WordPress.com pulled a theme last week – this is the digital publishing story no one covered

If you don’t think of WordPress.com as digital publishing, that’s okay. I didn’t realize until Sunday that I really should have covered this. IMO, Teleread and MediaBistro (MobileContent) also should have reported on this story.

So what happened last week was that WordPress.com deleted the cutline blog theme and replaced it with coraline, a very similar looking theme. BTW, I’m using the cutline theme right now (just in case you were curious about what it looks like). Note that they didn’t just hide the theme; they deleted it without adequate warning.

A number of people were using the cutline theme, so deleting it screwed up quite a few blogs. When you switch themes the sidebar widgets are removed and have to be replaced manually. Naturally this pissed people off. One person affected was Mike Cane; that’s how I first learned of this.

What’s interesting about this (besides the damage that WordPress.com did to their professional reputation) was why they deleted the theme.The stated reason was that that theme was old and design had moved on. This is BS; cutline had been updated only a couple weeks ago.This appears to be a semi-official statement from a WordPress.com rep (scroll down):

When we first added the Cutline theme to WordPress.com it was free software. That means the users of that theme had the freedom to use, share, and modify that theme as they wished—as long as they passed those freedoms on when they shared it. That freedom let us bring the Cutline theme here to WordPress.com and it’s the same freedom that’s made WordPress so popular.

Free software is something we believe is important: to use and promote.

Cutline was sold a few years ago and had a more restrictive license placed on it. The original author of the Cutline theme has gone on to produce other themes with more restrictive licenses. Using Cutline has been seen as a promotion of that work and that’s not something we want to do–so, we made something better: Coraline! The state of the art in themes has advanced quite a bit since Cutline and we’re happy to make the switch.

So WordPress.com developed a professional disagreement with the theme’s designer and decided to respond by screwing over their customers. Classy.

P.S. This kind of shit is why I went with a private hosting company for this blog.

Nate Hoffelder

View posts by Nate Hoffelder
Nate Hoffelder is the founder and editor of The Digital Reader. He has been blogging about indie authors since 2010 while learning new tech skills weekly. He fixes author sites, and shares what he learns on The Digital Reader's blog. In his spare time, he fosters dogs for A Forever Home, a local rescue group.

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