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ExpressionEngine 2 Week: Licensing & Costs

With the transition to 2.0 comes a change in the licensing and price of ExpressionEngine. We here at EE Insider have written this guide to help you understand the different levels of pricing and what’s entailed with each.

Old School

In ExpressionEngine 1.6.8 the following licenses are available:

  • Commercial ($249)
  • Personal ($99)
  • Free (Free, silly person)

The conditions for each were the following:

A commercial license was to be purchased for any commercial or for-profit activity. This included running your small web business or development agency. If you purchased an ExpressionEngine commercial license you were entitled to one year accessing it in the downloads area of the ExpressionEngine website. You could purchase a renewal to receive updates for $39.95 each year.

A personal license for $99, was available for engaging in non-commercial, or non-profit use. For $19.99/year you could get access to the downloads area and receive product updates. This license was not to be used in a for-profit environment (e.g. selling services, products). However, the license is great for education, non-profit and government clients. You could upgrade this license at any time to a commercial license. The personal license had access to all the tools available with a commercial license. A good gauge of this is EllisLab’s own knowledge base article on the subject.

Finally, there was the free core version. There were several modules not available in this license. It was free, but you couldn’t use it to sell your services or in commercial applications. You could use it for not-for-profit, government and educational work.

The New Deal

In ExpressionEngine 2.0 the following licenses are available:

  • Commercial ($299)
  • Non-Commercial ($149)
  • Freelance ($99)

The conditions for each are the following:

The only thing that has changed with the commercial license is the price. Leslie Camacho, president of EllisLab, addresses the price increase in our interview with him.

The non-commercial license has both a price increase and a name change. The name change is a matter of clarification. The “personal” license was a bit ambiguous and this hopes to more explicitly declare what the license should be used for: non-commercial use. Again, this means not-for-profit, education and government work. You can’t use it for a commercial client website, nor to sell services. There is, however, one big ball of happiness in the next license…

With 2.0, EllisLab has added a freelance license. This retails for $99 and is for encouraging developers and designers to not only build their site at a lower cost, but to learn how to use EE and market that service to clients. It is for your own site, where you can sell your services as a web professional. This cheaper and welcome change will hopefully open up ExpressionEngine to new developers and freelancers. This is only for web professionals.


If you purchased an EE license the past year (version 1.6.3+), the upgrade cost is $50. This covers your upgrade from, for example, a personal EE 2.0 license to a non-commercial license or a 1.6.8 commercial license to a 2.0 commercial license. If you want to upgrade from a 1.6.8 personal license to a 2.0 commercial license, there is an additional fee.

If you purchased a version of EE earlier then 1.6.3, the upgrade fee will be more than $50. The price has not been set yet by the ‘Lab.

More coming… later

In the future, EllisLab will be making announcements in regards to other types of licensing for other potential uses and client-types of ExpressionEngine. As for now, this should cover most of ExpressionEngine’s common usage. As far as the core version is concerned, EllisLab has yet to make any announcements on whether it will be available or not. Leslie, again, talks about this in our interview with him.

We also hear rumors *cough* that download accounts are going away in favor of a more traditional upgrade model. In regards to these future announcements, please keep your eyes tuned to the ExpressionEngine Blog and us here at EE Insider for the latest information.


Posted on Oct 26, 2009 by Kenny Meyers

Filed Under: ExpressionEngine 2 Week

moogaloo10:26 on 10.26.2009

Any news on the volume discounting system?

Will that be carrying on to encourage developers to keep on using Expression Engine for their clients projects?

If it will, will old sales be carried over in our totals?

Kenny Meyers10:33 on 10.26.2009

I’m 100% sure there will be volume discounting, but what precisely that means will be announced on the EE blog in the next few months. They haven’t sussed out the details, so I have no information to give you on that topic or any idea.

I don’t have any information in regards to old sales data, I would just say look for announcements on the EE blog. I know it is on their checklist.

Emmanuel10:38 on 10.26.2009

As for the “freelance” license : how can you tell it is reserved for “web professional”? how can EllisLab folks know you are (or not) a web professional?

The new licensing fees are simply really, really too high. ExpressionEngine is competing on a market where free CMS are numerous. OK :  functionalities are perhaps not as developped or even available with these systems, but this will nonetheless turn EE into a CMS dedicated to high-end clients, not your round-the-corner small firm!

And so long non-profit organizations! the same for personal use! This a dramatic un-improvement on the spreading of EE among the community.

You EE evangelists have a very very long way to go for sure…good luck.

moogaloo10:47 on 10.26.2009

the non-commercial license still applies to not-for-profit organisations tho - that was pretty clear from the above statement.

Well, I’ve gone on and bought a few licenses for the future projects I have coming up while I still have a healthy discount applied to them all!!

moogaloo10:53 on 10.26.2009

I would also say that EE isn’t really meant for the small round the corner small firms anyway - the way the templating system works means there’s a big time overhead in setting up the infrastructure of the site to work right for that particular project - its flexability is also its biggest strength.

Trying to shoehorn a WP CMS into a site takes a lot of hacking as its not setup for it.
EE by contrast will give yo a lot more control without needing to get into any PHP.

Considering what some clients get charged for a CMS, adding $50 is nothing.

stphnmartin12:00 on 10.26.2009

How can you tell what version of EE you originally purchased? I looked at my original receipt from the initial purchase and it says “1.x”. When did 1.3 come out?

John Faulds12:00 on 10.26.2009

Considering what some clients get charged for a CMS, adding $50 is nothing.

I agree. Emmanuel I don’t know what world you operate in but the price increase isn’t going to make the slightest bit of difference to my ability to sell EE-based sites and very few of my past clients are what you would term ‘high end’.

moogaloo12:13 on 10.26.2009

i also find it interesting that the move ot make a cheaper freelance only option to encourage people to try out and hopefully use EE for their own site is a good one…
i notice that for example media temple have chosen a few key names in the webdesign industry and are essentially sponsoring them with their hosting packages…
i’m looking forward to having completed enough sites to be able to get myself on the pro-network with a little badge on our site smile
(hence spending a bit of extra time figuring out how to mask CP access and move system above webroot for security reasons if i’m gonna start advertising what CMS i use)

moogaloo12:21 on 10.26.2009

or not - just read they’re no longer taking on new members.

E. Christopher Clark12:37 on 10.26.2009

So, the upgrade price is based on when you originally bought EE 1.x and not on the version you currently run on your site? For instance, if I’ve been diligently updating via the $19 a year upgrade plan, do I still pay based on the fact that I bought the software back in 2004?

Lodewijk Schutte12:47 on 10.26.2009

The new licensing fees are simply really, really too high.

Too high for whom or what, exactly? For people to start using EE? Obviously not, because the EE user base is still steadily growing. These are people who are willing to spend some money on good software, and 50 bucks will most likely not be a deal breaker for them. Especially in comparison with the 5 to 6 digit prices of so called ‘Enterprise CMSes’ that EE also competes with.

stphnmartin12:51 on 10.26.2009

@E. Christopher

“If you purchased an EE license the past year (version 1.6.3+)” I take that to mean if you bought EE one year ago, or from 1.6.3 then you qualify for the $50 upgrade.

If you purchased earlier than a year, the upgrade will cost more, but the amount is not determined:

“If you purchased a version of EE earlier then 1.6.3, the upgrade fee will be more than $50.”

Kenny Meyers12:52 on 10.26.2009

@E. Christopher

My intuition says that if you have a valid license of 1.6.8, then you’ll just pay the $50.

EllisLab is still working out the details but the above article should cover general pricing scenarios. Specifics will be worked out and posted on the EE blog very soon, I’m sure.

E. Christopher Clark12:54 on 10.26.2009

Thanks, Kenny and stphnmartin for your thoughts on this. I’m debating on whether or not to spend the $19 to renew my download account and upgrade from 1.6.2 to 1.6.8. If I’m going to end up paying extra whether I am at 1.6.8 or not (because I bought back in 2004) then I won’t bother.

I’ll keep my eyes on the EE blog.

Todd13:43 on 10.26.2009

I think there’s a little confusion here… if my download account is current, but I bought my EE prior to 1.6.3, do I need to pay more than $50 to go to 2.0? Or because I’ve been keeping my download account current, then I’m only paying $50

Kenny Meyers13:46 on 10.26.2009


For clarifications like this, there will be in the future an EE blog post clarifying all the little details.

stphnmartin13:48 on 10.26.2009

@Todd, a literal reading of the upgrade language above would mean that if you originally purchased a version of EE prior to 1.6.3 you will pay a higher than $50 upgrade cost to 2.0.

The language make no mention of current version access as being involved in the upgrade price scheme.

Markus04:25 on 10.27.2009

Honestly, I’d see it as a terrible move if long-time users would get a penalty in form of an higher upgrade fee for making EE what it is today: Never mess with your most loyal fans.

Sitting On The Fence07:50 on 10.27.2009

I totally agree with Emmanuel.  Most of my clients are small business owners, and even though some may have the necessary budget to acquire this platform, they still want to keep costs down in these times.  I was already having a tough enough time selling EE to them as it is as there were other Open-Source systems available that can get the job done.  I really love EE, I truly do, but at these prices, I just don’t see most of my clients going for it anymore.

I started learning Drupal for a bit and dropped it to focus more on EE due to its robustness.  I think I might just have to revisit that avenue.

FYI - remember White House’s website that proudly boasted the use of Expression Engine when the new president was elected?  You should take a read on their new direction -

moogaloo08:08 on 10.27.2009

Yeh - I read the article too.
Seemed very odd to me.

Its certainly not an issue of cost tho - $250/300 whatever is nothing to an election campaign!!

That said, I’ve not used Drupal - I’ve had a look at it, and seeing as I can’t use PHP its no good to me.

I’m not sure what their problems are with Expression Engine, or what thay think Drupal does better. If someone could explain in what ways Drupal (or any other CMS for that matter) is better than Expression Engine, I would be interested to know (apart from the cost issue obviously) - I’ve never had a client question the use of Expression Engine, but then I don’t really get into that kinda thing with them - I tell them I use Expression Engine to do the CMS part of the job, and when you consider a typical site of ours floating around the

moogaloo08:15 on 10.27.2009

Actually, this was the article I read -

kodegeek08:04 on 10.28.2009

no free version for EE 2.0, opps!

Skookie17:10 on 10.30.2009

I’m just do this for myself (web designers are too expensive), and paying anything for a hobby like this for such a small thing isn’t worth it.

Kreatific23:58 on 11.03.2009

First of all, good work on the new version of EE.

I have just read through the blog entry and I have a few concerns.

The main one being the removal of the free/not-for-profit license.

Now, lets not fool ourselfs. Wordpress isn’t the only CMS alternative to ExpressionEngine (Website Publisher by Interspire is another alternative)

I feel that the difference between EE and the other CMS solutions was not only the quality but also the fact that anyone who had read a Nettuts tutorial could simply download a version and have a play, there by building interest in the CMS, possibily CI as well as adding to the community.

A couple questions pop into my mind..

Do you guys and gals feel that the interest in ExpressionEngine will remain the same after the licensing changes come into effect?

Anyways, good luck and good work.

ty16:26 on 11.08.2009

Not sure on the dates, but nobody should be penalized to upgrade going back to the summer that Ellis originally said the v.2 would be available which was the summer of ‘08. Anybody purchasing a license after the announcement at SXSW ‘08 should be included in the upgrade pricing IMO.

goskagit11:08 on 11.10.2009

I agree completely with ty and Markus in that charging your long term customers more for an upgrade is simply bad business.  We shouldn’t have to pay more because we’ve been around longer, thus having already shoveled more money their way.

Hopefully it’s an oversight on EllisLab’s part and they’ll correct accordingly.

Grover Saunders02:50 on 11.13.2009

“charging your long term customers more for an upgrade is simply bad business.”

So I guess the entire software industry has been making bad business decisions for its entire existence? Because this is how pretty much all software upgrades work.

Like many others, I’m more than happy to pay a reasonable price (which this is) for a well thought out, fully functioning CMS instead of spending weeks customizing and patching an open-source project that was never meant to do what I’m trying to make it do. That time is worth $300. I simply can not imagine a scenario where $250 was fine and $300 isn’t.

That being said, I do hope they offer some sort of free version. Even if it’s limited, just being able to play around with the templating system (which is very different in EE than what other CMS’s would call a template) was a major factor in my choosing EE. I personally won’t need it anymore, but I do think it has a tremendous marketing value.

Jeremy Ricketts10:42 on 11.21.2009

I believe EE2 is well worth the cost and it’s a fairly easy sell to my clients. I believe in paying for a great product and I’m a huge EE fan.

Having said that, my only worry with this new pricing structure is the notable absence of a free version. When push comes to shove, it will cost someone $99 to install and check out EE2 for themselves.

There’s simply no way, years ago, that I would have paid $99 to give a new CMS a try. NOW, of course, I understand and appreciate EE’s power and quality. But it’s only because of that first demo I downloaded, years ago.

I’m sure that even without a free version, EE will continue to flourish. I just wonder how much the new user adoption rate will curve off with a $99 entrance fee.

hermanobrother17:13 on 12.15.2009


My bet is that with the $99 entrance fee new users are not going to be happening often.

steward11:20 on 01.29.2010

“New users happening often” makes me shudder.

It’s a filter. The talented ones can raise a C-note.

It’s an webolutionary step. Too many spooky characters out there nowadays. We all gotta strip to board now.

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