This is the first installment of a new column by Eric Lamb covering the world of ExpressionEngine add-on development. Eric will regularly join us here on the site and chime in on whatever is on his mind. For this first installment, Eric gets honest with you about the changes EllisLab made this past weekend. We don’t know what to call this column but we’re open to suggestions. Have a good one? Email us. –Ryan
Recently EllisLab made some HUGE and sweeping changes to pretty much everything. They killed free official support, changed their pricing model, replaced the CEO, consolidated the main product sites into a single presence, and even killed the ExpressionEngine Pro Network. Lots and lots of changes that happened, seemingly, overnight and with little warning (outside of the support changes).
It appears that a bunch of people in the community were taken completely by surprise and are taking these changes pretty hard. For some agencies and developers, the support was a huge asset that they relied on and now that it’s no longer included they’re feeling less secure with ExpressionEngine as a product for their business. A bunch of smarter people than I have written their thoughts on how this affects consumers so I’m not going to dig too deep into it outside of saying that, to me, if these changes hurt your business, likely you have much bigger problems to address.
That said, I believe most of the changes EllisLab made have very little negative effect on add-on developers. I mean, sure, if these changes end up killing the entire platform there’d be some negative effect on add-on devs. But outside that, and I seriously doubt that’ll happen, there’s very little to worry about with any of those changes. In fact, I think some of them are pretty sweet for add-on developers specifically.
Now, if you weren’t at EECI this year, know that it was a big surprise to a lot of people to learn how much of a burden free support is for add-on devs. Both Solspace and Pixel & Tonic, arguably 2 of the most successful and respected add-on shops around, admitted to mostly breaking even due to the costs of free support. More though, others, like me (mithra62), are actually working at a loss due to free support. No joke people; unlimited free support is a killer if you’re trying to build a profitable business around ExpressionEngine add-on development.
But with the changes EllisLab made, it opens things up for add-on developers to help cover the costs of support. Like it or not, EllisLab does set the tone for how add-on devs are expected to operate so, with them going to paid support, add-on devs can do the same without ruffling as many feathers. Sure, some devs could have gone cowboy and done this without them (and I know of 2 that have) but EllisLab being first does make things easier for everyone I think.
Another thing that’s pretty interesting is the switch to focusing on Enterprise level customers. Honestly, I’m not entirely sure what that means so I’m making a couple assumptions here but, in my experience, this should be really good for add-on developers. Enterprise customers are the companies who have little to no problem paying for above and beyond support and may even open up additional revenue streams for add-on developers. Plus, considering how small the existing market for add-ons is anything to help that grow is good.
In terms of the Pro Network going away I’m actually pretty ambivalent there. I’m not sure the Pro Network did much for everyday developers in any real way and I’m even less sure it helped add-on devs. It was a list of people with little to no moderation outside of initial profile creation. Big deal. I’m surprised anyone found any value there outside of personal ego. Hearing the complaints, I’m likely wrong, but honestly; I just don’t get it.
So, for me, as an add-on developer, I’m pretty encouraged by all this. I know a lot of people in the community seem to have taken these changes personally and are lashing out. I know they don’t affect me as a website developer or add-on developer. Frankly, I just don’t think there’s anything to worry about with any of this.
Oh, and if the free official support going away bothers you get on the Stack Exchange and get community support that’ll likely be faster and more helpful than otherwise.
Eric Lamb is the developer of professional and enterprise grade ExpressionEngine add-ons. Founded in 2009 Eric’s company mithra62 aims to be a leader in ExpressionEngine add-on development and has a reputation for stability, usefulness, and being highly configurable.