MarketPress is a shopping cart plugin from a company that’s been making many an enemy in the WordPress community for years and years. Such as WordPress creator Matt Mullenweg himself, who seems rather upset with its developers — not to mention all the upset customers. Or superstar plugin developer Yoost de Valk, upset at his code being copied. So ’ere we get to talking about the MarketPress plugin, we need to address the controversy surrounding this Australian company, since any product or service is only as reputable as the people offering it.
That company is Incsub LLC, which, under its WPMU DEV label, has been making WordPress themes, plugins, and training videos…which many in the WordPress community say are thinly disguised copies of others’ work. Compounding the problem is the company’s own CEO, who can be thought of as the Donald Trump of the WordPress ecosystem, a cut-throat businessman not afraid of how his bitterly public feuds often make him appear to disinterested third parties.
The Big Stink
WordPress is the single most popular platform in the United States, and likely the world over. This means there’s a lot of money to be made hanging onto its coattails — and quite by design, it should be noted, so no shame there. But when it comes to monetizing WordPress, there are two basic kinds of people involved: those who give back, and those who do not. The charge is that not only does WPMU DEV not give really back to the community, it outright rips off the hard work of others to boot.
Many highly reputable observers conclude that WPMU DEV is simply copying existing code and scripts. The consensus is that WPMU DEV doesn’t just build upon others’ themes and plugins and training videos, but simply harvests and repackages them, passing off the result as their own for high monthly subscription fees. Plus, nothing has been given back to the community — nothing that isn’t simply a rip-off of what someone else’s already done anyway. Finally, CEO James Farmer has been not only unapologetic about his controversial business practices but will unabashedly engage in acrimony against both critics and even his own paying customers who complain.
On the Other Hand…
On the other hand, the GPL license under which WordPress operates does very plainly states that anything having to do with WordPress may be used by anyone for any purpose whatsoever (which, however, does not excuse not properly crediting authors for their code, because under GPL terms appropriate attribution is required). While many may wish that WPMU DEV behaved more like (what they perceive to be the decorum among) the rest of the WordPress community, the privately-held company is certainly under no legal or even ethical obligations to do so. They’re not shy about their business model (their site even looked exactly like WordPress.org at one time, confusing many a newbie) and obviously have the paying customers to prove that they do provide some value to somebody somewhere at some time!
Incsub/WPMU DEV originally rose to fame because they were about the only go-to guys around for issues related to hosting multiple WordPress websites on a single installation, back when WordPress Multisite was known as WordPress MU (for “Multi-User”). Indeed, they’re behind the wildly popular Edublogs.org, which has been adopted by Cornell and Stanford universities, among many other reputable institutions. Currently, they are active if relatively minor participants in BuddyPress development, most notable for having patched a bug in the core. While respectable enough, that seems to be about the depth of their positive involvement with the wider WordPress community and pales against the deluge of bad press they’ve gotten. Indeed, with well over a hundred reviews in a little over a year on wpShoppingCartReviews.com, we’ve only come across one company that’s (much) more despised: AlstraSoft! However, unlike that one, WPMU DEV has got thousands of legitimate fans who really do find them useful…so take that how you will.
One more thing about WPMU DEV products in general before we get to MarketPress in particular: like practically all software developers in the WordPress ecosystem, a subscription-based business model has been adopted here, meaning that without an on-going membership you won’t get any plugin or theme updates. Unlike practically all software developers in the WordPress ecosystem, though, WPMU DEV’s products will serve up advertisements nagging you to resubscribe!
Okay, so much for the company’s business practices; what about this shopping cart plugin?
Well, you can sell digital and physical goods with endless product variations, thanks to using WordPress’ own native custom post types functionality. A variety of payment methods is available, as are coupon discounts. Tax tables are provided for all fifty states, and there are international shipping options, too. Unfortunately, only one carrier is recognized: the United States Postal Service.
A standard if not necessarily outstanding solution.
Its main claim to fame, however, is that it was designed from the get-go with a multisite environment in mind. This means that you can use MarketPress for creating separate stores for your company — perhaps one in French for your French customers, one in Japanese for your Japanese customers, and so forth — all on one unified WordPress installation, making for simpler administration. WPMU DEV itself likes to tout how MarketPress allows for an Etsy or eBay-like eCommerce empire, and this is exactly what we’re using the plugin for right now, trying to create just such kinds of websites for certain niche audiences we’ve identified. And in that regard, the combination of MarketPress and WordPress 3.0 and above, where multisite functionality has been integrated into the core, seems to be better than even PremiumPress‘ own AuctionPress!
WPMU DEV is best thought of as a kind of software users’ cooperative for which membership dues pay for custom work on the best WordPress plugins around. Shady business tactics aside — such as registering a competing product’s name into a sister website (we’re looking at you, wp-ecommerce.org, which is obviously meant to fool those looking for the WP-eCommerce plugin) and sometimes appropriating others’ code without proper attribution — it’s a business model that’s won both cheers and jeers from the WordPress community. Add to this the lack of any money-back guarantees but eternal dashboard advertisements should you ever decide to unsubscribe, we can only recommend MarketPress for WordPress Multisite users.