Our forking views

Posted in Blog, Development and tagged , , , , , , , , on by .

Forking has always been a contentious issue for any open source project. It refers to the ability for anyone to split GPL licenced code into a new project with the consent of the original copyright holder without needing to gain further permission or even notify them, and is a very useful feature if a developer has given up on the project and let it stagnate.

It’s also used when there’s a large disagreement between parties over the direction of a project, and in that case, forking tends to be less productive as it generally splits both developers and users between the two camps.

Very recently WooThemes has announced that in addition to hiring Mike and James (formerly of Jigowatt), they will be forking the Jigoshop code to produce their own version of an eCommerce platform. And while this is technically allowed under the GPL V3 licence, there seems to be some confusion we’d like to clear up.

  • Forking the Jigoshop code base does not mean that Jigoshop ceases to exist, grow and evolve. Indeed we’ve got more contributors than ever before and have more new themes, features and plug-ins on the way, to keep building the brilliant momentum we’ve had since launch.
  • Although James and Mike contributed to the core of Jigoshop, they were not solely responsible for it. We owe a lot of the Jigoshop codebase to the Github & WordPress communities and we thank you all for your contributions to the project so far.
  • Woo’s bid to buy out the Jigoshop project grossly undervalued the business and didn’t come close to covering our initial development costs, not forgetting the planning, time and effort both the Jigowatt team and community put into the project.
  • Woo then made to an offer to ‘collaborate’ which led to their decision to fork Jigoshop. What hasn’t been made public is that collaboration offer included conditions which would have given WooThemes full strategic control over the direction and development of the Jigoshop project in the future.
  • References have also been made to the fact that Jigoshop will remain open source, and therefore the whole community will benefit from future development of either fork, which is true, and is ensured by Jigowatt retaining copyright of the project to be certain that Jigoshop (and forks of it) will always be licensed under GPL, and existing users will not find future improvements become unavailable because any copyright holder has decided to switch to a proprietary licence.

It’s perfectly within the rights and terms of the GPL licence for a project and code base to be forked, and there is certainly nothing to stop anyone from doing exactly that. Indeed, within GitHub, forking is also used as an alternative way of contributing to the original code by demonstrating an alternate approach.

However, when forking is done needlessly, it has a negative effect on both projects, as it splits the potential developer and user community, and it’s sad that this might happen when we are not only open to collaboration and partnership opportunities, but have always encouraged them. We’re completely confident in both our internal team, the amazing Jigoshop community of users, developers, designers and testers, and the fact that working together, all of us can create the best possible solution and maintain the great tradition of open source success.

Comments

  • Robert

    And in plain & simple English, this means??

    • Jigoshop

      It means business as usual for Jigoshop, we’ll still be developing it alongside our great community to make it the best open source eCommerce plugin for WordPress :)

      • Kreativ Theme

        A little competition does NOT hurt, but I’m not sure how Woo guys are going to compete with something that is already great and… Free …

        We’ll just have to wait and see …

        • Sandra

          You’re right, competition does give us ‘fire in our bellies’ and that even greater drive to make Jigoshop the best, most compatible plugin out there. I believe we’re on the right road.

  • Benjamin Reid

    I couldn’t be forked to read all of it but nice wan.

    :D

  • firebubble

    I hope you guys make the profit and receive all of the recognition you deserve for making such a fantastic e-commerce plugin.

    It is a shame that JigoWatt and Woothemes could not have worked together.

    I think the quality of the themes that are produced will really help the success of JigoShop and I wish you guys all the best.

    • Dan Thornton

      Hi firebubble – cheers for the support and although this particular occasion hasn’t led to collaboration, we’ll continue to work with the amazing developer and design community that exists in Open Source and WordPress.

      And whatever happens, the GPL licence ensures that the Jigoshop community will always have access to the core project to use, modify and improve for the good of everyone, which is what was always intended.

  • Vincent

    I was waiting for your official reply to this, and like the way you’ve explained things from your end.

    Sincerely hope the whole WordPress community sees the light and supports your ‘more noble’ efforts.

    Can you maybe just clarify your last bullet point: “Jigowatt retaining copyright of the project”

    Does that mean WooThemes is prohibited to keep any ‘enhancements’ to itself?

    • Dan Thornton

      Hi,
      Basically, the GPL Licence is based on copyright (or in this case, ‘copyleft’) which means the copyright holders do retain certain controls.
      The most important of these is that the copyright holder could in theory give a new version any licence they wanted, including giving in a proprietary licence which would not give any access or enhancements back to the community.
      There’s no indication that WooThemes ever intended to do this, but by us retaining copyright and remaining utterly committed to the GPL licence, it means that any derivative works must conform to the same licence, and make the source code available as part of distributing it. So any third part can fork the project, make enhancements, and charge for that version, but they have to allow the source code to be distributed, and any changes can be then incorporated under the same GPL licence.

      Which is a bit of a longwinded way of saying yes, to your question!

      • Valerie

        I thought you have to take it back one step further: WordPress is GPL so no one using its code (plugin authors) have the right to change to a different license-even with a new version.

        As long as WordPress retains the GPL, then any plugins have to be GPL whether forked or no or owned by Woo or new versions or whatever.

        WordPress plugins are not a new, independent work. They are loaded within WordPress and use WordPress’s GPL code, so they also have to be GPL.

  • Zachary Smith

    Dan,

    This post left me thinking it is naturally Part 1 of a much larger issue. Your post identifies how the issue came about but you don’t offer any alternative outcomes. I can see this problem happening with any source code developed under GPL. While I see integrating Jigoshop into the Woo codebase isn’t exactly forking per se and I understand why you were at an impasse, what do you think should have been done? Is this a weakness in GPL? How do you see this as different from Woothemes innovation on the menus in WordPress and it’s later integration with WordPress? Do you think there will be Woo innovations that could be integrated back into the Jigoshop open source? Maybe this is only an issue because shopping carts, memberships sites, and ecommerce in general is so complex and difficult to integrate into other themes and code bases that a GPL project like Jigoshop needs collaboration from other sources. What do you think could/would be the ideal outcome?

    Zach

    • Dan Thornton

      Hi Zachary,
      The evolution of the Free Software/Open Source licences and the issues that come out of each version are something that has led to all sorts of questions over the last 40 years, and it’s a very tricky balancing act between the amazing benefits and the potential risks involved.

      Forking is something which is almost essential to the concept of Open Source/Free Software, and not necessarily a weakness in the GPL licence, although it has meant that some WP developers have adopted a split licence, with the PHP elements under GPL and the Javascript/CSS under proprietary licence for example.

      The ideal outcome for any project is that everyone can find ways to work together for the benefit of end users and the whole community, with any legal aspect to provide clarity more than anything else. The fact that Jigoshop is already collaborating with a range of external developers and designers in the community shows that there are ways in which it can work, and we’re continually looking to improve the support and assistance we can give to anyone who wants to modify or improve Jigoshop.

      It’s tricky to figure out how the GPL Licence can accomodate the freedoms and benefits inherent in open source/free software on one hand, and avoid potential issues at the same time, but my personal tendency is always to err on the side of freedom, and then work through the other issues, which is what I think the Free Software Foundation are always trying to do…

  • chriswallace

    Andy, I’d love to talk to you about using Jigoshop with our themes at UpThemes.

  • Justin Tadlock

    It refers to the ability for anyone to split GPL licenced code into a new project without the consent of the original copyright holder,

    I just wanted to point out that I think you made a typo. You probably meant “with consent” and not “without consent”. When something is licensed under the GPL, you’ve given your consent for others to use the code however they want so long as they too follow the GPL.

    By the way, the DevPress team is looking forward to where you will take Jigoshop. We’re excited about integrating it and our themes.

    • Dan Thornton

      Hi Justin, and thanks for the comment – it’s not so much a typo as a clarification about the use of the GPL licence, and the need for Richard Stallman type accuracy every time it’s referred to.

      You’re right in that assigning the GPL licence automatically gives consent – what I wanted to reference was that modifying doesn’t require any further specific permission, and the copyright holder doesn’t even have to be necessarily aware that it’s happening.

      And do get in touch if there’s any support, assistance and possibly promotion etc we can offer to help with DevPress integration!

      • Ryan Hellyer

        I think Justin’s point was that you inherently have consent from the copyright holder due to it being GPL. There’s just a little ambiguity in what you said due to the wording.

  • daveporter

    Two questions?
    Will WooThemes keep updating their fork with the work done by JigoShop?
    Or will their development from here on be totally separate?

    And If the second option is correct, then I presume Themes & Extensions are unlikely to be compatible between the two forks ?
    Cheers, Dave
    ps Will you be dropping the Canvas theme :)
    (sorry I know that’s a third question – no extra charge!)

    • Dan Thornton

      Hi,
      We can’t really comment on what plans a seperate company has for their project, but under the terms of GPL, the source code of that version has to be made available as part of the distribution, so I would imagine that there will be some crossover between the two projects, depending on whether there are enhancements that would improve the Jigoshop code base, or if we have an alternative solution we feel would be better in some way.

      Development will be seperate at the moment, as it appears collaboration isn’t an option – however, we’ve got an amazing amount of people already either collaborating or interested in collaborating with us, so in terms of resources and partners, we’ve never had more people involved or a greater amount of talented and skilled people sharing in the Jigoshop project.

      Whether themes and extensions will work across the two versions is something we’ll find out in the future, but certainly there’s a good chance the two versions could end up becoming increasingly distinct and therefore themes and extensions will be more specific to one or the other – but Jigoshop has always been designed to be pretty customisable and configurable, so that wouldn’t stop you modifying it in some way to maybe have cross-compatibility, for example.

      And as far as I’m aware there aren’t any plans to drop the Canvas theme – that would just mean that anyone who wants to use Jigoshop and Canvas would miss out…

  • Haroun Kola

    I don’t think this issue has been handled well at all, it leaves me with a bad feeling. I’ve known about woothemes but this issue was the first that I learnt about your company.

    I just want to wish you well, and that the support you receive from the community develops your product into an awesome one!

    • Sandra

      Hi Haroun, thank you so much for your support and best wishes. The community and developers worldwide are certainly pulling together with us.

  • andrewmclagan

    I have been following this issue with concern over the past few weeks. Mainly as Jigoshop is by far and away the best e-commerce solution to come out of a pretty sloppy pack. Well done guys.

    When Woo forked and acquired the GPL codebase and along with it two top level coders i was shocked, more at the way it was done then that it occurred at all. I think woo has allot to answer and may have lost face in the community. I for one will be steering clear of them for a time.

    Saying this it will be interesting to see the direction of the two projects over the coming months. Also it will be interesting to see how available woo makes the code.

    Good luck
    and see you on github

    • Sandra

      Thank you Andrew for your posts on our site and views on recent events. It is an exciting journey for all of us, let us know how we’re doing along the way.

  • Mesonto

    I am also concerned at all this activity as well but for a different reason. I have been anxiously awaiting a release of Jigoshop that will allow variations on a purchase (i.e. colour or size).

    But all this ‘action’ around Jigoshop has made me wonder if it will ever come to fruition or alternatively if the offer was right from Woo would Jigoshop have been bought. If it was bought, then all my efforts with my clients (trying to tell them to be patient as well) would have been for nothing. Are Jigoshop and its employees/contributors able to even concentrate on their work?

    I say this only because, as others have mentioned, Jigoshop is an island of brilliance in an otherwise sea of lousy ecommerce projects.

    • Sandra

      Hi Mesonto, I’m sure you’ve checked out our progress on Github and are hopefully re-assured about the healthy development of Jigoshop.

  • Jigoshop

    If you’re looking for action, I would check out the development branch on github (https://github.com/jigoshop/Jigoshop/tree/dev)

    That branch has gone ‘commit crazy’ recently and I think you’ll like what the community is cooking :)

    Disclaimer: The dev branch is for experimental code only and is unsuitable for real world projects.

    ^Rob

  • Mike Little

    I’d just like to suggest a correction: Your opening paragraph states without the consent of the original copyright holder, that is not true.

    By licensing your code under the GPL you do give explicit consent for everyone to do exactly what Woo Themes did.

    And for everyone else: don’t forget, there wouldn’t even be WordPress if Matt and I hadn’t forked Cafelog/b2 eight years ago.

    • Dan Thornton

      Hi Mike,
      Good point, and post updated – what I wanted to explain to anyone not familiar with the GPL Licence and forking is that you can fork a project without any requirement to even notify the original copyright holder, but didn’t quite manage Richard Stallman-like clarity!
      And we’re not against forking, and indeed, recognise exactly why it was so important in your work with Matt to create WordPress – we wanted to clarify the facts of what has happened to remove some of the inevitable confusion that forking a project can bring, and also to confirm our commitment to Jigoshop and continuing to use the GPL licence in the future.

    • ralcus

      Am i right in thinking you guys only forked Cafelog/b2 and made WordPress because the original developers of those projects had decided to stop working on them?

      Where as JigoShop is still in full steam ahead mode.

      Although what WooThemes have done is fine within the rights of the GPL, it does seem more then a little cheeky to hire two of JigoShops programmers and then fork the project.

      They could have just worked with JigoShop by becomming core contributers. I’m sure JigoShop would have be happy to add features to intergrate it closley with the WooTheme framework. That way the JigoShop brand would have been preserved and promoted on the WooThemes site giving them much deserved exposure.

      I say this as a paying customer of both WooThemes and JigoShop.

  • pkiula

    Let me put it simply.

    I will continue to commit to JigoShop. You’re the inventors. Anyone who has lost hair with Magento and WP-Ecomm and Shoppe crap knows just how MUCH to appreciate what you guys are doing.

    Don’t care for the WooBloat.

    But please guys, please don’t desert this project.

    • Sandra

      Many thanks for the loyal support. We’re far from deserting Jigoshop…. hopefully you’ll enjoy the new themes, extensions, showcase examples, improved support and of course ongoing core development. Keep watching.

      • pkiula

        If there was a LIKE button, I’d have liked that post :)

        Would love to see more Asia-friendly features. You know a big chunk of the market right now is in China, Japan, Korea. eCommerce is huge. The functionality is in top demand. You’ll do well to have some features that cater to that crowd (as I do) — and you can have these as paid options.

        -Staunch supporter.

        • Sandra

          We’ll add extensions for the Asian market to our ‘to-do’ list – it’s a bit of a long list at the moment, but we’ll certainly help where we can as soon as possible.

          • pkiula

            Thanks. Do you make your to-do list public? Would love to see what’s on it.

          • Sandra

            Not totally public – we like to keep a few surprises up our sleeves :)

  • Chris M.

    Jigoshop rocks! When I stumbled upon this plugin some months ago I was like, “WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN ALL MY LIFE?!” Yes, it was that dramatic. :-)

    Please continue to press “full steam ahead” with improvements and development…

    Wishing you the best!

    Chris M.

    • Sandra

      Thanks for your comments Chris. Yes it’s certainly ‘full steam ahead’ here, keep in touch and let us know how we’re doing.
      Sandra

  • Luis Ramos

    After hearing the news and all the noise about WooThemes hiring the two main JigoShop developers, I went to check their web site and I got totally disillusioned by their design. You can tell these people have no class, no style and no education in design, it looks like they’re only business sharks and the type of people that ruin everything they touch. I never trust companies with no education in design.

  • Dusan

    Jigoshop is No1 for me. The same thing, developed under Microsoft or maybe Adobe could cost a lot. Great work JigoGuys, just keep goin’. :)