Expression Engine Should Be GNU (and Free?)

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This isn’t the typical argument that Expression Engine should be GNU and “free” because it is too expensive, rather my argument focuses on the fact that the EE pay wall slows its growth and inhibits innovation. As far as Content Management Systems go, Expression Engine is an efficient, functional solution for both developer and clients. But unfortunately, snappy functionality isn’t the only factor you need to consider when choosing a CMS. Compare EE with two of its “competitors”, WordPress and Drupal, and you’ll find that EE falls short on a number of other issues including: price, smaller community, less updates, and an unfortunate licensing situation. Price on its own shouldn’t be listed as an “inadequacy”. If the world’s greatest CMS charged a fee it would be well worth the extra money for the service. But there is a hidden cost to charging for a CMS. My argument is that many of EE’s inadequacies stem from its price wall. EE has a flawed business model which limits its growth and long-term sustainability. Therefore, Expression Engine should be free!

Issue #1: EE Has A Smaller Community

EE’s barrier for entry is high – a commercial license fee of $299 per install – leading most developers to seek alternative solutions. As a result the Expression Engine platform has a much slower growth rate and a smaller user base than its rivals. If there are less people using the software, then we can assume the following. EE has… *a smaller community of developers *a smaller amount of people offering support in their forums *a smaller amount of add-ons (i.e. extensions & modules) Despite anecdotal evidence that EE enthusiasts provide, “I think the support is fine”, and “There are plenty of modules”, the hard numbers prove that Expression Engine has a much smaller user base than Drupal and WordPress. It has less developers to share support question with, and less add-ons being developed.

Issue #2: Less Updates & Less Code Proofreading

Expression Engine has been slow to release new versions of its software. (See corresponding version release dates for: EE, WordPress, Drupal.) Why is this important? Technology changes everyday – it’s important to constantly evolve. Furthermore, in my experience it has been much easier to upgrade WordPress and Drupal installations to new versions than with Expression Engine. Even now as the latest EE version 2.0 has been released my admin panel is still only alerting me of version 1.6.9 – which must be downloaded and manually installed on the server. WordPress, on the otherhand, has automatic upgrades announced the day they are released. Historically a smaller user base tends to suggest that hackers are less interested in hacking the code, but in the case of software development it also means that there is less distributed proofreading of the code  – and therefore a smaller likelihood that vulnerabilities are going to be found. To put that another way, the larger the community, the more likelihood that someone will come across a security flaw, and that the bug will get patches more quickly. Lullabot blogger Nate Haug recently did a comparison on the level of security between EE and Drupal. His assessment begins,

You can see that ExpressionEngine has had only one security advisory over the course of 3 years. Over that same time period, Drupal has had over 80. It’s easy to draw the incorrect conclusion there that ExpressionEngine therefore is more secure.

But as Haug concludes, fewer reported vulnerabilities does not mean less vulnerabilities! It only means they haven’t been reported. Point in case Haug was able to find 3 security vulnerabilities in version 1.6.2 of Expression Engine. Secondly, Haug explains that EllisLabs quietly fixes security vulnerabilities, further leading their customers into a false sense of security.

Issue #3: Licensing & Ownership

Expression Engine is a proprietary product. And as is with all property, law determines that one particular person (in this case, EllisLab) has the authority to decide how the product will be used. Therefore, nothing stops EllisLabs from discontinuing EE development or refraining from issuing licenses in the future. This is in contrast to WordPress and Drupal which are “in the commons” (aka. in the public domain). No single person has exclusive control over the use and configuration of these CMSs. If the lead developers of an open-source project decide they no longer want to develop the product, the community goes on, and the product can be used freely by anyone; forever, without a license, and without having to report to a central authority.

A Better Business Model for Expression Engine…

Expression Engine would be a better CMS if there was a free version! Revenue Idea #1: Sell Support EllisLabs insists that the price is justified because they have “a team of committed developers and technical support specialist”. In my experience developing CMSs I don’t feel that the EE community has any better support than an open-source community. EllisLabs’ stance on this issue rubs up against a very old (and famous) argument addressed by the Richard Stallman’s 1985 GNU Manifesto,

If people would rather pay for a [software] service than get [software] free without service, a company to provide  service to people who have obtained [software] free ought to be profitable.

Stallman went on to found the free-software movement which was immensely influential in spurring software innovation (Linux, Unix, Wikipedia, WordPress, Drupal, etc), and subsequently, profitable organizations that were developed to support the free software (Red Hat, Crowd Favorite, Lullabot, etc). Revenue Model Idea #2: Sell A Fully Hosted Version EllisLabs could give away a basic version of EE for free, while selling a fully hosted version for non-developers. (Similar to the WordPress business model.) Revenue Model Idea #3: Sell An Enterprise Edition EllisLabs could give away a basic version of EE for free, while selling an enterprise version. (Similar to Movable Type’s business model.)

Final Thoughts

To recap, the Expression Engine pay wall inhibits the project. Looking forward, I don’t believe that Expression Engine can gain the same market share as WordPress or Drupal (at least not anytime soon -  Movable Type still hasn’t recovered from their pay wall). But, it will help develop a wider community. And it will make Expression Engine a better product. Capitalism breeds capitalism: whereas 99% of WordPress and Drupal plug-ins are free (giving back to the community!), in addition to the $299 Expression Engine start-up, EE users typically tack on another $350 for plug-ins (Wygwam $35, Matrix $35, Playa $75, BetaMeta $40, Structure $65, SolSpaceUser $100). Why have all of these separate niche communities developing proprietary code? Let’s reuse code! Let’s work together! — By the way, I’d really love to hear a counter argument in favor of the $299 licensing fee – do you believe the fee makes it more valuable than if it was open-source?

28 thoughts on “Expression Engine Should Be GNU (and Free?)

  1. Once add-ons are taken into account, ExpressionEngine is on average a $500 platform and there is a real need for a commercial CMS at this price point. If you need a free CMS there are plenty to choose from and some of the options are pretty good. Take that route if you need to.

    The EE business model is not flawed. On the contrary, it encourages high standards and strong developer commitment. Ellis Lab is no more likely to abandon ExpressionEngine than Drupal is to fall apart due to disagreements within it’s core developer community. In fact, destructive forking and project abandonment is not unknown in the FOSS world.

    Factors like market share and number of deployments are mostly irrelevant. All that matters is that your chosen platform delivers now and has a solid future, offers a wide choice of quality add-ons, is secure and regularly updated, has great support, a big pool of good developers to tap in to, and so on. My experience of ExpressionEngine is that it more than delivers on all counts.

    It’s a fair comment to say that platforms with a smaller user base will offer less choice with a smaller community, but EE is easily big enough not to suffer from this like niche players such as ModX, Silverstripe and many others which are championed by an enthusiastic minority.

    In terms of add-ons, the standard is pretty high for EE. I would much rather have a choice of 800 great quality add-ons rather than 8000 mostly questionable ones with patchy support and uncertain futures. Because the EE ecosystem is primarily a commercial one, third-party developers can justify spending time developing, supporting and documenting their add-ons, usually to a very high standard. With free add-ons, developers are often too busy with full time jobs and paid projects to fully commit, so what you get is patchy support, stalled development or even total abandonment. This creates a real problem which is much less prevalent with EE. There are plenty of good free add-ons for EE, but many developers are preferring to use commercial ones, out of choice.

    So is the EE support ‘covered by the license fee’ any better than free FOSS support? Usually, but not always. YMMV.

    Are EE add-ons better? In this case, maybe quality beats quantity.

    Any other advantages with EE? Apart from the long delay with EE2, it is a well managed system with a very solid community behind it and helping to evolve it. Also, being based on CodeIgniter (MVC pattern framework), EE becomes an excellent development platform where you can very easily blend as much or as little custom development as you need with your CMS.

    In terms of costing a project, most of my clients are paying for the end result and don’t really care how that result is reached (in terms of software licenses) so long as the result is great and the cost reasonable.

    For many commercial projects, EE is a relative bargain but if your project can’t stand $500 in software licences then you might need a re-think on how much you value your time and the work you produce with it. However, if you can deliver the same result in about the same time with Drupal, then go for it!

    So does EE win on any factor alone? Maybe not, but it is a very serious contender when you consider the wider picture. I’m a big fan of FOSS, but it’s not always the best choice.

  2. Lots of good ideas in your response….I’ll address two of your arguments…..

    #1 “Ellis Lab is no more likely to abandon ExpressionEngine than Drupal is to fall apart due to disagreements within it’s core developer community.”

    The issue isn’t that Ellis Labs is likely to abandon EE one day (I’m not trying to spread a rumor), but as the sole proprietor they are legally permitted to abandon the project, or change the TOS without having to consult the community. This is in contrast to Drupal (under GNU) and WordPress (under GPL) which are owned by the community – therefore allowing anyone to develop, copy and distribute the software now and forever. Even if the community abandons the CMS, with GPL I can continue to use the codebase without having to get a license or permission from a company like Ellis Labs.

    I searched and couldn’t find Rick Ellis speaking about the business/community divide. But I did find an interview with Automattic (the company behind WP) CEO Matt Mullenweg who recently said, “Anything I do on the business side needs to be compatible and in promotion of the .ORG (open source) side. The community is in charge of me.” (I’d love to hear Rick speaking on this if anyone can find something)

    And ultimately I’m arguing that money is a poor motivator for software development, innovation and the community. intrinsic motivation (working on a project because you believe it matters) is much more effective than extrinsic motivators (money). And that’s not a new: Scientists and economists who’ve been studying motivation have been arguing this for years (Dan Aierly, Dan Pink, Seth Godin, etc).

    #2 “The standard is pretty high for EE. I would much rather have a choice of 800 great quality add-ons rather than 8000 mostly questionable ones with patchy support and uncertain futures.”

    a) I agree with your sentiment, but (in my experience) I’m not totally convinced that the quality of the EE add-ons are much more superior to Drupal/WP. Here are a few screen shots of popular EE add-ons (from this week) that either aren’t up to date, and/or don’t guarantee support:
    http://www.ccastig.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/08/ee2.png
    http://www.ccastig.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/08/ee3.png

    b) The WordPress plugins are aggregated in a single location and have set standards for: popularity, quality, and version success.
    http://www.ccastig.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/08/wordpress-plugins.png
    http://www.ccastig.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/08/wordpress-plugins2.png

    d) Furthermore, WP plug-ins that become very popular are often funded, or adopted by Automattic. A few examples would be Askimet, and BuddyPress.

  3. #1 – I can’t disagree with your point on licensing, it’s technically correct. However, it is extremely unlikely that anything would go wrong on this front and in such an unlikely scenario, there is enough common sense involved to see that licensing and ownership issues would get resolved. There is just too much importance in and momentum behind the EE community, something which Rick Ellis and others at EL often acknowledge. In reality, these licensing concerns are a non-issue and if anyone is bothered enough about it, they have a choice.

    Great work comes out of both commercial and non-commercial ventures. It’s good to have a choice. Money may not be the best motivator, but how would there be any business in this world without it? As I said before, it does motivate people to give a level of commitment to something which they might not otherwise be willing or able to provide. Most of the developers giving their time away to open source projects will be limited on how much time they can give because they need to go off and do other things to earn *money*!

    #2 – To be honest, my first-hand experience of Drupal isn’t up to date enough to comment on the quality of add-ons right now, but the vibe online seem to be a bit mixed. For sure, the way WP handles plugins is excellent – easy to install and update, even for novice users. This is something which EE is behind on, partly due to the painfully long gestation period of EE2. Having said that, I’m quite happy with the EE add-on situation – it’s more of a developers platform anyway and anything better would be a bonus.

    a) The EE add-on examples you give are not full commercial add-ons, and yes there are too many cases like this. Mark Huot is not active on EE2 so those are no longer representative and I think LG still has a full-time job, but does offer email support for his paid add-ons, and forum support elsewhere. It kind of re-enforces both viewpoints: the benefits of a commercial ecosystem are highlighted, but on the other hand you could argue that if these guys were more committed in an open source arena, they might be doing a better job of improving and supporting their work.

    What Brandon Kelly did makes a lot of sense – he cut out the middle man (his employer) and now does a great job with a full-time commitment to his commercial EE add-ons which are saving developers a lot of time.

    It’s a point each for this one I think.

  4. Great work can (and does) come from the duality of a commercial/ non-commercial venture. But from which points of the product’s distribution cycle is the money being culled?

    Charging for entry to develop EE is like putting up a credit card verification on a social networking site – people who aren’t already EE developers and are just curious about it won’t bother (look at the Google stats above for some proof). Money is essential for Ellis Labs, I get that, but according to a few of the ideas I listed above there is probably a better way for them to make money without turning away new users. And allowing anyone to get started with EE for free (and pay for things later) could help the project as well as Ellis Lab’s bottom line.

  5. You can still try the full version of EE for 30 days at no cost – you just need to buy it then ask for a refund under the risk-free 30 day money back guarantee. If you’re going to use it for a live project, you’ll need a license anyway, if not, get your money back and go elsewhere. As we know, there are plenty of free alternatives.

    This is a trivial barrier for any half serious developer. Those who struggle with the concept of a commercial product or don’t like the pay/refund offer are probably more suited to FOSS anyway. You can get a pretty good idea of what EE can do by looking at the docs, browsing the support forums, asking pre-sales questions, etc.. no big deal.

  6. I don’t disagree with EE’s pricing model … if they can maintain a strong customer base with that model and keep people happy, then great. They have been a good proponent of open source via CodeIgniter, for instance. I like what EE can do and how it serves the needs of designers/developers, but I’ve never been thrilled about the way it works. There’s a methodology behind it that just has never made sense to me as a designer/developer.

    An alternative that does many of the same things is ProcessWire (http://processwire.com). It is a GNU licensed open source project. While not yet as mature in feature set as EE, it has a stronger API, a clearer methodology, and can be quicker to develop with. It is equally focused on the needs of designers/developers, but without the awkward blogging roots. I imagine it will appeal more to some and less to others, but it’s worth a look.

  7. It’s always interesting to me to see EE compared to Drupal and WordPress, but not to Plone. WordPress isn’t even a fully featured CMS like Drupal, and of course Plone is the most flexible CMS of the lot and isn’t even mentioned in these comparisons. Luckily, Plone is free, so I guess there’s no comparison there to be made.

  8. I think in part Chris, you’ve sort of missed the point of what Expression Engine brings to the table which no free CMS has in my opinion and that is the templating system. As a graphic designer who is self taught in standards web design, i’ve never approached any CMS with an aim of long term learning for the simple fact that i don’t want to neccessarily learn a coding language/don’t have time to understand the technicalities of a chosen language.

    EE gives you an incredibly logical and simple way to create templates and add functionality into them with relative ease. In the time it took me to work out how EE’s templating structure worked and actually build a dummy site myself without any documentation, i didn’t even entirely manage to grasp the concept the concept of how the same thing works in drupal. I was trying to modify an existing skin, but then creating one from scratch seemed equally problematique, and required, it seemed, a least an intermediate concept of said code. A similar thing can be said for wordpress (which i’ve been informed has to be code hacked if you want to start making anything more than a blog). Expression Engine encourages you to learn it, where as i feel the others put you off. It uses simple commands for practically anything, and its when you start trying them out in combination that you discover its power, whilst still being kept simple

    To me Expression Engine’s value comes in the fact that it is pretty easy to set up and get going. You can have it installed and ready to go in <30 minutes on server. After those 30 minutes you have quite a lot of power at your fingertips and after building a few sites can have it doing some great things very quickly.

    To date i've bought few third party plugins as i havent needed them, meaning client's sites have either cost $99, $149, or $299 for the license, not $500, and because of the excellent way the templating system works on a few occassions i've really not felt the need to charge a significant amount more for them to be able to update the site themselves – why? Because like i said, once installed with templates in place you can add this functionality in <1hr if your know your way around it. I tell clients they are buying a license at X, some have even said why not use drupal and i've given the reasons (probably the main being "It does cost true, but i saves development time so easily evens out") and then they know the rest is my time on top. Its worked well numerous times now.

    Time is money, and to me i would have wasted so much more time understanding drupal and playing with its strange templating system on each project than i would financially by getting EE licenses. I personally think thats where EE has the edge, and i think their support is pretty excellent, from what i've gathered they have a large and focused community which leads to as G24 said, quality over quantity.

    "Even now as the latest EE version 2.0 has been released my admin panel is still only alerting me of version 1.6.9 – which must be downloaded and manually installed on the server."

    This is because you have EE1, that and EE2 are separate products. I can see arguments for and against telling you to buy EE2 but fundamentally that's all it would be in EE1, an advert. EE1 is still supported, hence the 1.7 update

    Its not perfect yet and does need a few bugs ironing out and a few things adding, but it absolutely has a market place and i have no qualms about the license. You get what you pay for and any CMS that works logically to the extent that someone can work out its templating without documentation is worth it's salt in my eyes :)

  9. What I like about EE’s price as a barrier to entry is that it keeps the riff-raff out. No one but serious developers with serious projects are going to pony up for that license fee. I feel like the signal-to-noise ratio is very low in the WP/Drupal communities, where you have to wade through script kiddies to get to the real pros.

  10. My only criticism of the business model is that E used to have a Core version which one could use for non-profit organizations. With the EE 2 versions we have lost that licensing model. I would like to continue to develop EE sites for Non-profi organizations and I think it’s a shame that we cant’t get a $100.00 or even a $150.00 version of the software.

  11. Charging for entry to develop EE is like putting up a credit card verification on a social networking site – people who aren’t already EE developers and are just curious about it won’t bother (look at the Google stats above for some proof).

    Chris you’re making assumptions about both EllisLab’s goals for their project and also the number of people using it. I’ve read this year from EL that 2010 exceeded their growth expectations and that they’re very optimistic about the coming year so they seem to be quite happy with the way things are going.

    @Morry, EE still has a $150 non-commercial version of the software.

  12. There’s plenty of discussion outthere comparing EE to other “free” CMSs, WP and drupalk being the primary examples… http://thinkvitamin.com/code/why-you-need-to-embrace-expressionengine/ being avery good one.

    To put it shortly however (as I don’t have the time to get into this all over!), I disagree with pretty much every argument you make here Chris.
    As g24 pointed out, the open source / propriatory argument is technically true, but not likely to mean much – that’s the only point I’d conceed you got clkose to being correct.

    James has pretty much covered every point I’d make on this one… the only one I’d like to add is the community size.

    I’ve been a part of several online communities that are centered around paid an dnon-paid products and time and time again, I notice that there’s a point where the commuity becomes so big that it becomes irrelevant to compare sizes, and to be honest pointless to try and contribute.

    It’s been the communities that are big enough to have a significant momentum and follower base that people feel a prt of something bigger than themselves, they feel supported and active, they feel that they can say something and be heard, but not so big that they’re overwhelmed by gargantuan forums with 250k+ active users.

    When it gets too big, your voice is lost. You post something on a forum and in 5 minutes its buried in hundreds of other completely unrelated comments. The community ends up dominated by a few very vocal people who spend their entire lives on there and are constantly arguing over stuff and/or having completely irelevant / innane conversations about their favourite subway sandwich.

    The same applies to more open communities like Twitter – the EE community on Twitter is awesome, no doubt about it. They are friendly, helpful, knowledgable… something I’m sure could be said for other bigger CMS communities but my point is that, it’s big enough to be effective, but small enough to be personal.

    When they get too big, people lose their voice, they feel they have to shout to be heard, and they tend to lose their temper / manners due to frustration and the sense of anonimity in the swirl of faces.

    I like that I know the people who regularly contribute the EE, that the developers that I paid $35 for an addon that saved me more than an hour of my time are also available on twitter / skype / email and they want their addons to succeed as it’s their career on the line. They give excellent customer service cause they’re being paid for it.

  13. The irony is that I would loose business if EE were to go free. I have found that as I moved into larger clients and not just mom and pop small businesses, they want to know that the product they are going to use is commercial, has support and training, and regular updates. I have worked with organizations that have been sold $50+k cms setups that were way over complicated to use, develop in, and maintain for their IT infrastructure and therefore $500-$1000 for a CMS that they love out of the box is a no brainer. I have often been told, “It doesn’t cost enough. How can it be any good?”

  14. It’s odd – people complain about a several hundred dollars worth of licenses for a project that is worth several thousand dollars.
    When you consider that the majority of addons DO work very well, and teh ones that dont tend to be free / discontinued addons, the time spent using a commercial addon is normally insigniifcant.
    Take User as a giood eg of a module – most sites don’t need it that much flexibnility so having it out of teh box would be overkill.
    But, for teh site that do need it, the flexibilty and power it offers just cant be beaten.
    Then consider how many hours you’d spend trying to make something like that yourself in a custom made CMS or another commercially availbale / open source CMS, x your hourly rate of say £50 give or take $20 depending on location and experience and its worth what – 2 hours of your time?
    Cart Throb would be another brilliant example of a $100 module that is worth 10x that in actual client / project value.

    Seeing a $500 expense for the entire site infrastructure of a project worth $5-10000, as far as i’m concerned, is insignificant.
    A short sighted view see that as 5-10% of your profit, I see it as something that allows me to make a profit in the first place.

  15. @ignite. Thank-you for pointing that out! I didn’t realize that was a price option. No IDea how i had overlooked that…

    And the news comes just in time as we have just such a need coming up.

    Pretty well leaves me 100% satisfied with EE V.2

    cheers

    PS on the question of Plug-ins, EE has it all over WP on this score. I have only ever had the need to use a couple of the plug-ins, but for us they all were worth it and were all well supported.

    PPS I get to download my developer version of EE 2 this afternoon. Looking forward to kicking the new tires.

  16. Thanks for all the feedback everyone. I wrote something like this because I’m curious to hear the other side of the argument. So of course I read them all.

    It’s easy for us to get caught up in anecdotal stories about specific features such as “It worked well for me”. I really tried to avoid this in my initial post. So many of the comments (about how easy it is to setup, and ROI from the initial cost being reasonable) are nice opinions, which I may or may not agree with, but that’s not really the point I was trying to make.

    I raised “3 issues” which stem from 3 facts about EE. My argument is that these facts “slows its growth and inhibits innovation.”

    Regarding issue #1, I think the link Andy posted, as well the point he makes about community size is valid and weakens my argument for #1. There is something to be said about having a smaller-more-dedicated community, than a larger-more-idle community (not that this is my opinion of the Drupal/WP community necessarily- but Andy’s point is true. It’s an apples vs. orange debate).

    Can anyone argue against issue #2, my point on security? I’d be curious to hear it.

    And issue #3 on licensing isn’t about my personal problem paying for the license (which would be anecdotal), my argument is that proprietary licensing by Ellis Labs is less innovative than open-source because a for-profit hierarchy (Ellis) steers the project. At the end of the day, they have to do what is best for the company, not necessarily the community. (it’s an old open-source argument applied to EE).

    I then offered my ideas for improving the business model:
    To summarize: Offer a free basic version of EE, and charge for support.
    Therefore: James and Jim get great support for their clients, while Morry can have a free basic version for non-profit sites. All the while, broadening the community (and ultimately innovation) by relaxing the barrier to access.

  17. “Ok… I’m not really wanting to “argue against” any points – like you said, it is a large case of apples and oranges… I’ve seen enough similar discussions to know that it really does come down to a lot of personal taste and takes into account a lot of factors, more than you’ve had the space to cover.

    For me, for eg, EE is the best CMS because I don’t need to learn PHP, MySQL, Ruby, asp etc.
    I can make very complicated, feature rich websites with no programming knowledge whatsoever.
    For someone who’s predominantly a front end web designer, that is amazing and something I couldn’t get from any other CMS.
    But I digress…!

    Responding to point 2, I would say this comes down 2 points, and is covered in some part in my argument (for want of a better word!) about community size.

    EE doesn’t have the community size of WP, drupal etc, but it does have a community, and a very active and passionate one, not to mention a very intelligent and experienced one.

    I would also say that it has a big enough community that it can meet the needs of proofreading / bug testing etc that Ellis lab need it to. Ellis lab have a ticketing system to collect, prioriitse and respond to bugs as they occur.

    Where I would say EE can not only match the “free” CMSs in this area but actually beat it is *because* it’s a paid product.
    From firstly the 3rd party develop / community point of view, these are people that are being paid to manage their addons. This is the day job, and their pay cheque. I would therefore argue that EE will have better support for it’s addons that WP etc. Also the fact that people are making a living off making addons for EE, means that it will also attract other professionally minded and competent developers that want to make quality, commercial standard addons.

    Secondly, from Ellis’ lab point of view, they also are being paid to maintain this. They will be far more able to give bugs the appropriate time and attention to solve them properly than if they were squeezing into their spare time.
    Whilst you may see the price point as a barrier to entry and therefore growth, I’d see it as a raising of the bar of the expected quality of 3rd party addons too.

    I’m no Apple fan by any stretch of the imagination, but even I can’t argue that their iOS setup of providing a more expensive, far more closed / propitiatory product that has had a lot more development time and money sunk into it means that they attract a very high quality of 3rd party app devs.
    That 3rd party app developers are also able to make money from their apps means they can spend the time polishing their iPhone apps to be exceptional quality in both design and functionality.
    I love my Android phone, but it’s easy to see that the more “free” mentality of the Android market means the general app quality tends to be lower, at least in terms of the free amateur apps.
    Of course the big ones – facebook, dropbox, angry birds, tweetdeck etc are all fine, and there are plenty of smaller apps that are excellent, eg Vignette (which interestingly is a paid app), but there is a lot of badly made apps that have no thought put into their UI, no quality control, no expectation of quality.

    Making EE free, in my mind at least, would lower the level of quality of both it’s core files as well as it’s 3rd party addons, something I would not want to see happen.

    Regarding update frequency, I can see that WP’s update system of auto updates is a nice feature, but I would personally be very worried that they would update my WP site and potentially break it cause something clashes with one of teh 3rd party addons. At least by giving us the option to upgrade, means us web designer folks can test it in a more secure environment before unleashing it on live sites.

    That said, EE do release regular updates. they notify you in the CP of major ones, and give good guidance on the updating procedure.
    What you’re seeing in your screenshot is an update within an EE1.x site to the latest EE1 version.
    If you were running an EE2.x site you’d see update notifications to the latest EE2 version (if you needed one of course)

    Touching more so on your 3rd point, I would refer back to comparisons with Apple that when a “for-profit hierarchy (Ellis) steers the project” they are able to make the decisions to make their product a successful commercial product. In doing so they have made an environment where the best of the 3rd party devs can roll up and make excellent, commercial addons.

    It’s all about a culture of quality.

    EE isn’t without its faults, no CMS is. EL have taken their time with EE2, but I think EE2 is absolutely brilliant and have no intention of switching to another CMS in the near future.

  18. While I preferred a free Core version for personal use and a free version or 99.00 basic license for non-profits, I have no problems in justifying the $149.95 for Non-Profits/Personal use.

    Because EE is so easy to use this cost can be easily justified. And if these folks get my time for free or at the very least almost free, then they should be able to spend 150.00.

    Or if they must have free they can go with another web developer or do their own in WP or whatever open source CMS they wish to use.

    EE’s model and licensing has a lot of features and vibrant community to recommend it, and to recommend it highly.

    But in the final analysis everyone chooses the tool that they know, can be efficient in, and can afford.

    The Choice is yours.

  19. Hi all,
    Congratulations for the constructive discussion you have here. For a long time I couldn’t see a valuable CMS dialogue on the net.
    As for more than a month already I am in deep search for the proper CMS to use for my idea, I’m glad to see that going into EE direction could be my solution.
    My opinion is that when you want to do something valuable in the web space, you should spend money for it. I do not follow to the very end so called “free solutions” because their most aggressive defenders are also building sites from which they want to benefit (with some minor exceptions).
    So I went deeply through cmswire and cmsmatrix and came to the conclusion that, according to my budget limit, I have to pay for what I want. Reasons? I don’t have the knowledge to do it by myself. I don’t want to spend countless sleepless nights trying to run something doubtful reliable. Sorry, this is my understanding how the things should go. I have no knowledge in PHP or .NET. But I have an idea and I want to realize it, consider it like investment goal.
    So, among thousands of CM platforms, I’m finally evaluating ezPublish, EE2 and sharetronix. And I’m lucky I’ve dropped here to read you guys. Because I’m looking for a long term potential solution and just because I don’t have financial power to buy Teligent, Alfresco, Pringo, Juve or Kentico, I don’t think I should give up.
    Keep on the good knowledge you share here… People like me really appreciate it.
    And to be somehow on the topic – I’ve started a website based on Joomla some months ago and it is a small company presentation site – no logins in the front end, no users’ interactions, except some feedback and request info custom forms. And I spent many, many days to find the right, stable and considered as secure add-ons.
    For my new idea, which is much more complex, it will be suicide if I go again for Joomla. Or WP. Or even Drupal…
    Good luck! :)

  20. Chris, this post of yours rings more and more true with every passing month.

    A fact I’ve encountered from my own world is that EE scales very poorly. It suffers from a real paucity of add-ons that allow it to run in high-traffic settings. For the large EE site I manage, we’ve had to write our own extensions to do things like implement whole page in-memory caching. Why didn’t an add-on for this already exist? Probably because it would not be particularly successful commercially (it has a limited audience.)

    Also, I’d like to clean it up for release in my spare time at home (I can’t release the version we use at work due to various customizations.) Sadly, I can’t just download EE 2.2 core and do that … it would cost me $99. There’s the developer pay-barrier in action.

    I think I’d rather write a WordPress plugin.

  21. I agree the pricing of EE not to mention the add ons can only result in EllisLabs losing money. I f i could get EE, matrix, structure and wygwam for $100 then I would probaby put $1500 into the Ellis Labs coffers every year. As it stands I cant ask small clients to fork out @ $500 on a product before labour costs. Anyway I have turned to Modx Revolution as my free CMS of choice. Yes I would use EE for major client projects where money isn’t an issue but I can’t help think how greedy and senseless the price is for them and us. I also agree that it prevents the community and product from developing and reaching it’s true potential. They really have fettered a truly outstanding CMS with the pricing strategy.When other developer ask my take on CMS’s I can’t recommend EE due to price so somebody please replace their financial strategist / sales manager.

  22. “so somebody please replace their financial strategist / sales manager”

    I don’t know how closely you follow news relating to EE or EllisLab but they’re repeatedly talking about how the business is growing, how they’re overreaching quarterly targets etc, so explain to me how you know so much about their business to be making statements like that?

  23. Howie, it’s not your responsibility to steer other developers away from EE for cost reasons – how do you know the detail of requirements and budget for other people’s projects?

    For me $500 pays for between 1 and 1.5 days of my time, so the time I save by using EE and a selection of appropriate add-ons is more than covered.

    What matters to clients is the bottom line final cost of a project. What proportion of that cost is a license fee should be irrelevant.

  24. Seems like the good folks at EE have finally taken your advice! Their new pricing model reflects many of your suggestions (i.e., a free personal version and paid service plans).

  25. Howdy just wanted to give you a quick heads up.
    The text in your article seem to be running off the screen in Chrome.
    I’m not sure if this is a format issue or something to do with browser compatibility but I figured I’d post to let you know.

    The design and style look great though! Hope you
    get the issue resolved soon. Many thanks

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