WordPress.org putting the boot to premium theme developers

Yesterday, I came across a post by Dave Coveney in which he talks about how his theme and nearly 200 others had been pulled from the WordPress.org theme directory. Sure enough, there are now only 500 or so themes, down from the previous 700+.

The about page of the theme directory has been updated with some new information:

All themes are subject to review. Themes for sites that support “premium” (non-GPL or compatible) themes will not be approved.

It would seem that Automattic is trying to phase out the premium-theme business altogether.

Adding themes that support commercial organizations

Themes have always had to be compatible with the GPL to be added there. Obviously, adding a few GPL-licensed themes to the directory to point back to your commercial theme site would be great for business.

At this point, I’ve added only one theme to the directory, Hybrid (it looks horrible on their demo, by the way). It hasn’t been pulled. My guess is that it might be because I don’t sell themes. I only sell support services for them at Theme Hybrid. Of course, it could be pulled tomorrow as well. I’ll just have to wait to see what happens.

We at least know that many themes that link back to sites selling other themes have been removed.

Where does this leave us?

I think most of you already know my thoughts on premium themes. I’m not going to rehash that discussion here.

Apparently, these 200 themes were pulled overnight with no warning at all. It just happened. Theme authors received a one-line email with nearly no explanation. I’m guessing that means a loss of all the statistics that were recorded as well.

The WP crew should be able to run WordPress.org as they see fit, but removing themes in this way was not a classy move at all. At least give theme authors a chance to to comply with their new policy before removal.

This isn’t the whole story, but I’m sure the community would like to get a response from someone at Automattic. So far as I know, they haven’t released any news on this.

What are your thoughts on this?


Here are some updates on what’s happening with this situation right now.

Explanation from Matt Mullenweg

Here’s an email from Matt that’s been circulating throughout the WordPress-o-Sphere:

Thanks for emailing me about the theme directory. The other day I noticed a ton of bad stuff had snuck in like lots of spammy SEO links, themes whose sites said you couldn’t modify them (which is a violation of the GPL), etc. Exactly the sort of stuff the theme directory was meant to avoid.

There were also a few that violated WP community guidelines, like the domain policy. So since Monday we’ve been clearing stuff out en mass. If you’re kosher with the GPL and don’t claim or promote otherwise on your site and your theme was removed, it was probably a mistake. Give us a week to catch up with the bad stuff and then drop a note.

Thanks guys, and let me know if you have any more questions.

Revolution ad now on theme directory

I have no ill will toward Brian Gardner and his business, but apparently RevolutionTwo has an ad on the theme directory now. This was pointed out in the comments below. Here’s a screenshot of the ad.

I’m not sure how all this plays into the grander scheme of things, but it is an interesting thing to note. It has been labeled under “Paid Themes”, yet RevolutionTwo is an open-source project (with paid support services).