Cutline Dropped On In Favor Of Coraline

While I don’t normally write about happenings at, the removal of Cutline for a new theme called Coraline is making headlines, and rightly so. The first reason why this is such a big story is because the Cutline theme was developed by Chris Pearson a few years ago. The same Chris Pearson that recently announced Thesis would be switching to a split licensed setup. Chris also has another theme on called Press Row which according to this comment by Matt, will be seeing a similar fate. Keep in mind though that his comment was made during a heated time period between Chris and Matt. Ian Stewart who is a member of the Automattic Theme team announced within the forums that licensing also played a role into its removal:

Cutline was sold a few years ago and had a more restrictive license placed on it. The original author of the Cutline theme has gone on to produce other themes with more restrictive licenses. Using Cutline has been seen as a promotion of that work and that’s not something we want to do–so, we made something better: Coraline! The state of the art in themes has advanced quite a bit since Cutline and we’re happy to make the switch.

*Note* David Peralty mentions in the comments that Cutline never had a more restrictive license and was always licensed under Creative Commons.

The second reason why this is a big story is the way in which the theme was introduced/switched. The post I linked to with Ian Stewart was created four days before the switch. The blog mentions nothing in the archive leading up to the switch that Cutline would be disappearing. Users of the service virtually had no time what so ever to transition to the new theme. It’s as if someone threw common sense out the window and felt that dealing with anger up front from users would be better than creating a smooth transition. There are plenty of ways in which this could have gone over better. For instance, at least give users thirty days prior to the switch. For those that don’t read the blog post, they could have written something that detected whether or not Cutline was activated as the theme in use and if so, display a custom Admin message within the dashboard with a link to the phase out post. A sticky forum post to go with the blog post would have been a nice touch. You wouldn’t be able to make everyone happy once the switch occurred but all of the information before hand would have softened the blow.

That’s the way I would have done it, certainly not the way it was done. The one pattern I’m beginning to take note of is the one in which drastic changes or decisions are made with little to no warning. There is always an uproar from those affected or upset by the change and after a period of time, life moves on without anything being done about the original decision. Happened with the removal of themes from the repository, the Capital P filter and now the removal of Cutline on I suppose we can now expect the unexpected.


13 responses to “Cutline Dropped On In Favor Of Coraline”

  1. Hey Jeffro – The recent actions and comments made by Matt and others associated with WordPress and Automattic should make everyone sit up and notice. And even more, it should cause the Community to wonder what the hell is going on.

    In my own humble opinion, I question whether the best interest of the community is even coming into any decisions or discussions taking place right now by WordPress.

    I also hope the writing is not on the wall when it comes to perhaps the “chosen one” theme or framework. Is WordPress and another company attempting to take the position that there is only one theme or framework out there for WordPress. Surely, the utopia which is being strived for is not one where competition and innovation is squashed in favor of “the one chosen” theme or framework.

    It is my hope and the hope of others this does not happen. The WordPress community will not be served by WordPress having a “one chosen” theme or framework. Competition by its very nature breeds innovation. It is competition that causes Headway, Thesis, iThemes and Press75 to continue to build and innovate. And this is what benefits the community.

    As Seth Godin stated recently,

    ” Competition validates you. It creates a category. It permits the sale to be this or that, not yes or no. And this or that is a much easier sale to make. It also makes decisions about pricing easier, because you have someone to compare against and lean on.”

    The actions of WordPress and those in charge lately causes one to worry if the competitive market place will no longer be in existence at WordPress. It surely causes one to be concerned if the community as a whole will suffer because of it. I fear we may be seeing the idea of a utopia get in the way of the free market driven innovation that has benefited the WordPress community for so long.

    I hope I am wrong and that I eat these words.

  2. The problem I have is that I’d bet 99% of users had no idea who originally created Cutline and which company was currently its owner. They wanted a them that fit their needs. If Cutline met that need, who is it for WordPress to come in and tell them that they have to switch, and switch within 96 hours. I understand that can be run as the owners see fit and such an event is the risk you take joining that kind of service, but c’mon, talk about screwing your users. Hopefully they’ll learn from this and the PressRow transition will go more smoothly.

  3. There are a lot of old themes on that I’d like to see retired. But I can understand that Automattic is stuck in a tough position where every single theme in their collection is going to be used and loved by many members.

    One solution that I think would be a win-win would be if they retired some of these old themes, but grandfathered them in for anyone currently using them. So the old themes would lurk in the background being used on some sites, but no longer available as an option to anyone that wasn’t already using them.

    It’d be a bit of a headache to support those legacy themes, but at least that way no users would have any changes forced on them. And eventually they would switch on their own to the new fancy themes that Ian and the rest of the theme team are creating and those themes can just fade away quietly.

    Who knows, the last few users of Banana Smoothie might really value their rare theme like an out of print Magic card :)

    At the very least, it would be nice if they could bury some of these old themes in an archive so that they didn’t show up as options unless you went looking for them. This is also how I’d like the plugin and theme directories to work, if the code hasn’t been updated since 2008 I’m not going to trust it on any of my sites.

  4. At the very least, it all looks a little childish. “We don’t want to support” X is just corporate-speak for “we don’t like you anymore and we think you smell funny.”

    I’m with Grant in that I do not get the sense that the best interests of WordPress users are being served here.

    If wants to get rid of old themes, they should get rid of the one I made called Sapphire. When I’m not getting emails about supporting it (I don’t), I’m getting emails from people who don’t understand the difference between a theme designer and a site owner asking me to remove content.

  5. Or how about killing some of the old themes I had a hand in helping create:
    – Flower Power
    – Sweet Blossoms

    They are both brutal, inflexible, and garish. I’d sacrifice them to make room for some new/better themes. Heck, I’d see both of them sacrificed over Cutline.

  6. But don’t click on the link to my blog, because it looks terrible right now. I am just a user. I don’t care about the inside baseball stuff. The lack of notice except on the wordpress blog shows that WP doesn’t understand/care about their market, the majority of whom, like me, probably never even know there was a wordpress blog. It is not a pleasant experience to open your blog and have it looked like it was hacked. I still can’t find much of what was there originally, but a WordPress volunteer is trying to help with that.

    What really irritates me is just not telling the truth. I’d rather have them say that due to a licensing disagreement (or even that we just don’t like Chris anymore) we are getting rid of Cutline, you have a week to figure it out. The disingenous dissembling that Cutline is dated and needed to be replaced is just insulting. If they could replace the theme, they certainly could have figured out who uses it and give them notice.

  7. I really wish you’d make a note in the post that the theme never had a more strict license. It was always Creative Commons.

  8. AFAIK Chris Pearson designed & released Cutline under the GPL for Tubetorial, which was then bought by SplashPress Media. SplashPress then decided to release Cutline under a non-GPL compliant license (Attribution-ShareAlike 2.5).

    I asked Matt about this on the Syn-thesis thread. His reply was:

    It used to be GPL, they changed the license — regardless we’ve always had attribution on it. We’re replacing it anyway, don’t want any of his junk touching our sites.

    It wouldn’t make sense to have a non-GPL theme available on, given all that’s happened..

  9. @Gaz

    It wouldn’t make sense to have a non-GPL theme available on, given all that’s happened..

    When would it ever have made sense?


    David’s point is that Cutline was never more- or less-restrictive than it is currently, licensed under Creative Commons, since it has always been licensed under Creative Commons. Thus, it is a falsehood to claim that Cutline is now under a “more restrictive” license than it was when it was distributed to

    The only mention that Cutline was ever licensed under GPL comes from Matt himself. I’ve seen no corroboration of that claim. (Perhaps someone has a copy of the allegedly GPL-licensed version of Cutline? That would settle the matter, for sure.)

    Further, if the version of Cutline hosted on was licensed under GPL when it was distributed to, then it remains GPL – regardless of the license of any subsequent version(s) of Cutline. So the claim that it is somehow “less free” than it was when it was first distributed to is just completely untrue.

  10. I think we can all agree that open source and gpl is very important. But I also think that premium themes or modifications should be also allowed. No one is forcing people to buy these things.

  11. @JLeuze

    One solution that I think would be a win-win would be if they retired some of these old themes, but grandfathered them in for anyone currently using them. So the old themes would lurk in the background being used on some sites, but no longer available as an option to anyone that wasn’t already using them.

    I have suggested this before but they aren’t interested. I have absolutely no idea why, it seems pretty commonsensical to me.

    any chance of provoking a flamewar with Matt so we can at least get rid of Sweet Blossoms? ;)

  12. tuning in on this quite late and all but mainly just wanted to say that this is quite a ‘wack move’ from the forces behind, towards both the users that were using the theme as well as the community contributing to wordpress as a whole.

    because the fact that is really bothering me is that ‘coraline’ (which has apparently been coded by the automattic folks themselves) is a straight rip-off of ‘cutline’, not giving any credit for the design or the initial concept of the ‘cutline’ theme at all.

    so basically, is this the way suggests people should deal with other people’s intellectual property? because that’s not very different from the main reason they brought up for the whole ‘thesis business’ being the devil.

    this seems completely ‘kindergarten’ as in immature to me and a great way to cause ‘FUD’ surrounding your very own product.


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