Matt Mullwenweg:

We had a many-thousand word announcement talking about how great React is and how we’re officially adopting it for WordPress, and encouraging plugins to do the same. I’ve been sitting on that post, hoping that the patent issue would be resolved in a way we were comfortable passing down to our users.

That post won’t be published, and instead I’m here to say that the Gutenberg team is going to take a step back and rewrite Gutenberg using a different library. It will likely delay Gutenberg at least a few weeks, and may push the release into next year.

This is an interesting state of affairs, especially coming from the guy who spent $100,000 on a domain that arguably infringed on someone else’s trademark. Matt takes this stuff very seriously. It’ll be interesting to see if the company ends up going with Mithril or Angular 2 or Vue or something else.

If you take this announcement at face value, the Gutenberg team isn’t leaving React because it actually thinks React’s license would be harmful, but because the company is worried that the vast ecocystem of users would incorrectly think that it is harmful. If that were all there was to it though, it seems like it wouldn’t take that much energy to allay such fears. Certainly less energy than it’d take to rewrite the whole project in a different framework. To quote Automattic’s Paul Sieminski from a linked GitHub issue in Matt’s post:

FB’s intentions in including this additional license are admirable.

React’s license was built to help people, not hurt them. This part from Paul was revealing though:

The termination risk is probably of greatest concern to companies that have large patent portfolios, and engage in offensive patent litigation (esp against FB). Automattic isn’t in that boat, and has no plans to be, so we’re comfortable using React under its current license.

Automattic isn’t in that boat? Would Chris Pearson agree to that assertion? With the history of Automattic’s litigation, it’s hard to take Matt’s very diplomatic post at face value here that “Automattic still has no issue with the patents clause.” Instead, I sense an undercurrent of “don’t tread on me” here. Purchasing a $100,000 domain out of pure spite and rewriting an entire project in a new framework because of a technicality that few would quibble over do not seem to be the sort of decisions that are becoming of the leader of Automattic. I’m probably not seeing the full picture but with the data I’ve got to go off, it’s hard to not make up my mind on this one.