“It’s not often you see a for-profit company donate one of their most valuable core assets and give up control,” Automattic founder Matt Mullenweg writes today in a post announcing that the WordPress trademark has been transfered from his company to the WordPress Foundation. “This is a really big deal,” he continues.
What this means is that the key ingredient behind Automattic is now in the hands of the organization in charge of “promoting and ensuring access to WordPress and related open source projects in perpetuity.” So why do this? Mullenweg says it has been his goal since the beginning to blend a non-profit business, a for-profit one, and not-just-for-profit one under one banner. Now that he feels each of those aspects is stable enough, he wants that main banner, WordPress, to be “protected” as a “beacon for open source freedom.”
With a quarter billion people now using the WordPress.com product — and with other for-profit products doing well (we use WordPress VIP to host TechCrunch, for example), Automattic clearly feels they can afford to lose their biggest asset. And Mullenweg thanks Automattic’s Board for allowing this transition to go down.
“I know in my heart that this is the right thing for the entire WordPress community, and they followed me on that. It wasn’t easy, but things worth doing seldom are,” Mullenweg notes.
This move ensures that WordPress will live on as a project no matter who is in charge of the for-profit business or what happens to it. If this is about legacy, Mullenweg seems to have just cemented his. Good move.