the idea of changing the licensing options for elgg

in the recent thread where ismayil stated he is quitting the position of core developer of elgg, i suggested that maybe a good idea would be to look at the option of requiring commercial users of elgg to pay a license fee for use. as far as i am aware, steve is the only active core developer left and he asked me to create a new thread to discuss the idea.

to be clear, i prefer open source projects - including elgg - to be entirely free for all. the reason why i am suggesting to create a license fee requirement for purely commercial users is that it has been my experience and also the experience of other developers i know (including ismayil, from his comments) that generally, the primarily commercial users do not give anything (or at least very little) back to the community and so we have a situation that is something like:

  1. coders create plugins and core code for free - for their own reasons, possibly to support their own website.
  2. commercial developers use the code that was developed for free, gaining them the benefit of the others with nothing in return.
  3. the commercial developers then use their resources to create their own proprietary code - giving them the benefit of both their own work and the work of everyone who shared... attempting to gain 'commercial advantage' - while ignoring that the basis of their 'advantage' could not exist without the community providing that basis for free.
  4. the commercial developers get paid - sometimes very well - while the community developers do not.
  5. there is an obvious imbalance that could be balanced by government or corporate entities that use elgg providing support in the form of money, coding time or other resources.
  6. coders who work for free may (and often do) feel somewhat exploited by the situation, while the commercial users of the code often get rewarded greatly.

i don't know the names of many commercial sites that use elgg, because i don't track that topic much - but i do know of at least one now major site that used it and who claimed all along to be 'supporting' the open source community and elgg, yet in reality - as far as i know - did absolutely nothing to walk that talk.

why should this situation be allowed to continue? especially when it would be relatively simple to improve it and simply by putting out the intention to improve it there may be adequate impetus provided to inspire larger users to offer help which previously they didn't bother to do.

Steve implied in the other thread (i think) that commercial users would just fork elgg and avoid the license fee. That would be their choice and right to do so - but at least if they did that then there would be an end to the problems listed above. If they, or i, or anyone takes over our own version of elgg and no longer comes to the community or the core developers with support tasks/questions then they are entitled to do that and use their resources to make their own version of Elgg. I am suggesting though that the license make clear that after a specific date, they are not licensed to use any new code produced for Elgg by the core team unless they pay the license fee. I'm really not clear exactly how the elgg community would lose out by this because to my knowledge (and it appears to the knowledge of other coders i have spoken to) these commercial entities provide little to nothing here anyway, so what is lost?

how would this license idea 'save' elgg?

  1. coders would know from their immediate use of the system that their work on the core is not going to be entirely counter productive to them, in that they may be giving code to groups who do not compensate them in any way and who may actually be direct competition for them online. at the very least they will know that elgg itself is being directly supported by their potential 'competition' and thus the effect is somewhat mitigated. this offers peace of mind and a sense of reciprocation that is missing currently and which is necessary in a group sharing environment.
  2. by bringing in some money for the elgg core team, it becomes possible to bring balance to the team and provide motivation and increased quality of life to some extent.
  3. a carefully worded clause in the agreement could provide a doorway for commercial users to bypass the fee if they instead provide coding / support time for the elgg core.. though i don't know how that would be worded from a lawful perspective or managed in practical terms. this would inspire more elgg core work from 3rd parties, rather than them just relying on the overworked core team.
  4. the increased potential for financial support may draw new attention to elgg in general.

what are the mechanisms needed?

  1. change in the agreement for elgg that stipulates that purely commercial use requires either a license fee or an agreement to provide a certain level of technical services for elgg core.
  2. maybe some kind of serial number system built in to elgg to monitor license use, which gives some scope for commercial use to be monitored.
  3. enforcement of the policy would require nothing more than standard operations of law for software license infringement.

this kind of approach is not my favored one at all - by nature i prefer to not involve 'legalities', 'money' or any of these topics into creativity - but i am also pragmatic and i feel there is a lot of potential being lost here and hard work going to waste to some extent.

any thoughts are welcomed.


  • @iionly - you have described the reality that the current situation means that anyone can fork elgg and then make money from it and not give anything back to elgg. however, that is the result of their continued ability to do so under the license terms. if the license is changed then this would progressively become less of a viable option (at least legally) because the version of elgg they would be able to fork would progressively become outdated. after a license change (let's say 2 years in the future) if they wanted to fork elgg and make their own version in the future, they would really be required to get a license and then fork it. so in that case, the elgg project gains some funds and loses nothing.

    the fundamental deciding factors here are really just these: how many installations are there that can be said to use elgg commercially and that would fall under a likely definition of needing a license to continue using it? how many of them have resources to pay and how many of them would be happy to pay? neither of these questions have been answered here yet.

  • P.S. I have thought about something else today. But it's not really thought through completely and I also don't know if this thread here would be the right place to post. Basic idea: before thinking about getting any larger changes done first assess the situation.

    What exactly IS wrong with Elgg? What exactly IS missing? My point is that I hear a lot about unspecific issues that are so much better solved in other available tools that could be made use of. But I'm totally lacking the bigger picture and I really would have an thorough, complete understanding of what you think the shortcomings of Elgg in its current state are.

    I don't want to hear feature request of stuff that could be easily implemented by plugins! Sorry, but that's big stuff taking here and nothing else!

    I also don't want to hear anything about starting from scratch! You could list an endless number of other scripts and say that they are so much better solving a specific detail. But the point is: Elgg is a fully working social network engine already and not just a bunch of tools that are not integrated into something bigger and working state yet. Elgg might have it shortcomings from a developer point of view but at least it's already for real not a perfect utopia social network engine.

    What I would like to hear from present developers - and if possible in any way also from ALL developers who have participated in Elgg core development in the past - would be their ideas of what areas within Elgg they see the need for improvements. With ALL developers I would like to include everyone back to Cash and all the original Elgg founders. Not asking them for coding but rather ask for them to express their thoughts and give their opinion.

    Maybe the results of such a brainstorming / collection of ideas is not helping in adding one line of code on short term. But it would at least allow to collect all the ideas in one place, in one document or on one page instead of having them lost in fruitless discussions here on the community site soon forgotten or lost in the high number of open issues on github.

    And one other point: having such a ROADMAP (or whatever you might want to call it instead as I most likely lack a better fitting term) could be some kind of starting point to organize development within a small group (even if only two or three people) instead of relying on solo coders who try to get larger new functionality implemented and burn on trying.

    Such a roadmap could even help to a certain extend with fundraising / donations: instead of asking people to provide some money without any clear vision of what it will be spend for the roadmap would show a clear target and what they can expect from funding. Or if there is any kind of money already available by the Elgg Foundations or whomever it would solve the problem on whom to provide money for contributing to Elgg core. Any money would only be spend on the BIG stuff changes on the roadmap.

    Well. Now I have written it down nevertheless even if my thought seem not polished yet. So I'll just click on the reply button for now...

  • i think a features thread would be better than to address your whole point here. however, the issues the organisational and funding parts are relevant here, for sure.

  • Why not look at the business model that XenForo Community has in-place. I'm sorry folk but we have been trying to use elgg as a social network for the last year and were just about ready to give up. Instead of being open source, the main code for elgg can stay open source but if you have people writing code in return for a fee based on how good the plugin work, then you may have a winner. I mean really who wants to work on skins, widgets, plugins and other tools for elgg unless they can be rewarded.



  • I agree with his early statement that elgg has endless amount of problems. Fix one thing and break 5, reminds me of vbulletin.

  • @TSZ_2015, XenForo License $140*. Includes 12 months of ticket support and upgrades. Support and upgrade access can currently be extended for...

    If that is what you want elgg license to sound or look like then I can surely say that that elgg will lose its place on the globe as a free open source. Are there some changes needed in elgg license to minimise abuse by corporations or commercial entities? Absolutely.

    There are several commercial social networks around, all of them have something in common --- fork out more money and fork more money for every little change the user needs.

    The founders of elgg had a vision for elgg and current core and plugin developers should not rush to change elgg towards commercialization machine.

  • If we had a ecosystem that people could charge for plugins, services, etc... Officially on this website that is. We could attract developers developing for Elgg, because there is something in it for them. More active developers means more popularity, means more users, more developers, more people working on core...

    Maybe even x percent of every plugin sold by the system can go to some fund for core developers.

    I would be more then happy to pay for something I use.

    As far as donations go. I would donate, gladly, but since it is open source I'm building with it. And I will donate whenever I've launched the damn thing and it appears that I'm not in an endless money eating pit myself.
    At this moment I'd like to have a little system for myself that whenever I launch my network, and I earn something from it so that server costs are covered. I will share percentages of my first years revenue in the form of donations to the open-source plugin developers my network uses and that includes the foundation, and I really will do that.
    But so far, nothing is launched yet.


  • Guys, while we are talking about the license's future of Elgg, some people have distribute and sell it as own product.
    And this 'developer' has a profile on Elgg community.
    He completely copied references even.
    I wasn't too lazy and poked around in code and I can say that this is a completely copied code of Elgg.
    The violator simply deleted the mention about Elgg but I found evidence that this is an Elgg in at least two places (strings 27 and 83).
    Although for developers don't need this even, - just look at the classes and functions, the structure of the DB....
    I found a stolen code for some plugins also (for example, early versions of hypeWall version).
    One thing that can be envied only is 'business model' to distribute a free and premium version ;)

  • Yeah, on first glance it looks like they even copied our community's terms, which are probably copyrighted.

    A reference to elgg_get_plugins_path() on the first day of the repo.