Brewing fuss over a fork of an Elegant Themes popup plugin

Folks are making a bit of a fuss about a commercial plugin — Bloom, a lead generation and popup plugin — getting forked and released for free. It all started with an Elegant Themes tweet:

Looks like @LeadPages took our plugin, replaced our logo in their “fork” and put it up for free on 🙁

LeadPages, for those of you that aren’t aware, is a company that has raised $38 million ($27 million of it from a round this summer) for landing page and lead generation software. LeadPages actually started as a WordPress plugin back in the day. Their fork of LeadPages is called Rapidology, and hilariously they use an emoji gift box to call the plugin “a free gift from LeadPages” all over the website.

Their attempt with this fork and release is pretty obvious. When you activate the plugin, it immediately forces you to enter your email address to use it. They just wanted to capture emails to upsell LeadPages. I’m pretty sure that’s a direct violation of the WordPress plugin repository’s rules, and indeed it’s now been pulled. I haven’t confirmed whether that is the reason though, and have seen one person I trust state that it’s not the reason (I’ll confirm in the next edition).

The twitter rage that followed Elegant Themes’ complaint was mostly surrounding the fact that LeadPages didn’t change anything other than the name. However, as my readers likely know, the GPL allows this explicitly. That doesn’t make it the nice person thing to do, especially considering Bloom was a commercial plugin and Rapidology is free, but it’s what they did and it’s perfectly acceptable (even encouraged!) by the GPL.

There are certainly different ways to fork a plugin — or at least in how you explain it after you do it. When the forked plugin is one that is someone else’s money-maker, feelings tend to get hurt a lot more than if everybody’s stuff is free in the first place.

There are cases where forking looks pretty lame (this one), cases where everybody gets along (Give and EDD), and cases in-between (I can’t talk about plugin forks without mentioning WooCommerce and Jigoshop at least once. It is a law.)

In a similar situation, Leland Fiegel recently wrote a pretty great response to someone mad at him for forking their paid plugin and making it free.

LeadPages has every right to fork Bloom. Elegant Themes has every right to be annoyed. In all likelihood, Elegant Themes will continue to nurture their product and differentiate it from LeadPages’ marketing ploy. But the moral is that they chose their license and now they live with the potential consequences. It may not be fun right now for Elegant Themes, but it’s the bed they made.


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