How I Found Myself Accused of Stealing Code from WordPress

Tal Kol
3 min readOct 29, 2016

I woke up this morning to a blast of emails and PMs from various friends, all asking what’s up with my team at Wix stealing code from WordPress.

To all who don’t know me, I’m an engineer working on the official Wix mobile app. I spend my days doing mobile architecture and writing code. From time to time I also talk and tweet about this stuff.

The story starts on June 2016. At this point we have just started implementing the Wix mobile app. It wasn’t widely released yet.

The app does lots of different things, from letting you manage your Wix online store, to manage your Wix hotel reservations, to letting you edit Wix blog posts.

We needed a Rich Text component to use only in the Wix blog section of the app. The one we use on the web (which is completely unrelated to WordPress) did not have a good port for native mobile so we were looking for an alternative component.

Since we build the app entirely with React Native, at the beginning of June we went to React Europe, a conference in Paris. Automattic (the company behind WordPress) had a booth in this conference.

I’ve spoken to some of the engineers in the booth and we had fun together. They even gave me a WordPress T-Shirt. I told them we’re working on the Wix app and are looking for a mobile-optimized Rich Text component. They suggested we check out their open source one.

Since their open source Rich Text component does not support React Native, we suggested to collaborate and help create an open source wrapper and add React Native support to their component. They thought it’s a great idea.

Right after returning from the conference, we took this idea and created a first proof of concept. We wrapped their component and open sourced it. We made sure to give due credit on github:

Immediately when the proof of concept was ready, I personally tweeted a link to it to the Automattic Engineering team and tagged it with WixEng as well and #wordpress:

They didn’t reply. In the meantime, we kept using this proof of concept in our app.

Fast forward 4.5 months later, Matt, their CEO, apparently accuses us of stealing their code and hiding it.

I love open source and I love contributing back to the React Native ecosystem. We have a rule in our team that everything difficult we develop for the app that can be reusable, we open source from first commit. We deliberately try to design these as general purpose libraries such as react-native-navigation (this for example is our app skeleton in reusable form).

I know some developers are scared of using GPL, apparently for a pretty good reason. The WordPress GPL Rich Text component in question, is actually a wrapper around another Rich Text component named ZSSRichTextEditor which is licensed MIT. In retrospect it would have been easier to use it directly.

I apologize if I appeared to take credit for somebody else’s work. This was definitely not my intention. I think you guys are doing a great job.



Tal Kol

Public blockchain for the real world. Founder at React fan. Ex head of mobile engineering.