Woothemes announced today that it will significantly change the way it licenses and supports its products. Which is a good thing. Their original business model was unsustainable, as are all WordPress-based businesses with lifetime support and updates models. Formidable, I love you so, but for your own sake I hope you see the writing on the wall as well. (Edit: After I wrote this I checked Formidable's site and low and behold they switched to one year of support.)
As I read through the announcement I wondered how folks like me, existing license holders, would fit into the business model reboot. Then I spotted it:
What about my previous purchases?
Any purchase made before today will be grandfather-ed into the new system with access to support and updates for 2 years.
All theme purchases will also now have a license, which you’ll be able to use with the WooThemes Updater once all themes have been updated.
How WooThemes Got It Wrong
One could say that I'm instantly bitter that I will no longer get free things from Woo. I can see that argument. But that's not it.
You see, what WooThemes did is ignore the promises they made and forgot about all the folks who supported them along the way. Folks like me, folks like Chris Lema (who seems to be fine with it), and thousands of other folks from the WordPress community. Woo decided the old licensees are inconvenient to their bottom line and *poof!* change made, problem solved. Lifetime licenses are going the way of the dodo. The problem is, that's not what they sold me.
The Woo Rub
WooThemes sold me, and thousands of other people, lifetime licenses. While it was supposed to come with lifetime support, personally I could care less about that part. WooTheme's products are generally well coded and reliable. I reckon I only opened one support ticket in the [almost] four years since my first purchase. Hardly a drain on the system, right? But I paid for a lifetime license so I could receive lifetime updates. And that, for me, is the rub.
WooThemes isn't the first to migrate to annually renewed licenses; they certainly won't be the last. The WordPress community has witnessed transitions made by Gravity Forms, Headway, Toolset, Pagelines, Soliloquy, Foobox, and Formidable, to name a few. Frankly I'm waiting for Catalyst (now: Dynamik Website Builder for Genesis), Genesis, and a few others to follow suit. But I believe there is a right way to make the jump, and a less than ideal way.
What do the seven companies I just mentioned have in common? When they switched licensing, they honored the way their product was sold in the past. From Gravity Forms to Formidable, each recognized certain promises were made, it fueled their growth, and it would be unfair to punish their early adopters. The community standard, until now, has been to honor prior commitments. WooThemes, broke the community standard today.
A Modest Recommendation
On behalf of the WordPress community and the thousand upon thousands of folks who purchased lifetime licenses over the past five years, I ask WooThemes to please do the right thing and follow through with half your commitment. Please switch back to lifetime updates for existing lifetime license holders. As a business decision it makes sense: bandwidth is relatively inexpensive; it would cost pennies per download. On the flip side the true cost driver, support, could be contained by keeping the annually renewed model announced today.
Is this a win-win proposal? Not exactly. More like compromise-compromise. But it's far better than win-lose feeling WooTheme's existing lifetime licensees likely felt after today's one-sided concessions. So in the end, I hope WooThemes will seriously consider this proposal and consider the community standard.
I really, really enjoyed Tung Do's take on the WooThemes' announcement. I feel he captured the essence of my arguments, as well as captured the language of my thoughts three days later. Which is to say I am even more annoyed now than when I wrote this.
It would seem WooThemes has heard the community's outcry and responded. We might consider this matter closed were it not the third time they've behaved badly. Not sure what I mean? Please check out this link, the comments here, and all the comments here. This is a company, in my estimation, with little if no business ethics so starting today, I am done with them. Three strikes and you're out.