A Sound Business Decision

It’s pretty simple, really: the Six Apart folks made a business decision. It’s the same business decision that Noah Grey has said that he wishes he’d made: charging a licensing fee for Greymatter back when he was actively involved with it.

Is making money a wrong thing? I don’t think so. We’ve seen countless “free” things offered on the Internet, only to have them pulled eventually. The model’s pretty clear: you offer it for free, build a userbase, then work to monetize the userbase. Some companies work to have a partially free structure and hope that added value will get you to pay them money–see Yahoo!, ESPN.com, and countless, countless other companies. In fact, I myself offer a free hosting service, RMFO-Blogs, to the people in the community which I vehemently support. Do I have a paid level to RMFO-Blogs? Yes, I do. Does that mean that I intend for everyone to end up having to pay me? No. That is a business decision that I have made–I’ve chosen not to do business so much as I have to enable people.

Let’s also be clear: TypePad was never going to pay all the bills. The hosting fees there are pretty reasonable and pretty close to the market level, and they’re adding value to the hosting by providing software that your average hosting provider won’t [and actually cannot, under MT’s previous licensing]. 6A likes to eat.

Let’s also be clear about another thing: in the software world of today, if there is a non-free/FREE package out there that has any kind of marketshare, there will be a free/FREE analog. Hobbyists live for these kinds of things. Of all the logware out there, the one with the largest market share that is GPL’d is WordPress, which you should know by now that I use and support. Being popular doesn’t always mean best/most featureful, but it does often mean that It Just Works.

If you’re looking for software to power your *log, you’ve got plenty of options out there. 6A now has one that you pay for in MT. There is a free analog in WP. There are many, many other options out there if you’ll take the time to look. Make a sound business decision of your own and find the logware that fits your needs.


  1. So, I’m curious, Geof. In overt substance, at least, this post and your last one on this topic are in agreement. However, there seems to be some difference in the opinion/emotion behind the two…meaning that you seem to be feeling more supportive of Six Apart’s decision in this post than you were before. I’m just curious what swayed you.

    As for the issue itself, I don’t think that there’s anything wrong with what they did. I’ve never used MT, but if it’s quality software that’s well-supported, then it should be worth paying for. I think what they’re running into is that there’s always going to be some resentment when something that used to be free is made free no longer. It’s their right to do so, but there’s no way around the fact that it was going to make some people really mad. That’s not necessarily a sign that they’ve done anything wrong, but it sure does give them a bit of a black eye.

    I do find one thing telling. I read the posts about the new licensing scheme, and something I kept running into was this survey that they conducted. (Basically) they said that out of 2500 people surveyed, 85% of them fell into the category

  2. Jeff: I think your comment got cut off somehow. 🙁

    I think the previous post that you linked to was more of a Viva WP! post than anything else, albeit in a far-too-snarky matter. Call it having the weekend to consider things further.

  3. (continued from last comment, which was accidentally posted early)

    …85% of them fell into the licensing scheme now covered by their Personal Edition license. However, that’s still not free. I have to wonder how many of that 85% land outside the requirements for the free version (1 author, 1 weblog). At first glance, it looks like they’re saying that only 15% of users will be affected at all, but what they’re really saying is that 15% would have to pay even more than the base Personal Edition price.

    *shrug* This isn’t necessarily a surprise. As I said, I’ve never used MT, but I remember hearing from people who avoided using it (among other reasons) because it placed restrcitions on its users that other CMSs didn’t. I think it was always clear that the creators wanted to maintain solid license control over the software. The Free Software zealots are probably positively gloating over this: “That’s what you get for using non-Free software”.

    *shrug* As Geof says, vote with your dollars (and your web log). If you don’t like it (or can’t afford it), use something else. If you DO like it, then it’s probably worth supporting. In the end, the new licensing will either work (Six Apart will make money), or it won’t. It will be interesting to see how that plays out.

  4. Yeah, I’m curious to see if you can make money selling logware. If you can, you will see competitors—I’m thinking of the pMachine people here, although pMachine and their follow-on products really aren’t classic logware—do many of the same things. [Yes, I know that pMachine has a non-free/FREE license as well.] There probably is money to be made in this space, and where there is money, there will be features. As John Gruber notes, people will pay for features.

    As a user of free/FREE software, I have to think that the non-free/FREE marketplace is still good for me as a user, for people who use the non-free/FREE tools will get used to the functionality that they provide and demand it of the free/FREE folks. I’m one of those annoying people who thinks that competition is a Good Thing™.

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