WordPress, O'Reilly and Monetizing Software
This post will probably not be very appreciated in some quarters, but bear with me. Currently there's a tiff going on at the WordPress forums in response to a Larry Ayers who says he has been using the software (provided for free) for three weeks, wants to write a WordPress how-to book and has approached O'Reilly on the matter. I won't link to Larry Ayers' site here, but suffice it to say that he's stated on his own blog that he's visited many of the WP tutorials sites, that he knows that he can use WGet to download whole sites of tutorials and has "thought about it".
Thing is, there are a handful of WP developers, some of whom have played a huge part in supporting WordPress in the WordPress forums and in posting tutorials on their sites and in the WordPress codex, Wiki, etc. They've made a piece of software that is immensely popular and has enabled many people to have a voice on the Web.
What do they get out of all this development and support? I wouldn't know. But even though there is a big "DONATE" button in WordPress' main menu, I've read more than one forum poster state that it's too bad that WP doesn't charge. So we have software that zillions of people are using, though I have no idea how many of these users have actually donated for anything — the software, the support, the anything. I'm one of those people who continues to donate for each install of WP regardless of the fact that the version I'm using has been sitting on my hard drive for months, but I have no idea how common that is.
… which reminds me of Netscape. When I got on the 'Net in 1996, I found the Netscape Communicator suite (browser, email, composer, etc.) in my local computer superstore priced at $129. For personal use, it was a free download. In its heyday, Netscape users comprised something like 80% of the market, then Microsoft started giving away Internet Explorer (which was included on new computer desktops) — and Netscape, in order to "compete", did the same. This was cheered as a terrific rebuttal to MS by the Web community. Well, I may not know the whole story, but it appears that without a product to sell, Netscape eventually put itself in a position to be purchased by AOL.
I'm not sure that $129 versus zero dollars was the best choice — literally all or nothing. In those days, I toyed several times with the idea of writing to Netscape to suggest that they charge $10 for the personal version.
Think about it: 10,000,000 users x $10 = enough to stay afloat, especially in an extremely pro-Netscape market, that's for sure. I didn't write to them because this was a big Web company and I was a new-to-the-'Net marketer/designer in Los Angeles. Little did I know that dot-coms were lost in their "New Economy" thing and not known for their economic or marketing finesse. Sure, I don't know if they would have listened, but I know for sure that they couldn't have listened to what I did not say.
It's the same here with WordPress. This time I will not say nothing.
Guys, it's fine to have a vision of empowering voices on the Net. You've done that, and continue to do that. That does not mean that it has to be free with only the occasional donation from a well-meaning soul.
Look what it takes to build and support software like WordPress: vision, passion, effort, talent, knowledge, server bills; I'm sure you know this better than I do. But it takes something else, as well … time. Time that could be invested elsewhere doing something that gets you ahead. Gets you somewhere more than being "one of the developers of an extremely popular free software that gave a voice to zillions of grateful bloggers" …
Maybe this is against your creed, or maybe it's not exciting now. For all I know, you'll be happy getting whatever you get from working on this project for five years, ten years. Maybe free with the occasional donation is all you're after. Or … maybe if you do something about it, you won't have to care about some new guy making a profit from your hard work because you'll already have taken care of yourselves.
I'm of the belief that one should get something for what one gives. Value for value. And really, even though where I came from, making money in some industries was called a "sellout" (yeah, we learned better, but that was later), there is nothing wrong with getting something in return for what you do. Good deeds are good deeds; they don't require that you don't also benefit.
Think about it: last I read, WP is used by some 165,000 people. Come on. All of these people are not broke, and all have to host it somewhere and surely are not paying nothing for that. Even at a low-end host, it's $70+ a year … which is precisely what MoveableType is charging for its Personal Edition; hosting not included.
One more thing. Okay, enough said.
8 Comments to "WordPress, O'Reilly and Monetizing Software"
Have your say ...
First-time comments will be held for moderation (but comments are appreciated). Otherwise, just be courteous. If your name is a bunch of keywords, your comment will be deleted. Don't post links unless highly pertinent. Posters must be 16 or older.