Should WordPress.org Host Premium Subscription-Based Plugins?

Should WordPress.org Host Premium Subscription-Based Plugins?You may have spotted my little rant the other day regarding the apparent proliferation of subversive plugins on WordPress.org. The straw that broke the camel’s back was the 6Scan Backup plugin, which is essentially an advertisement for the same company’s premium security product.

What came as a surprise was the comment from a representative of 6Scan on that very post, in which he admitted “messaging issues”, and claimed that the plugin was a “work in progress”. Fair play to the chap for making himself known, but I’m not convinced.

Perhaps I’m getting cynical in my old age (I’m nearly 27 now folks), but I’ll stick with my opinion that 6Scan Backup is a very deliberate attempt at free advertising for a paid service.

And just when I thought we were scraping the bottom of the barrel with 6Scan Backup, something even worse comes along.

CodeGuard

Backing up your WordPress blog is one of those absolutely necessities that often gets neglected. CodeGuard is yet another utility that promises to make automated backups a simplicity.

And in fairness, it does seem like a good concept, as this flashy video portrays:

As I was reading through the blurb on this plugin’s WordPress.org page, I began to feel rather uneasy. A professionally-produced video, well written copy…something’s not right. I guessed that we were looking at another subversive advertisement, 6Scan style.

Well – I was wrong. It was even worse.

Once you have gone to the trouble of checking out the plugin, downloading and installing it, you will then be required to obtain an API key. And guess what – that’s where the mandatory paid plan options come in.

CodeGuard

You have two options if you want to actually use this “free” plugin:

  1. Pay money
  2. Pay more money

The Big Issue

You know what really bothers me about this? It looks like a good service, and it’s hardly expensive. $8 per month for unlimited automated backups? Sounds like a good deal – something that I would happily promote in glowing terms if the developers weren’t so dishonest about what they are doing.

It’s not difficult – even if you believe that WordPress.org should become a haven for premium subscription-based plugins (as CodeGuard is), all developers need to do is disclose the premium nature of their plugin front and center – rather than attempt to dupe people into downloading something under false pretenses.

I really don’t see the distinction here between a plugin that costs $47 up front, and this one, which costs $4/$8 per month. So why is it that membership plugins have free reign on WordPress.org, whilst one-off cost plugins are nowhere to be seen?

What are your thoughts on this topic – do you have an issue with plugins like CodeGuard being available on WordPress.org? If not, should they have clear disclaimers in place to avoid confusion? Or do you have an entirely different opinion? Let us know in the comments section!

Creative Commons image courtesy of arvindgrover

20 Responses

  • Happy to consider purchasing anything when all costs are identified up front and I can make a value choice – any hidden costs / subversive advertising and I’m out straight away.

    If you can’t trust someone to be up front – don’t expect a happy relationship.

  • I’m using Codeguard and i’m not paying anything o.o
    I got 2GB free backup, and if i want more, then i would need to pay… dunno if i entered in some kind of BETA, but when i registered (about two weeks ago), i got it for free.

    But i do agree with you. I would pay for good plugins (i pay in Code Canyon for exemple), but make it look like it’s free… and then being paid, is REALLY low. It makes me waste time and resources, not to mention those people who actualy paid for it instead of using a free service.

    Like Steve said up there, “If you can’t trust someone to be up front – don’t expect a happy relationship”.

    • Design Lord, Child of Thor

      Hi Julian,

      I got in touch with CodeGuard for their comments and they told me that they used to have a free plan, but have since discontinued it “in order to find the best fit for our pricing plans”.

      They also said, “The plugin and its full function is free. However, the plugin must be combined with one of our [paid] plans”. That doesn’t even make any sense. How can the plugin’s full functionality be free if you have to pay to use it?

      Cheers,

      Tom

  • Yeah, like the others I have no problems paying for a premium plugin, but as you have pointed out, the issue is deceit. There are many good plugins on the depository that are free and have a paid option, but those point out the features of the free one rather than confuse you with “what you might get” option.

    And I would be a bit pissed off is a plugin developer was using WordPress.org as a platform to really sell their premium plugin by offering an inferior free version. There are some gray areas here and will be a challenge for .org to implement.

    Great article.

  • Interesting thoughts. I think there should be an area on WordPress.org, just to eliminate confusion, if nothing else.

    I’m in the process of releasing a “Premium” version of one of my free plugins. I wonder what the thoughts of the readers/yourself are for charging for support? After all, support is getting to the point where it’s taking away from paid work (even with a rock solid FAQ).

  • I have no objection to having paid themes or plugins in the WP repository – in fact, I think it would be better that way. WP should consider acting as a payment gateway, too, as it would provide them with another revenue stream.

    Plugins & themes on WP.org are put thru regular filters and checks for common security issues and have to meet other standards as well, which makes it a safer (though not “safe”) source for plugins and themes.

    Though there are obviously some third party services (like WPMUDEV) that provide high quality and secure plugins & themes, the simple fact is that there’s no public repository that has updated current resources for public review with a community for ratings, reviews and filters. And it’s a really needed niche. Even the current wp.org plugins & themes directories are sadly lacking for important filters, sorting and clean display options. The closest thing out there is stuff like wpplugins.com, but that is just not working for some.

  • Tom

    As a co-founder of CodeGuard (but not an active employee), I can tell you that we have been searching for the right fremium model for pricing. We used to offer a free backup with a paid restore but apparently that met some resistance. It is important for you to realize that unlike most Plugin, CodeGuard is a Software as a Service company and our solution requires significant infrastructure and support costs; we run a hosted offsite backup system. The plugin is just the component that makes it easier to backup WordPress specifically.

    None of this justifies labeling the plugin as free and charging for the service it enables but I assure you our team is working to update this messaging ASAP. Meanwhile, feel free to contact [email protected] if you want any additional information or clarification.

      • Tom, I’m another non-management CodeGuard founder. Thank you for pointing out our omission. I’ve requested that our team fix the discrepancy so that CodeGuard is clearly labelled as a paid service.

        The plugin is in the directory for convenience. I’m using this on several dozen sites and it’s a PIA to have to rummage around for the plugin files every time I want to install. The “Add Plugin” button is much easier, and hosting on WordPress.org reminds people to update the plugin when needed, and automates the update process. The plugin wasn’t placed on WordPress.org for advertising.

        A couple weeks ago CodeGuard stopped offering free backups. Previously, for more than a year, CodeGuard offered a free plan. We forgot to update the text on WordPress.org. We’re a startup, not a huge bureaucracy with checklists and marketing staff.

        For the sake of convenience, WordPress.org should host paid plugins, clearly labelled as paid, to facilitate easy installation. Perhaps an appropriate fee can be charged to help defray costs. That would be a win for everybody. I think it would also help if the plugin submission process reminded people to disclose any fees up front, and to update the terms if changing from a free to paid service.

  • I really have no issues with free or paid plugins. In fact I think that WP.org could benefit from a premium area for listing plugins like this one.

    Then a fair and unbiased way to rate those premium plugins and even review them can be made. I don’t think their forums should be a place for the support of premium plugins though. This could create a much safer place for WordPress shoppers buying premium stuff.

    The way I look at it is simple, if I need it and the cost is right for me then its worth it. If it isn’t then I simply don’t buy it, its really that simple. Sometimes if its off budget I might contact them to see if there is anything which can be done but ultimately if I need something that bad and it carries a price tag so be it.

    So in closing, I don’t think a place for listing premium plugins should be done to appease premium developers. I think it should be done to create a much safer shopping experience for buyers so they can see how well something functions for the price tag it carries.

  • I would gladly purchase apps from wordpress.org, one of the great advantages would be that you actually get a fair review of premium apps, something that you dont really get when purchasing from their own pages.

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