When I first read that Matthew Mullenweg created WordPress, Inc. I was a bit skeptical seeing how it was an open source project and I could kind of see where he was going with this. However, after reading this over at waxy.org you just have to assume that he is doing everything wrong here and exploiting the userbase that has made the project so popular to begin with.
For a project to become successful it takes a lot of hard work and dedication from a number of people. It can be argued that without Matt, WordPress wouldn’t be anywhere close to where it is now. However, it’s still an Open Source project so really there is no need for it to be where it is now. Open Source projects thrive on the passion of its developers and userbase and the userbase is what has made WordPress explode (not to mention the blog-mob that can make or break a soul) so exploiting their work (linkage) is not a good thing at all.
Numerous Open Source projects have thrived with various revenue models (most from support models) so there really is no need to use the methods that WordPress, Inc. is using to “fund” development. It’s also a shady practice to use the negative text-indent technique to hide the links from the users, but still being viewable by search engines. Running an Open Source project doesn’t require that the main people behind it show 100% transparency, but it does involve 100% trust and using this sort of method to raise capital seems to break that trust.
If working on an Open Source project is costing too much of your time and money and you have tried other more viable and trustworthy ways to raise money then maybe it’s time to walk away. I don’t think there is anything wrong with that and I assuming nobody else would have any issues with it either. The beauty of Open Source is that you can walkaway and the product can still live. Didn’t WordPress begin after the death of another blogging package? But if you have a product that has been downloaded over 100,000 times then I definitely can suggest methods to raise money without using shady tactics (and yes hiding links is a shady tactic no matter who is doing it).
I met Photomatt at this year’s SXSW and he seemed like a nice guy so hopefully when he returns he can see what makes doing this so wrong and quickly correct it. Everyone is allowed to do what they want with their sites and by no means is this illegal, but I think you do have to wonder if it’s even right or fair to the people that have made the site and software what it is today.
Sidenote: Remember all the flack SixApart got for licensing their software? Is that worse than what WordPress, Inc is doing now?