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Thread: Developing for Profit vs. Open Source

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    Default Developing for Profit vs. Open Source

    How does everyone feel about selling various Wordpress creations and products? Not about services per se, because those are very specific, I mean products more along the lines of various Themes and Plugins.

    I'm torn between the two. On the one hand, it's nice to earn income off our hard-work and it can give an idea as to how much some are willing to pay for it. And having very low income, it's seems like it could eventually be a nice form of living.

    On the other end however, making themes and plugins available through purchase goes against the open-source nature of WP. (After all, Wordpress itself is open source, and Matt and the others are allowing people to use it for free.) Plus if you specifically decide to "sell" the scripts, you won't get as much feedback on how well thought-out they are, turn people away who could use it, etc.

    I'm sure there are other reasons too, those just come immediately to mind for me. I recently decided to make my first plugin freely available, mostly because it's very simple and it's a good way to get feedback if something doesn't work right or if they have suggestions.

    However, I've been considering developing more complex plugins and advanced themes. They wouldn't meet the needs of one company's development issue specifically, I'd develop them based on what I think would be useful to people. And I haven't decided on whether I want to charge people for these themes and plugins I have in mind once I actually develop them.

    Thoughts?

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    Here's my input - not focussing on Wordpress because I don't know Wordpress, but looking at the whole open source concept. This can apply to many things beyond software.

    I think we have reached a point in human development that "trade secrets" are a thing of the past. Even Coca Cola's and KFC's "secret formulas" can easily be reverse-engineered and there are always many ways to achieve a certain objective.

    The problem with charging for everything one does, is this leaves the potantial customer with little knowledge of what you can do and whether the product you offer is any good. By making the product "open source" and giving it away, the potential customer becomes a potential client to hire your services.

    This has been going on for many years in services that require skill and talent. By being open and honest about how to do what you do, you effectively tell the client how to do it themselves. But most clients don't have the time or inclination to do it themselves, but now that they know how to do it, they have a better appreciation of what you do and are more inclined to hire you to do it for them.

    You know exactly what an accountant does, how he does it and you could learn how to do it free by reading books from your public library. But if yours is a vibrant, successful business, you are likely to hire an accountant instead. And the accountant that gives free lectures and brief seminars on specific subjects in your locality demonstrates his skill and expertise to potential clients that then hire his firm rather than the firm that hides behind a veil of professional secrecy.

    I wonder where Microsoft would be today if they didn't give their Internet Explorer away for the asking. Adobe gives their Adobe reader away to demonstrate how good it is so people who create the stuff the reader reads will buy the Adobe writer (or whatever its called!)

    One needs to know what part of one's services one can give away and what part they will sell. The big part of that decision is what will one's competitors give away? It will be difficult to sell what one's competitors are giving away free.

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    James selling themes and plugins doesn't go against the idea of open source software. The freedom in open source is free to take the code and modify it any way you see fit. It has nothing to do with the product not being allowed to charge money.

    WordPress has no problem with your charging money for a theme or plugin. The even list commercial themes at WordPress.org. They insist though that the theme or plugin come with a GPL license meaning anyone can modify your theme and plugin and otherwise do whatever they want with it. That does include redistributing your theme or plugin.

    That last part is why some will be hesitant to offer GPL licenses or why others will change the business model to sell services or make you join a membership site in order to gain access to themes and plugins.

    Don't confuse the freedom of open source for meaning that you can't charge for open source products. The freedom is about what those who use your software can do with the software.
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    Personally as one who purchases themes and an occasional plug in. I don't mind paying for something that does what I need it to do. Sometimes I am actually happy that what I need exists and I can buy it, rather than having rig and hack someting together.

    I'm actually amazed that as many things as there are, are free.

    But I have had some bad experiences with purchasing plug ins and then receiving no support, like now...I am awaiting a refund (via 2CO and Pay Pal) for a plug in that I purchased last week...the company is apparently in the wind. IT sucks because I didn't want my money back, I wanted it to work.

    I don't mind paying for plug ins, but I do expect them to work flawlessly right out of the box or expect support quickly if it doesn't.
    It also has to be something that is not available elsewhere.

    But the reality is that there are more struggling webmasters than anything and they are a cheap, resource draining, "want everything for free or on warez networks" bunch.
    They would rather steal your plug in than pay for it, so you will not make any money form them.
    You have to target pros and service providers.
    Last edited by Harold Mansfield; 04-09-2010 at 09:08 PM.

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    The problem with charging for everything one does, is this leaves the potantial customer with little knowledge of what you can do and whether the product you offer is any good.
    I'm thinking customer feedback is probably my most important concern at this stage in my business, since it's still relatively small and new.

    I figure if going the free route, my business expands faster and the products become easier to market (since resources are easier and quicker to obtain for people, and more people can use them and give the potential feedback I'll need to grow).

    There's people on both sides, plenty develop themes for free, plenty more sell premium themes, and even more provide custom theme development.

    One of the reasons I decided to start my business is because I know that there are many people out there hate trying to read and understand code, and I still know that there's a market for it (via all the freelance projects and people asking for help that I see). And when I complete the products I intend to freely release or sell, I will do my best to make sure the stuff I develop is as unique and useful as it can be.

    I wonder where Microsoft would be today if they didn't give their Internet Explorer away for the asking.
    I don't know about Microsoft, but I know the web development community would be much better off .

    Don't confuse the freedom of open source for meaning that you can't charge for open source products.
    OK, let me clear up my main distinguishment. I was referring to Open Source as in both instances of freedom, as it doesn't cost anything, and people can modify the source code. I know it can mean "free" as in "anyone can edit" as well as "it doesn't cost anything".

    Basically my conundrum in this instance is "Developing and selling for profit" vs. "Developing and releasing the products for everyone to use". And that many people in the WP community are already part of the Open Source camp. Sorry if I didn't make it clearer.

    BTW, Happy Birthday Steve!

    I don't mind paying for plug ins, but I do expect them to work flawlessly right out of the box or expect support quickly if it doesn't.
    That was another concern of mine too (thanks for pointing it out). Since I don't have as much experience working directly with PHP, I'd probably consider releasing beta versions, just to iron out any potential major bugs across different versions of WP. And of course there would always be support for the projects on my forums, if anyone ever encountered a problem.

    The amount of free stuff out there amazes me too. So many people put in countless hours of work and just give it away, not that I'm complaining . I suppose the market for freely available software is really that powerful.


    Although right now, I feel at the moment that I'm leaning towards choosing to sell the products for profit, mostly for the immediate benefits I could really use (and due to the lack of finding employment that was discussed in the job thread).

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    Microsoft didn't give Internet Explorer away to build their reputation or gain customer loyalty. Internet Explorer sucks and is at the bottom of available free browsers in my opinion.
    Website developers hate Internet Explorer. The average Joe doesn't know the difference because it came with their computer.

    IE is not some "extra" benefit from Microsoft. Just like we were talking about on another thread, IE is an advertising medium. MS goal was to lock up as many users as possible on the free browser and email so that they could charge top dollar for advertising on them.
    There was a methodology in place and it wasn't philanthropy.

    If I had an advertising platform that was beneficial to people and they wanted to install in on their computers, I'd give it away too. The browser isn't the goal, selling ads are.

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    I have never seen an advertisement on MSIE - where are they? Contrary to your first sentence - "Microsoft didn't give Internet Explorer away to build their reputation or gain customer loyalty" - I think that is exactly why Microsoft gave IE away. They wanted people to use a Microsoft product, become familair with Microsoft, and become loyal Microsoft fans. And they succeeded mightily. Microsoft made their money with subsequent software offerings - in large part, Office and Office offshoots - and I suspect that would not have happened so successfully if they had not captured a large user-base with Internet Explorer.

    And that is the point of my post, regardless of how well some people think it works. It is a marvelous business lesson for anyone to learn. By developing a large user-base with a useful freebie, Microsoft cleaned up on larger, more valuable products.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Spider View Post
    I have never seen an advertisement on MSIE - where are they? Contrary to your first sentence - "Microsoft didn't give Internet Explorer away to build their reputation or gain customer loyalty" - I think that is exactly why Microsoft gave IE away. They wanted people to use a Microsoft product, become familair with Microsoft, and become loyal Microsoft fans. And they succeeded mightily. Microsoft made their money with subsequent software offerings - in large part, Office and Office offshoots - and I suspect that would not have happened so successfully if they had not captured a large user-base with Internet Explorer.

    And that is the point of my post, regardless of how well some people think it works. It is a marvelous business lesson for anyone to learn. By developing a large user-base with a useful freebie, Microsoft cleaned up on larger, more valuable products.
    MS didn't exactly give IE away, it was part of the package that goes along with Windows, which is the operating system that 90% of computers ship with. Windows is not free.

    IE is merely the browser, the Search Engine is loaded with sponsored listings and Hotmail is loaded with advertisements...just like all of them

    Of course you are going to give something way that gives you direct access to throw ads at people.
    I wouldn't be surprised if TV networks started giving away TV's one day that only picked up their networks.

    I have a lot of respect for MS, and have nothing against the company at all, but they didn't exactly capture the market, they stole it, but that subject has waayy too many twists and turns to get into.

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    Actually, MS did give IE away and it did not include any advertising. MSIE 1.0 was first released in 1995, (the year I first connected to the WWW) as a stand alone application available free to anyone who wanted to download it from the Microsoft website. Of course, it worked with Window's graphical operating system - introduced in the mid-80s, if I remember correctly. (I was still using MS-DOS and BASIC until well into the 90s.)

    When I bought my first internet-capable computer in 1995, the Netscape Navigator was the only browser commonly available. I downloaded MSIE 2.0, for free, some time early 1996, because I was disgruntled with how NN operated. MSIE 3.0 came out late '96, I believe.

    MSIE was subsequently bundled with the Windows operating system when MS introduced Windows 98, but later unbundled after some acrimonious law suits by Netscape and others. IE has always been available by free download from Microsoft's website even to this day. The Netscape Navigator had been introduced in 1994, was not free until made so due to loss of marketshare in 1998. Firebird is all that seems to be left of the original Mozilla project that first produced Netscape Navigator.

    Here endeth the history lesson!
    Last edited by Spider; 04-10-2010 at 12:57 PM. Reason: typo

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    I think free can lead to dollars down the road. I don't consider the time and effort and $$ I put into creating free products to be wasted. It's part of the marketing funnel...the effort to be known, liked and trusted that leads to sales.

    As for IE...it's not a matter of whether it's crappy or not...it was free...and it was available and it was an easy option. People like easy and aren't apt to change without a really compelling reason. It works well enough that the average person doesn't think to switch unless it causes problems...and for the average person it doesn't.

    I was one who paid for Navigator. That was the first time we got internet access in 1996. It was $30 IIRC and included a month of dial up service.

    We later switched to our local phone company...

    In any case...

    I really should get off the forums and back to work!

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