Developing plugins for money - advantages and disadvantages

You can find original discussion here:


Just to follow on my comment re the front page commercial mod and charging for mods to be used on  open source platforms.

If you and other mod developers charge for mods that are created for open source platforms in the thoughts that you should be rewarded for your time and effort, then does this not mean that dave and everyone who created elgg and are working hard to advance the system for free should charge for additional updates and only supply the original core platform for free?

trademark an hour ago

In case there was any doubt about this, Curverider, the developers of Elgg, do have paying clients. LIke many other open source developers, they release much of their paid work as free plugins with their client's blessing.

Kevin Jardine 35 minutes ago

This is a discussion that will always popup on opensource projects. There are always people who will try to make money, but that is a good situation. It means that people are going to take the product seriously.

On the other hand, if everyone would charge money for their plugins, then Elgg wouldn't be that good/popular/accessible as it is right now. The best thing we could wish for is that people pay us for development, and that we could share with the community for free. I'm trying to do just that.

If you are trying to make a living out of Elgg, you need to charge money for your work. This can be done in various ways. Vazco's way is one of them. Dave's team also can't do it for free (check out

Just a side note, vazco published his main_pagewidgets plugin under GPLv2, so you can use it and modify it so it will work without the limitations. GPL is also one of the terms of uploading plugins on

Jeroen Dalsem 29 minutes ago

Jeroen has made an important point. Open source developers can develop a business (and feed their families) by charging for development time, not for software. Many of my plugins have features paid for by multiple paying clients. That way the software just gets better and better and everyone benefits.

(Why is this a page by the way? Forum posts can be edited, but not page comments ...)

Kevin Jardine 18 minutes ago


Cost of developing the mainpage widgets mod would be 100-150$ if I couldn't resell it. This is the cost not everyone can afford. This what I give to people by writing commercial mods is a choice. Everyone can buy a mod which otherwise would not exist in the community, and can buy it  for one tenth of it's development price. They can also download demo versions without the full functionality for free, under the GPL license.

If I couldn't make money from my work, I wouldn't write plugins. I think everyone's work should be appreciated. Curverider earns money, and they created Elgg to earn money. They serve big companies and organizations. My aim is to help those who don't have so much money to afford Curverider's complex services. Noone here is a non-proffit organization. People who use Elgg, very often do it for money as well.

If I didn't take money from my work, my work simply would not be available in the community. My plugins give people better choice. They give chance to develop plugins for a smaller fees as well.

vazco 18 minutes ago

Kevin, your way is good too. I already created a few plugins which were paid by the development time.

This what I did with the vazco_mainpage is an experiment. When payed for a development, one person pays for something everyone uses. Commercial plugins allow to split the costs. I plan to get similar proffit from the commercial plugins that I would get from the plugins I develop for the client.


We can move this discussion to the forum. Do you know any group suitable for this?

vazco 9 minutes ago

Perhaps the plugin development forum?

  • Tino, the 'demo' plugins that I release to the community are under the GPL license.

    This what you call a 'partially working code' took me two weeks to develop in case of vazco_gmap, and two days in case of the vazco_mainpage. There are already 125 downloads in case of the mainpage plugin, while only 5 people bought the full version (two of them before it was created). The rest is using the 'unfunctional demo' I assume.

    I think it's better those plugins are available in the community in the version without some features, than if they were not in the community at all.

    I'm not sure what's your goal. Do you want me to develop plugins for free? This is something that I can't afford. Or do you want me to stop developing plugins for Elgg at all?

  • It's not likely you'll find a professional developer who for free extends my GPL licensed plugin to the functionality that the full version has with the quality that my commercial plugin has, and with the same guarantee of technical support.


    If you fund the plugin's development in it's full cost however, I'll be very happy to release the commercial plugins I created to the community for free. Just like Kevin has done with his Calendar and Forms plugin, or like I have done in the past.

  • No that is not my goal at all. You have misunderstood. This is why I think the title dosent say what some people have against the way the plugin was presented.

    It is understandable that you need to get paid. It is also understandable that developers develop plugins for money. I understand that as I have done a bit of paid work myself. Where I think people have issues with is the fact that you released a demo plugin to the public, with limited functionality... stating the full features of a Commercial plugin which has the complete functionality...that needs to be paid for.

    I think it would be better to state JUST the functionality of the plugin you released without any mention of having to pay for something with more functionality. Or without advertising features that are not available on the demo.

    If all developers start doing that, what precedence would that give?

  • Tino, advertisement is the only thing that makes releasing plugins under GPL versions proffitable for me. If I couldn't advertise, I would not make the GPL versions.

    I doubt other developers start releasing plugins on my terms, since it's less proffitable than creating plugins for individual clients that want to have professional sites.

    I worked on Elgg for two months now, and I developed plugins for various users. Most of those plugins were not released to the community, because it's funders didn't allow it. Maybe if developers would release the plugins on the terms that I did, those plugins would be available for 5-30$, not for 50-300$ (since that is usually the minimal development cost). I suppose this could be actually better for the community (since there will be always people who release plugins for free).


    Also, with time, the GPL versions would probably take more and more functionalities from the commercial versions, as the latter develope.

  • @ tino

    I think it would be better to state JUST the functionality of the plugin you released without any mention of having to pay for something with more functionality. Or without advertising features that are not available on the demo.

    I VERY strongly disagree with your overall assumption above. You mention you have developed plugins in the past, I think you need to take OFF your developer hat and wear the hat of a pure out and out NON developer, who is only confident with html and tweaking plugins once they are created, say css alterations to get what one wants from an already developed plugin that one installs before you comment so wrongfully.

    NON DEVELOPERS who use elgg and put it to use as a new angle for their business or hobby site and whom don't posess core coding skills in php and more languages, will much more prefer to have a demo version of plugins with limited functionality to install it live and with the explanation of the plugin, see for themselves roughly what it will do. Seeing something in action is like a well known fact of the internet and viewing websites for e.g. "A Graphic Speaks A Thousand Words"....

    A Demo half functional plugin at times, speaks a thousand words to newbies and non core developer elgg users....

    Ending with if the person likes what he / she see's live on their own site, with their own installation of said plugins in their own time and not just from...

    better to state JUST the functionality of the plugin

    It then gives them an opportunity to purchase certain plugins they certainly couldn't write themselves, whilst having the ability to further their elgg site's functionality, features and ALL for their end users!!!!

    In summary of the above, your argument / opinion based upon your last comment is flawed in my honest opinion.

  • You mention you have developed plugins in the past, I think you need to take OFF your developer hat and wear the hat of a pure out and out NON developer, who is only confident with html and tweaking plugins once they are created, say css alterations to get what one wants from an already developed plugin that one installs before you comment so wrongfully.

    Rob, if it makes you feel better to think of me as a non-developer or code-hacker, so be it. As long as you sleep better. But that isnt my issue now. Lets assume I am not a developer.

    Would you agree that this is the first or one of the few plugin(s) we have seen here that is placed with the sole pupose of advertising something commercial? I am a user of many plugins. I have downloaded and installed them too. But I have never come across one that advertises a commercial one. I have seen developers in google groups saying they would develop plugins if they were sponsored. I have never seen a publicly available plugin that advertises a commercial plugin through a demo. This is why we are questioning it. This is why it is an issue. Because it is not the norm. We have never seen it concerning Elgg.

  • Speaking as somone who constantly commissions Elgg plug-ins, but doesnt personally have the skills to develop my own, I support the provision of commercial plug-ins.

    We on the whole build our own, as we operate to a coding standard designed to preserve aspects such as our site's SEO model. We also sometimes modify GPL plug-ins to conform to our coding standards, and we also often make our plug-ins available under GPL.

    Both Open Source plug-ins and commercial ones have a role. I think the terms under which a plug-in is offered is entirely the business of the person providing it, and if you dont like the terms, you dont have to use the plug-in.

    I also have no objection to "demo" or "community edition plug-ins being posted as teaser content into more full-featured commercial plug-ins.


    I am interested though in the community's thoughts on one issue- if GPL plug-ins are listed on this basis, should there be some modest contribution to Curverider for providing the marketing mechanism? Effectively the Elgg community site is being used commercially in terms of marketing, and to the extent commercial benefit is derived I think this might be a sound principle. Curverider after all provide this infrastructure for free, and the entire community benefit from ensuring that Curvrider has the financial resources to continue to develop the core and the community infrastructure.

    Perhaps Curverider could provide a "plug-in store" that explicitly facilitates such activity, provides active marketing support, derives an afilate/re-seller commission, and imposes an etiquette about how these plugin are reflected the GPL listings. Features such as filters to categorise plug-ins as "All", "GPL", "Commercial" etc would also help resolve any sensitivities by giving user the option to opt-in or opt out of being exposed to commercial solicitation. Could perhaps even provide license adminsitration and payment facilities to actively support such activity.  

    I for one have no objection to paying for plug-ins where their quality and features justify it- it ultimately saves me money. By the same token, I expect to reciprocate by contributing both GPL and commercial plug-ins, the distinction being about my willingness to commit to support them on an ongoing basis and the level of complexity required to operate them. 

    These are all personal preferences, and by definition valid to the individual. I think as a community we should try an embrace all activity with the potential to deliver benefit, and actively support people who are committed to Elgg, on whatever basis they chose to operate subject only to some basic code of conduct and compliance with a defined community etiquette.

    Just like in the real world, we all come to the table with slightly different priorities and motivations, but that doesnt mean we cant agree social norms that allow us all to peacefully and constructively co-exist- needs to be a "multi-cultural society" to get the best out of everyones input and creativity. 

    Interested to hear other people's ideas!

  • @: tino - No need to get all pedantic is there, you either understand your points that you're trying to put forward from BOTH sides of the coin "Non Code Hacker" and "Code Hacker", I was simply trying to make you think out of the box regarding your thoughts.

    I don't have time to get in to long winded debates about trivial matters, that in the big scheme of things are not affecting more than a handful of elgg'ers, one of which includes you it seems.

    Time is money, even when one isn't making any!

    However I do have time to contribute further thought and dialogue @ keny's actual suggestion of a possible solution, maybe a vote / poll could be setup inside this discussion that can run for say a month. This to let CurveRider, Code Hackers who make fully free based, demo based and commercial plugins and non Code Hackers all have a say in any forward movement to resolve differing opinions on this subject and to ultimately enhance elgg'ers experiences once they come to use this platform.

    P.S. "It is not the norm" ... There will always be a small minority of a population be it online or offline that argue and detest change.

  • I like your suggestion,keny and appreciate that you maintained a mature approach. I would support the creation of a different area for such plugins. Or a requirement for plugin developers to select whether they are demo or full. The way Joomla extensions are published comes to mind. Developers have to state whether they are commercial,GPL etc.

    There is a gap between what people want(which Elgg cant fully provide) and what developers can offer(which they cant freely). Curvrider cant develop ALL the plugins, and developers also desire to make money off Elgg through their skills. It was a matter of time before this came out.

    This plugin presented something new in Elgg, and has drawn comments and emotions for good reason. It isnt a grand scheme of us against them. People will freely express themselves. I still insist that the title is still not appropriate. But I do hope that some conclusion is reached which benefits everyone

  • Rob, minority is often the loudest. Minority is often very important too :) I hope I explained my arguments clearly, I don't think I have any more. I hope I answered most important questions and doubts. Thus, I don't plan to participate in this discussion any more.


    Keny, your idea is very interresting. I would be interrested in creating plugins under curverider's wing, should they provide some kind of PayPal integration, and security of the code - even for a percentage of profits. So would probably some other developers. I suppose most of the people in this community are not able, or not willing to pay for the commercial plugins though. Maybe the community is too small.