This post is related to our soon to be launched WordPress theme called Infinity, which myself and Bowe Frankema have, combined, invested well over 2,000 hours into. But before I get into the details of the “anti-framework” as we like to call it, I want to give some background and editorialize a bit.
Back in 1995 I was living with my mother and two brothers in a small three room apartment, and working for $4.25 an hour at a woodshop, 50 hours a week, every week. No paid holidays, no sick days, no vacation days, no benefits. I wanted a better life for myself and saved up for many months to buy a computer. I was proficient with computers, but the one my family owned was very old and did not have enough hard drive space to install the latest version of AOL, which at that time was the only way I knew how to get on the Internet.
I wanted a new computer because a friend of mine had shown me a web page he was building for his father’s software business. I was completely blown away by the fact that you could write code and upload documents to a remote server and have your own public presence on web. This friend also told me that his father was going to start building web sites for other businesses as an additional source of revenue. Make money working from home on a computer? I wanted in, badly.
I eventually paid $2,500 for a 200 MHZ Gateway computer which I ordered by phone, sight unseen. Just some quick math, after you take out a chunk for taxes, that computer cost me over 700 hours of blood sweat and tears working in the woodshop. When the cow print box showed up a week later, I began a journey that continues to this day.
After work the following day I stopped by Egg Head software to drop even more money on a 14k baud modem and a book. The book was titled Learning HTML 4.0. There was a bit of luck involved here because I had to tell the clerk that I wanted to build a web page and I needed a book. After a long discussion with another clerk, they decided that I probably wanted an HTML book, but they weren’t quite sure. I had no idea what HTML was, so I had to take their advice.
I began playing around with building web pages for fun, eventually put out some horrendous web sites for low paying clients, and after a couple of years landed a full time job as a “webmaster.” I thought I was king of the world. I even put “Webmaster” on my business card. Soon after that I began to play around with PHP, and I think am probably one of a small percentage of people that can say they have over ten years of experience with developing PHP applications.
Fast forward many years, many cubicles, and many clients later to the present, and here I am. I have worked hard, very hard. I have had many great successes, and many great failures. I have a beautiful wife, two beautiful children, I own a home, a minivan, a truck… many of the things that we strive for and sadly many of the things that we use to measure success. I am pretty happy and want to stay that way.
When I look back on the past 16 years of my life, and ponder how I got to this point, and think of all the jobs, people, and experiences that have contributed to my happiness, I can say, without a doubt, the biggest contributor is free open source software. Without FOSS I might still be working in that woodshop, working 10 hours a day for peanuts. If any developer who is reading this cannot say the same thing, then you are most certainly lying to yourself. Linux, Apache, PHP, MySQL, jQuery and WordPress among countless other software distributions are 100% free to download, use, modify, fork, re-distribute and even sell without limitation. Without these technologies you might be doing something else which is a lot less fun than developing websites and/or publishing content for a living.
I became involved with WordPress about two years ago when I stumbled across the BuddyPress plugin when researching for a project. I have always had a love/hate relationship with WordPress because I am constantly coming across things that I would do differently, and I have never been a very good compromiser when it comes to code. What has kept me interested in WordPress are the friends I meet, and the amazing economy around it. I have built my consulting business around WordPress, and rely on the economy to pay my mortgage and put food on the table.
I am worried though. When I look around the WordPress community I am seeing a mass move towards the commercialization of all of the newest and best discoveries and innovations. First to market ideas are using license keys to lock down their plugins and leveraging the revenue from these micro monopolies to gobble up traffic by purchasing the best points of exposure. I am certainly not saying that developers do not deserve to be paid for their hard work. They do, everybody does. What I am saying is the fact that GPL’d software is being locked down with license keys not only seems to fly in the face of what GPL is all about, but also seems to be coming widely accepted as the “right way” to earn revenue from your code. I am only picking on license keys, because to me personally, it is the most troublesome, but there are many other models being used that have pushed just as far into the gray area of GPL where ethics and civil law begin to blur together.
Before you start ripping me to shreds for decrying a business model that is supporting so many talented developers, ask yourself this: What if the original authors of Apache, or PHP, or jQuery, or even WordPress had decided to lock down their innovations? Would they be as successful as they are? Would they still even exist?
I don’t have the answer for a better model, but you won’t find me pushing the limits of what is acceptable, because I am grateful for what FOSS has given to me and my family. I understand the spirit of the GPL. I am looking for ways to succeed and give back at the same time, not looking for loopholes. The GPL is a flag, not a shield. Carry it into battle, as high as you can raise it. If you fail at your endeavour, fail patriotically. Your brothers in arms will be there to pick you back up to fight another day.
This is why Infinity is, and always will be, free as in freedom, and free as in cost.
Infinity is a parent theme, or base theme, depending on your preference, but is unlike any theme created before it. It contains all of the tools you need to build your own theme, which will itself be more powerful than any theme which currently exists. Since one of our main goals is to break the mold, we are calling Infinity an anti-framework, a theme to free you from frameworks. We want to build a large community of developers who want to help each other succeed in a healthy economy, not a divided one. Even with that said, we encourage anyone who wants to fork Infinity to do so. You have our blessing. We would prefer that you join and make contributions to the community and all it will have to offer, but if you want to use a forked Infinity as a base for your business, then we want you to succeed.
Over the next several weeks we will begin rolling Infinity out. Initially we will be releasing the source to a few friends to solicit feedback and test results. Assuming that all goes well, we will officially launch Infinity sometime in October. Select WordPress developer community blogs will be given the source at least a week prior to launch as an opportunity to prepare any news pieces, editorials, tutorials, etc that they may wish to release on launch day. We will do our best to make ourselves available for technical editing should it be needed.
Thanks for taking the time to read my little rant, and a special thanks to all that have supported me over the past year.