Theme Revolution

Brian Gardner’s Revolution theme, widely regarded as the most successful in the “premium” theme space, has seen the light and is going 100% Open Source under the GPL. Definitely a forward-thinking and strategic move. I think this may shake up the premium theme space.

44 thoughts on “Theme Revolution

  1. Matt – just wanted to say a HUGE thanks for meeting up with us, as well as for posting about this. We hope it spawns a movement in the community that will ultimately take WordPress to a higher level.

  2. I’ve written a more detailed comment welcoming this move on Brian’s blog but, as you have previously expressed misgivings about the premium theme space, I think it is worth mentioning that Brian, with his Revolution series, has been almost the perfect example of why all themes should be Open Source.

    What propelled Revolution so far above all the other premium theme was his consistent support and awareness of the importance of community. In truth, it was the support framework he built around his product that was worth paying for and the value of that will not be diminished by the fact that the code itself is now free.

    This changes the entire premium market. The Revolution is on.

  3. Its really big story for me as a revolution user πŸ˜€
    i hope this move can make the revolution goes to a new “revolution” .. and more developed by other πŸ˜€

    I will see you all in the forum,..
    thank Brian, Jason πŸ™‚

  4. This is interesting…

    So will all the people that paid (if any) be refunded?

    Did you get in deep trouble from all the spam/comment spam from this revolution theme?

    I am more likely to believe it failed do to the shady stuff involved then his love for GPL/opensource but what do I know.

  5. Way to go Brian! I’m a proud customer of the Revolution Media Theme, alongside a couple of friends, and I feel happy and excited to see what this new Revolution will cause.

  6. Brian,

    Having just recently made the decision to release our 1st “premium theme”, Vigilance, under the GPL for the same reasons we applaud your choice.

    We see it as not only an opportunity to give back to the WP community but also a way of aligning our efforts with the original WP spirit and mission.


  7. Brian Gardner has proved he’s a very capable theme designer.

    His move towards open source is likely to push his already awesome work to new heights β€” these are exciting time for the WordPress community.

    And again, thanks to Brian for this “community-minded” shift ; )

  8. Hi Matt,

    And greetings from Finland. I’m with you on this one. Brian has the potential to change the premium theme space with this move. This is what many have wanted to do, many have hoped for but few dared to try.

    After all, this theme has always been called modestly “Revolution”.

  9. Jeremy, if you read the post you’ll see that I am not moving the existing themes over to the new site, in order to preserve their value. And if you read the comments on my announcement post, you’ll see the overall response and mood of my community isn’t shady, rather positive.

  10. This move certainly does shake up the premium theme market but I it makes me wonder a couple of things…

    Is it smarter business model to “give away the premium theme and charge for support” vs. “charge for the theme and give free support”?

    Certainly Brian’s move indicates this maybe the case.

    The other thing to think about is how this fits with selling themes/plugins to the WordPress community.

    Does this mean that people who are able to build a business producing and selling high end products to WordPress users are looked down upon?

    Thoughts anyone?

  11. We live in a free-will world, so we’re all entitled to make our own decisions. What we did was a response of what we feel is best for our business. Like I’ve said before, Jason and I didn’t want to continue our current models, as we felt that there were potentially built on sand and not rock. Which is why we flew out to San Francisco to discuss this with Matt and Toni. As for the direction that the current premium theme model goes – that is not for me to decide – rather for the premium theme designers out there. This is the direction we are heading, and if others follow suit, so be it!

  12. In think Brian is taking an amazing risk here, but WOW, am I impressed. As a current Revolution theme owner, I look forward to seeing how this plays out.

  13. Matt, thanks for taking the time to chat at Wordcamp Utah (and taking my mugshot!) and for sharing your thoughts on the premium themes market. It totally changed my way of looking at it – and from a designer perspective it’s GPL themes for me from here on out. peace.

  14. @Brian – I commend you my friend b/c I’ve only heard good comments from people across the web.

    You’ve certainly given the rest of us lots to think about πŸ™‚

    The reason for my question above is to generate conversation on the topic of building a business around WordPress and yet still aligning the foundation of that business with the Open Source model.

    Just curious about the model more than anything.

  15. Hi! What a move πŸ™‚

    Personally, I’m happy to hear that because I, as a “normal” theme developer, am pretty sure that I could learn very much if I could take a look inside such kind of Revolution’s flavored themes.

    But I’m thinking a couple of things and I would like to know if I’m wrong (what is highly possible) or not.

    Fact: WordPress is released under GPL license and that license means that every software that make use of all or part of WordPress MUST use the same GPL.

    Questions, thoughts:

    GPL is related to “Free Software” but that “Free” word doesn’t means (necessarily) “free of charge” but (always) free of “freedom”. As far as I know the GPL *just* implies that the user who use a GPL software MUST have access to the source code. So, if you buy a “Premium Theme” (paying for it) and you have full access to the source code and you can fully modify it, the theme developer *is* honoring the GPL at all.

    And, what if… the theme developer builds his own set of queries, caches, template tags and everything he needs for the theme to work? He won’t use anything of WordPress as software for the theme itself (the theme, with or without GPL must be taken as software too). In fact, wordPress will be using the theme… isn’t it? Could the developer use a different license than GPL in this case?

    Anyway, I’m happy and expecting the new set of GPL Rev’ Themes.

    I wish you the best, Brian!! (and Jason too ;))

    1. I have 10 years of desktop and server experience with Linux. Watching this delicate dance is always fascinating to watch. My guess would be that you will not be able to embed encoded links to either advertisers or the developers page. Along the same idea of only providing a *.bin file for use on Linux (show me the source).

      This will ruffle feathers from the folks that set up shop to make a buck off the affiliate sales or development fees. If you know of an uproar discussion going on please send me a link.

      Below are a couple of articles to read to get an understanding of what this talk is all about.
      Basic questions about the GNU Project, the Free Software Foundation, and its licenses
      The GPL Is a License, not a Contract

  16. @Drew Strojny, That is one hell of a fast response theme. Nice work.

    @Shoemoney, That was my first thought too. What about those that purchased the developer packages?

    The folks that set up affiliate sites to promote these themes will suffer. Those that set up advertising campaigns will be affected.

    Other than that I do think this is a positive direction, but I will still pay for premium services regardless.

  17. As a Revolution user I have to say that the support provided by Brian is, perhaps, the best support I’ve ever seen. We implemented Revolution over basically a weekend with lots of help in the forum and I don’t think I ever waited more than an hour for an answer! It was awesome!.

    I have no idea what shoemoney is talking about above. There is nothing shady about Brian or the Revolution theme that I have seen. And as Brian has pointed out, the existing Revolution themes that people have paid for will be gone forever. The NEW Revolution will be released under GPL, not the existing themes. At least that’s how I understood his announcement.

  18. Hi Matt:

    There is no setup guide with themes and I have to purchase the support to know how to set them up. Do you think this is right? Revolution team seems to have used the “Open Source” words to become famous.

    You can see that there is even necessary plugins missing with the new update. Just go to revolutiontwo site, download a theme, and see. Without a basic setup guide, how one can use them. It is nonsense.


      1. They might be under GPL lisence, but I do understand entirely that people get angry after first going open source and to totally free themes and then just after a month or two switching back to paid model and just say it was an momentarily experiment. NoRevolutions comment is not the first comment of dissappointed/angry people. I found many while searching an explanation…

        Anyway I don’t think this kind site promotion is considered good marketing and here is why:

        1) You could argue that this is a textbook case of stealth marketing (guerilla marketing gone bad)
        – get people interested
        – get the media hype
        – get the buzz efect
        – hand out free samples

        One of the keypoints of guerilla marketing is that ultimately marketer must deliver the goods. And this isn’t the case anymore since at launch the the site was profiled with free dowload themes and this is better explained in my second point.

        2) Some SEO specialists would call this kind of stealth marketing Blackhat SEO. Providing first free material and get the link coverage needed to get good ranks and then switch to totally paid content. If you search for keywords like: revolution 2, wordpress, theme, free, open source. You get hundreds of blog posts and referral links pointing to free download themes site. This is how got most its link coverage.

        Try to google about the announcement of the new paid model or even find it on a current website. There actually isn’t any explanation on the current website, the announcement is on Brians own blog ( Yet rather than posting a proper announcement to a current site for people asking more info in the comment boxes, he emails a link to his own site (

        So I think most of the angry/dissapointed posts come from expecting free dowloads as told by search engines and lots of blog posts and getting something else without an explanation. Not because of the change of business model.

        Maybe all this wasn’t made intentionally, but I think the switch could have been made better.

        P.S. Maybe this wasn’t the best blog to post this comment, but it was NoRevolutions comment that made me finally post a comment about this matter.

      2. How they are fully GPL? I don't see a link to download the theme for free, I must pay for "support" in order to get the theme.
        He never complied with GPL with the whole revolution series and now that his "going GPL marketing stunt" didn't work he rebranded and is charging again and is featured on the Theme directory.

        Can you explain a little better how they are fully GPL?


  19. yes, I admit I’m disappointed at all the work I’ve had to do to figure out what’s going on. Thanks for spelling it out Daily and others in these comments.

    All Brian Gardner’s latest themes are commercial, and the countless links across the web and saturating google all now redirect and funnel to the Studiopress commercial theme-selling site.

    However, there is one free theme now at WordPress, it’s called Revolution Code Blue, and it’s pretty decent for a free theme I guess, but it’s VERY stripped of features compared to the $60 themes for sale.

    I suppose the one free theme qualifies as something in the way of good karma – but the massive litter across the web of false information is a shame.

  20. Once opened as GPL only while he was redesigning his new themes, just to cause a rush of excitement and as a publicity stunt. Brian Gardner has fooled us all…

    His themes are decent and well polished, but to open source themes and then revert them back to commercial only is a stab in the back to the very community that has supported him all this time.

    1. I’m 100% certain all Brian’s themes are licensed under the GPL. That doesn’t mean he has to offer them free for download on his site — they’re different things you should read the conversations around this and a FAQ about the GPL.