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Automattic Announces Free Themes For Its Users – Sparks Controversy!

Moeez — April 10, 2017 3 Minutes Read

Automattic recently announced that Jetpack users can access a collection of 165 themes that are available for  WordPress.com blogs. Jetpack users can browse, preview and activate themes through the WordPress.com theme showcase. So what does this mean for the WordPress theme businesses? Will this move by Automattic harm the WordPress theme marketplaces?

Moreover, the theme review team at WordPress.org announced a new rule last year that a theme author cannot upload another theme before the current one has been approved. This means that theme authors have to wait for their current themes to go past the queue before they can upload another. This has restricted theme authors and renowned theme developers by having them wait longer before they can upload their new theme in the WordPress theme repository.

Zerif Lite is a recent example of what could happen if you violate the guidelines. Matt Mullenweg however is not in favor of these harsh guidelines when he said he’s “completely okay with having something in the directory that breaks every guideline, as long as it’s interesting.”

It was only a matter of time until Jetpack started releasing themes in a more effective fashion because the review team didn’t make any significant changes to give authors more freedom. Instead, they had spent more time reducing the long queue of themes waiting for approval.

Richard Muscat, a Jetpack team member revealed that there are no plans to sell these themes. There are also no plans to stop releasing these themes in the WordPress.org repository.

The biggest area of concern is probably the commercialization of themes. Medeiros, a small business product creator has expressed his concern over the increased visibility of Jetpack’s free and paid features. This could make it difficult for Mediros and others alike to make a living.

The CEO at ThemeIsle, Neagu, has also shared the same opinion by saying:

“What worries me more is the speed at which Automattic is pushing Jetpack. The Personal plan was introduced, and yesterday I got a cold email from some company they work with promoting their affiliate program. Today themes were introduced. It makes me wonder how far they plan to go and how this will affect theme and plugin developers.”

Neagu is very clear in expressing his concerns over theme and plugin developers and the adverse effects that can cost their business a lot of bucks. With the way Jetpack is being pushed, it would come as no surprise if smaller theme and plugin developers go out of business very soon.

A redditor has wholeheartedly expressed his views on this and it might be the most genuine one yet:

The guidelines don’t apply to Jetpack, or any other Automattic owned or operated plugin. Same reason they don’t have to host their support in the WordPress.org forums. Same reason they are permanently “featured.” Same reason why Akismet is part of the default install on every new WordPress site. I expect people here to jump in and argue with me (I’m waiting on Otto, whom I greatly respect but respectfully disagree with on these points frequently 😉 ) but the arguments will be shallow and/or arbitrary.

Don’t get me wrong, though…JetPack, bbPress, and others are FANTASTIC plugins and I feel they do a lot to help the ecosystem in the long run. My complaint is that a lot of other plugins do/could as well…but they’d be kicked out of the repo in a heartbeat for a lot of the things these big players can get away with…or they’re allowed to do things not even possible for the smaller guys.”

I can safely say that this is the voice behind everyone who makes a living out of themes and plugins. The bigger players get away with violations that smaller developers get banned for. The rules are not the same for everyone and this is a major concern for providers that don’t have a backing like Automattic.


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      Moeez is ‘The’ blogger in charge of WPblog. He loves to interact and learn about WordPress with people in the WordPress community. Outside his work life, Moeez spends time hanging out with his friends, playing Xbox and watching football on the weekends. You can get in touch with him at moeez[at]wpblog.com.



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