Hmm…this is an interesting one. WooThemes have pulled off a pretty spectacular move today and forked Jigoshop (our favourite new WordPress eCommerce plugin) into WooCommerce, which will replace it’s heretofore unsuccessful attempts at creating a WooCommerce platform off their own bat. The possibly bigger news is not only have they forked Jigoshop but they’ve brought in the 2 main guys responsible for making it in the first place – Jay Koster & Mike Jolley from Jigowatt. This move by WooThemes raises all sorts of emotions.
Has this move effectively killed Jigoshop?
I’m sure Jigowatt will not be too pleased. In one swoop, WooThemes have forked their project and nabbed the 2 guys responsible for most of the work that has gone into it to date. Jigoshop has been to date a rip roaring success and is by miles the most polished eCommerce plugin for WordPress. But best of all for the WordPress ecosystem it was truly open source and free to download with Jigoshop looking to build a strong community around the core product. It looked to be on to a winner in a big way. I don’t care what anyone says, no one to date has really cracked eCommerce within WordPress and Jigoshop looked like a good bet to do so. WooThemes clearly realised this a long time ago too and have had ambitions to crack this too with previous attempts at making WooCommerce. Woo clearly has a massive community in it’s own right and is a firm proponent of the GPL – but you can’t help but feel the WordPress Community has lost something today. Let’s face it, GPL or no GPL, WooCommerce is going to be a commercial plugin. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not someone who believes that developers should invest their time and effort to create wonderful products for no financial return – quite the opposite actually. What I did/do love about Jigoshop was their approach to developing what one would hope to be a sustainable business model by offering additional commercial extensions and themes around a really solid core free product. I think they are really on to something with this but it could now be stillborn with the departure of the main minds behind the project. And that would be to the detriment of community and ecosystem as a whole. I would love to see WooThemes pick up the challenge from Jigoshop and pursue a similar approach but I don’t think it will happen. Maybe I’ll be proved wrong.
The crossroads of ethics, morals and capitalism?
As I’ve already alluded to, I have mixed emotions on this move. On one hand it’s a stellar bit of business from Adii and the Woothemes crew. I’m sure WooCommerce will take off like a rocket. More power to them – heck I’ll be using it if it turns out to be a more compelling offering than Jigoshop. I’m also glad that Mike & Jay get to keep working on developing and enhancing the plugin albeit under a different name. On the other hand, if you’re Jigowatt, you’re pretty pissed right about now. Clearly a lot of time has been invested into Jigoshop. While forking projects is at the heart of what the GPL is about, I firmly believe that the GPL can be easily abused and taken advantage of. The worst thing that could happen now would be for development of Jigoshop to stagnate and for WooCommerce to become a ‘closed’ platform. While the GPL will ensure that can never technically happen it doesn’t mean the Woo guys can throw a few barriers in the way. Heck just look at Google and Android. Yeah Android is open source right? It might be in name but in reality – it’s still a pretty closed platform. A comment by Adii on the announcement post goes a long way to easing my initial fears about the future of WooCommerce/Jigoshop. It would seem that a collaboration on a single codebase was proposed at one stage (which would be what I consider to be the overall scenario for the community as a whole) but this didn’t work out. Adii also states that Jigoshop are free to backport any enhancements that come about from WooCommerce. The fact that efforts were made to work on a single codebase must be applauded and recognised. Not everyone is happy with this announcement. I will be very interested to hear what the remaining Jigoshop team plan to do going forward. Maybe a bit of healthy competition between the two forks will ultimately lead to better products overall and more choice for the community.
One thing is for sure. We all want to see a rock solid, slick and professional eCommerce platform emerge for WordPress. This is a real problem that needs solving. I firmly believe that whatever platform that emerges as the plugin of choice will have to embody the core values of the WordPress community to be a long term success.