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WordPress and Drupal Co-Founders Discuss Open Source, AI, and the Future of the Web

WordPress is celebrating its 20th anniversary tomorrow and recently its co-founders, Matt Mullenweg and Mike Little, joined Drupal founder Dries Buytaert together on stage at a private event for the first time on May 17. They discussed how their lives were influenced by open source and how they built their projects around the freedoms it guarantees.

Founders of both projects expounded on the benefits of open source collaboration, and Buytaert characterized their continued improvements as an example of the flywheel effect, accumulating small wins that compound over time. They discussed the early history of WordPress and how something as seemingly insignificant as a comment on a blog can be the first step towards building a better future for the web.

Mullenweg acknowledged that it may not be possible to reach everyone with open source philosophy so “at the end of the day you have to make the best user experience.” This has been WordPress’ path over the past 20 years, working in tandem with the power of its open source license and the freedoms that has enabled for the community.

“I consider all proprietary software to be an evolutionary dead end,” Mullenweg said. They discussed how AI is changing the developer experience. Mullenweg is optimistic about AI working with open source and reiterated what he said recently on Post Status’ Slack:

Open source and AI are the two mega trends of the next twenty years, and the reason they are complimentary is that GPT4 hasn’t read Shopify’s code. It’s read Drupal’s code and WordPress’ code, and all 55,000 plugins and everything else, so it can write it. If you ask it to write a website, it’s going to write it in an open source thing. It’s not going to write it in these propriety things. From an evolutionary point of view, if you go far enough into the future, someday we’ll see even our proprietary competitors – the Wix’s and Squarespace and Shopify’s of the world, actually running on open source software.

That’s part of our vision with Gutenberg as well as why we made it an even more permissive license than the GPL. We dual-licensed it under the MPL so it could even be embedded in commercial applications, because I really think it’s so important that I want it to be in even commercial applications.

Check out the video embedded below to hear this historic conversation between some of the pioneers of open source publishing on the web.