Is Matt Mullenweg of WordPress Playing Favorites with Commercial Themes

UPDATED: See End of Post

A few weeks ago Matt Mullenweg of WordPress threatened to take Thesis Developer Chris Pearson to court over his not supporting the GPL Licence. Fortunately they were able to works things out, a lawsuit was averted, and everything got back to normal … except that Matt Mullenweg might have started to use the commercial resources of Automatic (the parent company of WordPress.com) to convert users away from Thesis, and he’s pulled Chris Pearson’s free thesis theme cutline from the WordPress archives …

Up until a few days ago, several high profile blogs like LaughingSquid.com and PaulStamatiou.com were running on Thesis. Now they are running on the commercial theme Genesis. Normally someone changing a blog theme’s isn’t a big deal; however, in this case, there is more than meets the eye. Let’s look at the css file for those two sites (example 1, example 2)

In case things change (yeah I’ve done this before) here are screen shots highlighting the interesting parts:

What the two lines in those two files say are “The Automatic Theme Team.” So either someone at Automatic (the company who was inches away from suing Thesis) is footing the bill for converting people off of Thesis onto other themes, or someone is doing a decent job setting up Matt Mullenweg. I’m not a lawyer and don’t know the legalities involved, but stealing customers from someone you are about to sue and doing free work to get them to switch to a competitor seems like pretty unethical behavior in my book. So, if it’s not Automatic doing the work, WordPress might want to follow up with those sites and see who is setting them up to look like the bad guys.

But isn’t Matt Mullenweg a stand up guy? I mean, he built this great software called WordPress and made it free for all of us. True, Matt did create and release WordPress, but he’s also been caught with his hand in the cookie jar in the past. In fact, the offenses were so bad that he got WordPress kicked completely out of Google for being an adsense spammer.

Back in 2005 WordPress was caught running auto-generated content on subdomains with some adsense. This is against Google’s guidelines and caused Google to take WordPress out of the index until the spam was removed. So you’ll forgive me if I don’t think Matt is the saint that he has fooled most of you into believing he is today.

So which is it, Matt? Are you just being a vindictive vengeful person, or is someone setting you up to take the fall?

If you want to respond here I’ll post your response in full (comments are turned off), or if you do it somewhere else, let me know and I’ll link to it …

Here is Matt’s reply

UPDATE: After this post was written it seems Matt Mullenweg had his henchmen remove one of Chris Pearson’s old themes Cutline from the WordPress Theme Library, a move which has pissed off several users because WordPress just broke their themes. I’m not the only one who thinks it’s too much of a coincidence (see Cutthroat for Coraline, and Coraline the changing way). Way to keep it classy Matt.

UPDATE 2: Mullenweg says it wasn’t a coincidence at all … WOW is all I have to say

<disclosure>In an effort to be clear, I was a Thesis Affiliate at the time this post was written.

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