WordPress Plugins Trend 2010: Paying for Installed Plugins

WordPress Plugins Trend 2010: No more quality support, no more free use. All will be paid plugins for WordPress. This meme hearkens back to the recent issue of WordPress Premium themes. Which I will not rehash here.

While there have always been paid plugins, I think Jeff hit the nail on the head that we are at the beginning of a substantial shift in terms of paid plugins. I have no issue with paying for a plugin, but if they all become paid, then that will affect my decision to use some of them. Personally I love Gravity Forms and will continue to support them with my money (and my client’s money), but I can’t do that with all of them.

What sets commercial plugins apart from commercial themes is that most people only work with a few themes, but at least a dozen plugins. If a theme author charges $70 for their theme, I think that’s fair if it is quality and includes support, but if all of the 20 plugins I use want $30 in order to continue using them, I won’t pony up for that. My guess is that most of us won’t either.

WordPress Plugins Trend 2010: Paying for Installed Plugins. While paying for plugins is nothing new, I’m predicting that by the end of 2010, there will be a large assortment of plugins for WordPress that will be available for purchase. As we wind down 2009, I’m already beginning to see the trend in action with at least 3 of my 31 installed plugins switching to a paid model. Each person is doing something a little different but the end result is the same. I have to pay to keep using it.

Now I don’t particularly have a problem with plugin authors charging for support or for services around the plugin but I’m seeing the plugin being bundled as part of the purchase. So in a way, you’re not only paying for the plugin, you’re paying for access to support. In most cases, the free plugin becomes dormant and I’m forced to either stick with what works until a version of WordPress is released which breaks the plugin or I pony up the cash to receive upgrades. Shopp, GravityForms and now Ajax Edit Comments each have their own repository server that enables customers to receive upgrades. This is all part of the deal.

I remember a post a year or so ago asking people what would they pay for that they currently did’nt have to. WordPress was one of the things people would pay for if it had a price tag. My question is slightly different. What if every plugin you use on your site requires you to pay money before you get access to upgrades, support, etc? Personally, I don’t mind paying for great work and I can part with my cash for three or five plugins but not for 31.

Not to put down the work of those making a business out of their plugin but something to keep in mind is that as it stands, plugins hosted in the WordPress.org plugin repository contain no price tags. However, some of them do have links, wording, and such to up-sell services or the pro version of the plugin. I don’t have a problem with that as long as the slimmed down version is not crippled to the point where it doesn’t make sense to use the lower end version.

If the authors of the plugins I use on my own site all decided to ditch the free version in favor of a paid model in order to help them make a living, that is their decision to make. However, one of the greatest assets of the WordPress plugin world is that there is an abundant amount of choices for most tasks. Some better than others.

My hope is that the WordPress plugin repository will continue to be free of pay-for plugins. This will insure that I will always have a place to browse an assortment of free alternatives. If the plugin repository were to ever allow commercial plugins to be listed alongside free ones, I’m thinking that the commercial choices would far outweigh the free ones. I really don’t want to go down the road I traveled with Joomla where anytime I wanted to have cool functionality added to my site, I had to pay for it.

This is very interesting topic, specially from my perspective of a plugin author. I have released many plugins over the past two years, and some of them are very successful (my rating plugin GD Star Rating for instance). But once the plugin gains in popularity, more and more users will need support: bug reports and fixes, new features, general help, integration…

And if you are author of one plugin, you can even manage to provide support for free. But if you have 5-6 plugins and large number of users, providing quality support (and that include responding to queries in a matter of 2-3 days, helping everyone, fixing bugs adding new features) is impossible. Support will get so overwhelming that you will not have time for a work that actually pays. And that’s why 90% (or maybe even more) WordPress plugins are not supported by the authors or maybe are only partially supported.

I recently needed help with Headspace2 plugin, and I tried to contact author through forum and issue tracker and I got no response. So, I modified plugin myself, because I can’t wait for months for a problem to be fixed. But, I am developer and I can do that myself. On the other hand 99% of WordPress users are not developers, and they need real support. When it comes to simple plugins, this is no big deal, but many useful plugins are large and you can’t solve things on your own.

That’s why I decided to stop offering free support, because I don’t have free time for quality support. But I can dedicate most of my time to payed support that will include everything users might need, that will include even nightly releases and many more things. I also added new features to my already free plugins as additional bonus.

The way I see it is that most quality plugins will go through changes in the next year, and while the plugins may remain free, support will not.

I think Gravity Forms has set the standard for paid plugins. If I pay for another plugin I’ll tend to compare it to Gravity in price, support and upgrades. One site that recently came online appears to be selling plugins AND charging a monthly maintenance/upgrade fee from what I can tell. One thing I won’t do is pay monthly fees that are equivalent to utility bills in price just for a plugin.

OK now, you’ve read Jeff’s article title WordPress Plugins Trend 2010: Paying for Installed Plugins, what do you think about paid wordpress plugins? Is this a wordpress plugins trend you also see in 2010 or do you see something else? Any thoughts on the matter?

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