Okay, we've been through this enough times that it deserves a clear position from the CEO….

concrete5 core is free and open source. When we say free, we mean "free beer." Our belief is that content management is a human right, and we are committed to making it easy for everyone in the world to run a website.

However, not every add-on in our marketplace is free. All of them are open source – meaning once you buy it you are "free" to do what you want to it for that site, and you can get "under the hood" completely.

Why do we do this?
A lot of time and money has gone into concrete5. Anyone who doesn't think we're generous has vastly underestimated the amount of energy that goes into making a powerful CMS that makes sense and doesn't require an expert to configure. We are people too however and not only do we need to provide for our families, we also need to continue to put the level of coherent leadership into the project that it benefited from when we were strictly commercial software for 5 years.

A huge part (IMHO – most) of what makes concrete5 so compelling over other projects like Drupal and Joomlais the fact that it does take the risk of saying "this is the right solution" to many problems. No, we don't believe you really need 300 results for "permissions" when searching for add-ons to a project. How about manning up and just getting the core solution right? That's our philosophy. We don't always hit the mark because we're human, but we've done pretty well so far, and that's the goal for the future as well.

Same deal with the marketplace. Other projects seem to have a pretty low barrier of entry for add-ons. I'm not entirely sure if there even is any barrier, but if it exists, surely the question is "does this add-on work with a clean install of our app? Didn't break? Okay give them a project area – goooo Open Source!" Well bravo for Free Love and everyone being Super Duper, but I see that as unfair to the next schmoe who is trying to figure out how to solve their own problem. If I download a weather widget and my whole site breaks because it uses the same table as some image gallery I already had running, everyone fails. The weather widget developer looks like an ass, and so does the image gallery developer. Both end up doing way more individualized support than they should to keep their customers happy. Moreover, the overall project fails because now no one can trust any add-on to do anything easily. This is where Drupal certainly is today, just look at Acquia's business model. This is unacceptable to us.

At concrete5.org you will only find things that work. If they don't work, we're gonna make them work for you. $15, $55, or even a couple hundred bucks is a small price to pay for something that solves a real business need for you and is going to work in a seamless, happy, healthy way. When we evaluate a new add-on, the question will be "does it work on an install with EVERYTHING added?" This is a huge challenge, but we think it's going to be critical to the success of our project in the big picture.

How do we decide what is in core?
Anything that will make a fundamental change to the way concrete5 works which would impact all add-ons and benefits the community/project is free. So recent additions that fall in that category include things like:

  • A My Profile section that various add-ons like forums or ecommerce would depend on.
  • An advanced file system that all add-ons can use.
  • A better way to create shared central blocks.

The reality is that with other projects like Drupal, once you've installed one modification to the way core permissions work you've effectively rendered their massive marketplace to you. How can the huge community really even help when everyone's configuration is a unique one off? We're going to do everything we can to keep this project from splintering into core pieces that don't work with one another and render all subsequent add-ons a crap shoot.

Anything that we think is a basic building block to 80% of the websites out there in the world, we'll make either part of the core or free in the marketplace. So things around embedding most types of content, some interaction like guestbooks and forums..etc.. We're not asking "would everyone benefit" – because who doesn't want free stuff, but rather "do you /need/ this to get your point across with the software." Some examples:

  • You can place banner ads using the Content Block, the HTML block or the Image block and your site visitors will never know the difference. Want to track click-throughs, impressions, and pull from centralized ad groups that randomize choices? You can do that, you can have it TONIGHT! That costs $55.
  • You can assign a date to any page in concrete5, so it's possible to make many different type of chronilogical interfaces with the core. You can also just include a Google Calendar with the HTML block. Want a month view, list view, and ajax driven agenda view to a multiple calendar system that makes event pages spread across your site? Want that working NOW? You need to pay something too.

How do we price things?
We make it up. We don't frankly care how long it took us to write it, we don't care how much the competition sells it for, we're guessing how much you're willing to pay to have it "just work." No lie. This is business 101.

But wait, what about the Community??!?
Here's some promises to our community we've always kept and always will:

  • Your stuff can go in our marketplace. We don't care if you're selling it or giving it away, if your able to give us a stable, solid, correctly packaged add-on for concrete5 and we don't think it's malware, we'll stick it in the marketplace. I can't promise you we'll feature it above our own in every interface view, but we'll gladly post your free image gallery block right up there next to our own $15 per site one. If yours is better and you can make the community happy using it, so much the better for everyone.
  • We will help you sell your own stuff. Software is about support as much as creation. If you're making something and giving it away, you might consider selling it and making a buck. Getting out of the purely hourly revenue model is the dream of almost every developer out there, and we think we're gonna make a lot of dreams come true with this awesome marketplace. If you're making stuff that people want, you should want to help them install and use it safely. You should want to add to it over time. You should be compenstated for your efforts. If you'd like to sell something you've built in our marketplace, all we ask is 25% cut of the price. This is less than Apple's iPhone App store and from what I can tell comperable toDot Net Nuke's system if not better.
  • This stuff is not going to be super expensive. I've seen libraries that take this approach where solutions cost many thousands of dollars. Crap, I remember buying a Digital Asset Management system from the Cold Fusion marketplace back in the day for 8k and still shoveling out 30k to the developers to customize it to our client's needs. This isn't the model here. The highest price we've even debated setting a product at so far is $255. That's what most targeted consumer software is priced at today. There's no five figure recurring yearly license fees here.

What does this mean for the project?
It means a lot of great stuff. It means we're going to end up building a community that is not only passionate, but is actually making a better life for themselves and their families out of their contributions. It means when you go shopping for add-ons for your site, you'll be able to do it with a smile on your face and try stuff out without fear.

Is it open source? Absolutely yes. Open source as a term is really just a catch all for any number of different license types from the 80's and early 90's when we were cutting our teeth in the BBS scene, and this idea honors them all quite well.

If you're still not sold, ponder this:
THE MAN is actually just A Man.

Thanks for making it though this rant, hope you agree – I'm sure you all won't. If you don't I'm all ears on constructive suggestions. If the reply is "it should be free because I want it to be, and it's not my problem how you or the project succeeed in the big picture…"… the door is that-a way. <grin>