact. They don’t have to do this but they do so because Matt wants Automattic to be an excellent example of an Open Source based company. Not everything is open because hosted services do not have to abide by the GPL since there is no distribution taking place. It’s also worth noting that Automattic has a system in place now so that when they build in a cool new feature for WordPress.com such as Geotagging they also build a plugin to release for the WordPress.org side of things granted, the release isn’t always immediate.
It’s my opinion that neither Matt Mullenweg or Automattic is evil. They don’t have evil tendencies and they are not out to screw people. If that were the case, I can’t see how WordPress could become the piece of software it is today. So my question to you is, do you think either is evil and if so, why?