PressRow on Death Row

August 13, 2010

The selection of themes at WordPress.com no longer includes Cutline. Why not? Here’s how staffer Themeshaper explained in the support forum.

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…

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

Posting on the replacement of Cutline with Coraline, I closed with a thought on another theme.

If I were using PressRow at WordPress.com, I’d be wondering how much longer I’d have it for, and what might replace it.

One comment on the post provides confirmation that PressRow is on death row. Another identifies PressRow as the theme of choice if you want Cutline and can no longer use it. That’s not surprising, since the two themes share a designer (Chris Pearson) and hence a certain look and feel.

I hope that WordPress.com will handle the endgame for PressRow more gracefully than it handled the Cutline cutoff. In other words, I hope that PressRow users won’t suddenly find that they are using a different theme.

I fear a worse than that case scenario, in which:

  • Most, or many, PressRow users get no advance warning.
  • They are switched to a theme they didn’t choose, had never heard of, and, in many cases, dislike.
  • They find their widgets, as well as their theme, gone.
  • They just switched to PressRow, and did so when Cutline went away.

All except the last of these happened during the Cutline cut. The last could happen, especially given the similarity of PressRow to Cutline, and the fact that PressRow is a prominent theme at WordPress.com: if you sort themes on popularity, PressRow is on the front page.

The number of PressRow blogs at WordPress.com may well be in six figures. I arrive at that noting that it is the 14th most popular theme, and that WordPress.com hosts millions of blogs.

I’d like to see a retirement plan for PressRow, stating things like how to forwarn every PressRow user, how much notice to give, etc. I’d like to see the plan itself posted, so that the community can comment on it.

If PressRow/death row isn’t handled better than Cutline/cut, we may see one of WordPress.com’s competitors advancing the proposition: come to us, we won’t cut your theme or put it on death row. That said, the most recent and aggressive attempt to get migrants from WordPress came from Posterous, which has more recently had downtime woes. The most likely migration destination from WordPress.com is still self-hosted WordPress.

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