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?

  • I don't have any problem with making money developing software for paying clients. I do it myself!

    However, having said that,  I think that there are significant legal issues involved in distributing plugins for GPL software under anything other than a GPL license.

    I'm not a lawyer, but take a look at this:

    This does suggest that you need to be very careful in checking GPL business plans with a lawyer if you want to sell software (as opposed to selling development time, which is quite different).

  • I totally agree with some of the recent comments up here.

    For those who have posted their opinions on how Elgg-related PlugIns should be made available for free --  I totally agree.

    I have a list of PlugIns I need to get my Web Site started and going so that I can make some more money. So please - those who have said that Elgg PlugIns should be free and not charged for - please contact me so that I can have you guys spend your time developing PlugIns for me, which will for free. And I will be happy.

    For those who have said it is okay to charge for developing PlugIns - I will get in touch with you as I need something done so that I can pay you for your time.

    Either way I will be very happy with both types of people because I will have Elgg PlugIns in my possesion under GPL license -- which happens to say ==> "


    If I know someone has a copy of a GPL-covered program, can I demand he give me a copy?

    No. The GPL gives him permission to make and redistribute copies of the program if he chooses to do so. He also has the right not to redistribute the program, if that is what he chooses.


  • Dhrup has a good point which is that if I develop a piece of software for a paying client, and license it to them under the GPL, neither of us have to give it to anyone. On the other hand, neither of us can stop the other from selling it or giving it away for free if we choose to do so.

  • True, but of course anyone who purchases a piece of GPL'd software can then give it away for free. So counting on a reliable market when selling GPL'd software may not be the best business plan. Normally what people are really purchasing when they buy GPL'd software is support rather than the software itself.

  • No disagreements from me on that point, Kevin. There just seems to be a lot of people who believe selling GPL licensed software is violating the license somehow.

  • OK I think we are all agreeing to disagree for our own justified reasons, as it seems every few days from the last post, it will rear it's head again and that doesn't help any of us, no?

    So let's stop the discussion's about who is right or wrong, as mentioned we all have our justified reasons why we feel so strongly about this particular issue.

    How's about we move on to and ONLY this, how can we solve the differing opinions, understanding of GPL and it's pros / cons and more over how we can all put something forward that's feasible, viable and future proof's this area for elgg founders, elgg community users and elgg based site end users?

    Would it be worth closing off this discussion now vazco, still enabling people to read up on the plethora of replies and start a new group that is clearly marked as, something like

    "For The Forwarding Of & Developing An Action Plan For Free Based Plugins & Commercial Upgrade Plugins To Run In Harmony Alongside Each Other In The Elgg Community"?

    This group would then only cover factual based knowledge of GPL for example and not our personal beliefs which has been clearly made by many of us in this discussion. Then if the consensus that plugin developing (Commercial) contravene's the GPL in anyway, If that happened, how do we look to alter commercial plugin developers way of working that ultimately would adhere to every angle of GPL, keep those who are against it happy. Whilst also enabling developers of commercial mods who have the ability to do so, to charge modest development time fee's / spread for their work that the elgg community still recieves the chance to place on their elgg sites etc?

    Just trying to think a little out of the box, as this topic will never cease with full agreement between everybody, so if not in the above thought way, how can we take this discussion and think pro actively about finding a solution for EVERYBODY concerned, no matter what our personal beliefs are. :)


  • For those will post back without reading *the GNU group's  - here it is, before you post asking for "free" open source Elgg PlugIns

    Many people believe that the spirit of the GNU project is that you should not charge money for distributing copies of software, or that you should charge as little as possible — just enough to cover the cost.

    Actually we encourage people who redistribute free software to charge as much as they wish or can. If this seems surprising to you, please read on.

    The word “free” has two legitimate general meanings; it can refer either to freedom or to price. When we speak of “free software”, we're talking about freedom, not price. (Think of “free speech”, not “free beer”.) Specifically, it means that a user is free to run the program, change the program, and redistribute the program with or without changes.

    Free programs are sometimes distributed gratis, and sometimes for a substantial price. Often the same program is available in both ways from different places. The program is free regardless of the price, because users have freedom in using it.

    Since free software is not a matter of price, a low price isn't more free, or closer to free. So if you are redistributing copies of free software, you might as well charge a substantial fee and make some money. Redistributing free software is a good and legitimate activity; if you do it, you might as well make a profit from it.

    Free software is a community project, and everyone who depends on it ought to look for ways to contribute to building the community. For a distributor, the way to do this is to give a part of the profit to the Free Software Foundation or some other free software development project. By funding development, you can advance the world of free software.

    Distributing free software is an opportunity to raise funds for development. Don't waste it!

    In order to contribute funds, you need to have some extra. If you charge too low a fee, you won't have anything to spare to support development.

    High or low fees, and the GNU GPL

    Except for one special situation, the GNU General Public License (GNU GPL) has no requirements about how much you can charge for distributing a copy of free software. You can charge nothing, a penny, a dollar, or a billion dollars. It's up to you, and the marketplace, so don't complain to us if nobody wants to pay a billion dollars for a copy.

    Free software is about freedom, and enforcing the GPL is defending freedom. When we defend users' freedom, we are not distracted by side issues such as how much of a distribution fee is charged. Freedom is the issue, the whole issue, and the only issue.

  • Dhrup - You've nailed the doubters with the proof and now I for one am happy that it's there in black n white on the screen, maybe just maybe we can all move on with what we each do best in our fields and 1. Help Elgg grow, 2. Enhance our own sites with the Elgg platform and 3. Make our own site's users speechless at the features, funcionality and pure wow that we all decide to deliver to them or not as the case maybe. :)

  • I've just always found it blantantly "bush league" to charge for open source software (especially plug-ins).  Do what you want, charge what you can get, but I still think it looks tacky.

    I'm reminded of the X-Box Media Center project.  It's really phenomenal software.  The development has been on-going for years and is absolutely solid and amazing.  It's absolutely free of charge.  But on the iTunes store, a developer is charging $2 for a X-Box Media Center controller for the iPhone.  Basically a plethora of very skilled coders and developers have put out amazing software for free, but some guy writes a small plugin based on their framework and charges.  I just think that looks so tacky.  The community gives, so give back, if you can.

    I've spent 10-12 years purchasing audio recording hardware and software.  I'd say that my project studio has somewhere in the ball park of $10k put in to it.  I have yet to formally charge anyone.  I've accepted t-shirts, hugs, and small donations when insisted, but never have I offered anything other than a free service.  And it's not because the product is poor, or that I am rich and don't need the money; it's because I record and produce music because I was influenced by my local music community to get in to this in the first place.  It's a circle of life kind of thing. 

    There are plenty of programming platforms to develop commercial software for.  I was hoping Elgg would be a little bit more "open community".  But, I know the entire world doesn't view things the way I do.  But it's just, in a word: disappointing.

    For what it's worth, I would pay for a fully functional Elgg to PHPBB3 integration module.  So I can see both sides of the coin.  It would just be really cool if people were offering those kinds of things to the community. ;)