A Response to Joost

June 3, 2011

Last week we were notified through an (understandably) angry tweet that our WPMU DEV SEO plugin contained code adapted from the Yoast SEO plugin. It was also just announced on the Yoast blog.

We very quickly looked into it and it appeared that approximately 20% of our plugin’s code (by line count) was adapted from the plugin. Our plugin has 6 main feature modules which make it what we believe to be the ultimate WordPress SEO plugin:

  • Title & Meta Optimization – Customize how your site appears when search engines find you
  • Powerful Sitemaps that support custom post types, taxonomies, video sitemaps, and news sitemaps
  • Automatic Linking – automates deep linking within your site’s post and pages so that crawlers can quickly and easily index all of your content.
  • SEOmoz API – In a matter of seconds you can be funneling stats and ranking information for your site from the most highly-regarded SEO experts in the industry right from the dashboard.
  • Full Multisite Support and Control – choose what features your blog admins can see or control.
  • Easy Setup Wizard – SEO is complicated! We add an easy wizard that guides you in configuring your site’s SEO step by step.

Only two of these modules somewhat overlap/compete with the Yoast SEO plugin! And it was only the code tied to the Title & Meta Optimization module that appeared to be adapted, as well as some XSL stylesheets for sitemaps that were separately released on the Yoast website outside of his plugin. It’s a far cry from the wholesale copying of a plugin we were accused of, but still quite unacceptable.

Our Response

Wholesale copying of any code by our developers is very much against our policy. It was a big mistake and our fault for not catching it (though hard when we have a team of 7+ devs around the world releasing 1 or 2 premium plugins every week, and we don’t as a rule run comparisons with every other plugin out there constantly, we trust our developers). So within 24 hours of being notified here’s what we did to make things right:

  • We’ve severed our relationship with the original developer who did this without our knowledge.
  • We issued an apology to Joost (the Yoast plugin author).
  • We had our developer work through the night and rewrite whatever we could find that was similar to the Yoast plugin. We tried to remove whatever was the same code. Here is our commit with edits for proof.
  • Even though we changed the code, we added “Inspired By” attribution to our source code to give credit where it’s due (we have no problem admitting that we took inspiration for the Title & Meta Optimization part of our plugin from his). See for yourself!
  • We did a complete review of our systems to make sure this doesn’t happen again, we also reviewed and will continue to review everything that developer ever touched while working for us.

We pride ourselves in the quality, creativity, and originality of the code in our 120+ free and premiumplugins. And don’t just take our (or Joost’s) word for it, review the code differences between the two yourself. We really tried to do the right thing here, but unfortunately Joost has decided to take legal action against us.

Oh well, we’ll just continue to create more amazing and original plugins for the WordPress community!