Over the past two and a half years, I spent over seven thousand hours on building and improving one of the most intricate modular systems available for WordPress yet: the Extension Manager. Conjoined with WordPress, The SEO Framework, and my purposely-built API servers, it features hundreds of first party innovations to make working with it effortless and to make various unique features possible.
This was all for nothing.
Well… that’s a bit harsh. Let me rephrase that, and literally iterate on what I’m trying to convey.
The SEO Framework (TSF) is free, and it will stay free. The Extension Manager is free, and it will stay free. But free means that time spent on research and development won’t be paid for.
Now, don’t get me wrong: I love working for approval and praise. Every word from the community is great, and it makes me rest well knowing that people are happy because of what I did well. But unless the approval and praise are monetary (although some are), I can’t afford to spend more time on the free (did I mention literally?).
The plugin pays for itself; but, whilst abstaining dishonesty and spamming you with ads, the company running this show is still categorized as a start-up – this can’t warrant sustainability. So, I either need to start throwing ads in your face, or I need to change the delivery of the premium products.
TL;DR: The Extension Manager plugin is intended to provide both free and premium software and services. Unfortunately, at the end of the developing the initial release, I learned that some of the things planned weren’t allowed on WordPress.org. I pushed through anyway, and I still released it—hoping for the best—, but I now face various restrictions that hinder further, sustained development. So, I’m now providing the Extension Manager plugin from my servers. Download it here.
Before I continue, I do want to thank the WordPress.org plugin, meta, and forum teams, and all the reviewers, translators, and customers. It’s thanks to you I didn’t have to abandon the project, and it’s thanks to you I’m still more than willing to improve and sustain both my free and paid solutions.
Plugins on WordPress.org may not lock any functionality that’s not bound to an API service. So, if you wish to publish premium software, you may only restrict its functionality when it requires your remote API servers to operate as intended. In short, it must be Software as a Service (SaaS).
SaaS is a great model for many businesses, and it even is for SEO. However, there’s a big problem with it: SaaS is expensive, complicated, and requires a lot of maintenance to prove security, scalability, and stability.
Unleashing a single full-stack web developer on both the server and the software is feasible. However, each solution brought will be a full-time job to maintain. Now, I have created multiple solutions, because I must allocate the company to various markets.
Apart from that, the Monitor extension, which is far from what it’s supposed to be, will require me to expend at least twenty thousand USD, yearly, to make the promised uptime monitoring feasible. And another ten thousand to introduce per-page reviews. These expenditures are apart from time spent on development.
The Local and Focus extensions require me to pay third parties up front to access petabytes of data, and I depend on their competence on manipulating that data; which is why, for now, only the English language is API-supported for Focus.
Now, I want to spend my time on simpler, more robust, and more beneficial solutions. Like Articles and Honeypot: two amazing enterprise-grade extensions that don’t require SaaS. They were forced to remain free, even though they weren’t meant to be. Non-SaaS solutions are more fun to create, too, as they deploy much faster.
But, once again, I can’t generate revenue building non-SaaS solutions published on WordPress.org.
So, the solutions users want to pay for are either free or aren’t created, and the solutions users are paying for are too expensive for all parties involved.
WordPress is subconsciously anti-competitive
The WordPress.org algorithms will not recommend any plugin that isn’t brought by Automattic or isn’t a member of the topmost installed. For newer plugins, this means that all your work is subverted and diluted into arcane desolation, never to be appraised for what it might’ve been.
Now, I’m not accusing WordPress—I’m explaining these events. Automattic’s software is exemplary and built according to the most rigorous standards. I would recommend their products over all comparable others at any day, and I’m glad they’re put in the spotlight. And the way WordPress.org is set up is to help users get started quickly, and this is a good thing; unfortunately, this also has apparent repercussions for new plugins.
So, if you want to write plugins for WordPress, I can guarantee that you’ll only make it if your solutions are niche, or when your competition’s products are terrible.
I consider myself lucky with TSF, but I also know that if I were one of the first to release a plugin of this kind and caliber, it would’ve gained millions in users. It deserves millions of users.
This all leads to an issue: My software lacks the numbers to sustain the current pricing model. This issue might be less severe in a few years as the plugins keep growing, but I can’t risk nor afford to wait for that to unfold.
I don’t doubt that TSF will be active on a million sites simultaneously in a few years. However, I do want to ensure this fate by implementing better practices.
Commence new commerce
So, I want to ensure revenue which sustains the operational costs of the plugins, a few developers, designers, system administrators, and more, with plenty of room for gratifying, precarious innovation.
I also want to branch out of meta-SEO with the Extension Manager, delivering solutions that people need and want in other sectors. Even more so, I think the Extension Manager plugin has the potential to branch out to be the all-in-one modular solution for your website. Think of Jetpack, but then for more than just blogging.
To make this happen, I can’t afford spending all my time providing new, free software. There will be a few intermediate changes; thereupon, I might decide to adjust or reiterate on some of these changes based on your requisites.
Now, I will never take free features away from you which were brought in The SEO Framework. It will keep receiving updates at the same pace and quality as before. It is, after all, supporting software for the company. It is what makes my job as a WordPress plugin developer possible. I’m only changing how I’m delivering the extensions for the Extension Manager.
A new shop
For the keen-eyed, you’ll notice that the shop has been redesigned and reclarified.
It will no longer offer you to choose the number of sites, as almost no one made use of this. Instead, I doubled and fixed the number of websites you can connect to per license by default, without additional costs. This allows you to migrate your site, set up a sister site, or even pay it forward to a client, all with a peace of mind.
Coincidentally yet conveniently, even with the bulk discounts at our competitors, you’re still better off with us. So, when you need more sites than shown in the shop, you should increase the number of licenses in your cart.
Moreover, the shop now differentiates subscriptions based on the needs for your site. Not all sites require the premium extensions (yet), and not all sites have a dozen authors. The sites that make more use of my services will have to pay more. Fair? Fair.
New API services
A new API service has been set up that quantifies the API requests you’ve sent to it per calendar month, and it can tell you how many requests you still have left. Setting this limit will allow me to expand the services confidently without risking damages. I will close the old service somewhere in Q1 2019.
For current subscribers: Aside from a few exceptions, all currently active subscriptions will be upgraded to get 5000 requests per calendar month—which is what the newly introduced Premium license pertains—while maintaining the previously provisioned pricing, indefinitely. Depending on your needs, some of you are better off with the old pricing model, while others might find the new model more suiting; you must determine this yourself. For your convenience, you may repurchase or cancel the old licenses via your dashboard.
Soon, I will jump on providing extra support for the new Gutenberg editor. And, a new extension is planned for 2019 which makes great use of the new API services: Real content quality assessments.
New extension and subscription types
I’ve added a new extension type, lying between Free and Premium, there’s now Essentials. To use this type, you’ll require an Essentials or higher subscription.
Now, some extensions that were free (but, which were never meant to be) will be moved to this type. I thoroughly understand that not every user is too fond of this change; so, I’m placing a significant introductory discount on the Essentials subscription. The discount will hopefully make the transition easier for many users. Don’t miss out, because you might regret not being able to access future extensions and other improvements.
Another subscription type that has been added is called Enterprise. This subscription allows for even more simultaneously connected sites, and many more monthly API requests – ideal for news publishers and large blogs with subdomains.
Removal from WordPress.org
The Extension Manager will be removed from WordPress.org in a few days. To make sure my users notice and aren’t left with non-updating software, I will send out notifications to most users via various routes.
With this, I am no longer imposed by the WordPress.org plugin guidelines (…rules) that limit my flexibility and innovation. This freedom means I can start delivering awesome extensions, tailored par excellence and with stupendous love and care, that don’t need to be SaaS, available via a subscription.
The plugin will stay free and open-source software (FOSS), and you can view it on GitHub. So, you’re free to browse, share, improve, and even fork the code.
I have also set up a secure update service from which you can download the Extension Manager and update it on your website. Every site will get free updates for the plugin; but, the plugin needs to be activated to request updates.
Moreover, the support will remain public; now via GitHub.
I believe that all these changes will ultimately benefit my users. Definitely so in the long run.
With more revenue to invest in third-party services, developers, translators, copywriters, marketers, and designers, our plugins will become more accessible, powerful, beautiful, and potent. The content provided on this site will be more helpful and insightful. And, most importantly, I can prove fairness works in open source, too.
This should benefit everyone. I hope you’re with me on this.