A story about a board administrator’s experiences with Invision Power’s move to drop Perpetual/Lifetime licensing, and the responses from the community.
What Is Perpetual/Lifetime Licensing?
Perpetual/Lifetime licensing allowed those of us on the older Invision Power’s IP.Board software (prior to 2007) to have lifetime upgrades for as long as the product was around and only pay for support if we wanted to open support tickets. For someone that wanted to run the boards for an extended period of time and didn’t need to rely on support for anything could break even after quite a few years of operation (usually around 4 years).
The Decision To Purchase
Back in 2006 I was running a small board with a handful of users, mostly friends. I had some plans to expand the board that never really panned out, during this time Invision Power was closing out their lifetime licensing and I decided that dropping the extra cash for the software would be a worthwhile investment if I ever decided to start up a board again.
This is important, because I honestly haven’t really been using the software for the past 8 years, which sets the tone for why I feel burned. Recently I decided to investigate the use of IP.Board for a new project…
Invision Power’s Move To IPS4
So Invision Power is working on a new version of their forum software, called IPS4, it’ll consist of a “core” module and their forum software.
“With IPS4, we’ve changed directions somewhat in that IP.Board as we all know it will become a forums app within the suite. Members, profiles, search engine, ad management, spam mitigation and other key items are now part of the suite core. This allows for cleaner, more streamlined integration across the whole suite with the forums app no longer carrying the weight of the load which led to clunkier integration in the 3.x line.” – Lindy, IPS Management
Whoops, that’s how our software is technically licensed in 3.x, oh well. Sure more responsibilities are in the core, but the point still stands.
“After careful consideration, we determined the most appropriate thing to do is offer the ability for legacy customers to switch to the newest structure, free of charge — this would allow them access to anything current customers have access to. Legacy customers would receive six months free renewals, so there are no out of pocket expenses. After that period, renewals would then be $25 every six months, which would include all of the latest services such as chat and spam mitigation.” – Lindy, IPS Management
“After careful consideration, we decided to invalidate lifetime licensing and ask for more money.” Bold strategy cotton, lets see if it pays off.
“I would like to stress that these legacy licenses were only offered for 2 years – there really aren’t that many of them and even less exist today as most have converted to the new structure over the years to leverage hosted services such as spam mitigation. All told, these changes will only have a net impact on less than 4% of our license holders – of those 4% we’re not sure how many still even use their license. From IPS’ perspective, it makes sense to clean up our backend systems and rid them of 10-12yrs of accumulated coding provisions to handle different license types under different scenarios. Further, it allows us to more cleanly reintroduce our software as a true suite of community applications with seamless integration across the offerings.” – Lindy, IPS Management
If those of us with lifetime licensing don’t make up a substantial part of your customers, mind refunding that licensing then? Also, customers shouldn’t have licensed benefits revoked because you didn’t consider it in your billing software setup.
A forum member brought this up:
“The license was for IP.Board, not IP.Core + IP.Board. If IPS wanted to, they could call the forums “IP.Forums” or “IP.Discussions” starting with v4 and legacy license holders wouldn’t have any claim to it at all. Might be off of IP.Board, but since it’s a rewrite of the code and such, it could be given a different name and would be perfectly legit.” – Wolfie, Forum Contributor
However that wasn’t the case when Invision Power 2.x (around 2004) or 3.x (2009), when under both of these releases they could have just renamed the system (and if I’m not mistaken 3.x was actually rebranded to “IP.Board” from “Invision Power Board”).
Discussion link 1, discussion link 2
Further Iffy Behavior – Charging For Domain Changes
Another fee they’ve tacked on is some “administration” fee for changing your domain more than once every 6 months. In the early days of testing I hosted the site on a handful of different domains (all variances of the original domain name), it was a pain but I got the license changes done during the process. Now you pay $15.
“It’s to stop dishonest clients from “domain hopping” a licence in order to be able to get support on them all, instead of legitimately paying for support on them all.” – The Heff, Invision Power Client
That doesn’t make sense, you only get support for whatever the currently licensed and active board is. Auditing can easily track hopping, and paying $15 doesn’t prevent this (and is still much cheaper than buying multiple licenses), it barely impacts those that are stealing $200 pieces of software, and harms those that are experimenting or host multiple domains (and aren’t just reverse proxying their way to victory).
Also, this system is completely broken for lifetime license holders. Those “hacks” that make the system work are working well.
This sounds like a cash grab and less like they’re resolving an issue.
Leaving Early Adopters Out In The Cold
Mind you, the solution we’re being given is to give us a $100 credit towards a platform that we must pay $25 every 6 months for updates (something we got for free prior)! This is their “generous” offer to us (and they’re using this word so many times it’s raising my blood pressure. We get to decide if it’s generous, it’s pretty crass for you to be repeating it yourselves so often hopping we’ll parrot it back to you).
I think one of the biggest telling pieces is this bit from Lindy:
“Naturally, we consulted with our legal counsel just as a matter of due diligence and the option to simply discontinue legacy licenses without any further intervention was technically within our right, but we did not achieve our position as a respected leader in the industry by being that company. After feedback discussion from customers and other parties, we devised and fine-tuned this solution, which we think is very fair.” – Lindy, IPS Management
Pretty much telling me “yeah, we were so unsure about this we consulted a lawyer” is already pretty telling, you knew this wouldn’t go over so well you had to seek legal council.
“The goal behind this change is to allow the software and internal systems to move forward without provisions and hacks from purchases made a decade ago. When these licenses were offered, we had limited product offerings, no spam mitigation, chat, etc. Since introducing those, we’ve incorporated hack upon hack to accommodate older licenses because we genuinely do appreciate those early adopters and their purchases. Further, we had IP.Board – which was everything – the core and otherwise. In IPS4, we have a forums app, which is an independent component of the suite, much like Gallery, Blog, Nexus, Content, etc. Search engines, file/storage handling, members/profiles and much more is all part of the community suite core that all applications share. With that, the time has come to press forward for the future and we would very much like to take our early supporters with us – hence the, in my opinion, appropriately generous offer which in some cases, more or very close to the original purchase price; again, even after a decade of usage.” – Lindy, IPS Management
You’re telling me that because of your team’s inability to plan on how to support various configurations that you’re just dropping a chunk of your customers, a good chunk that is the reason you guys are here today? Your earliest adopters?
Let alone WordPress can monetize on a hybrid system of free/paid services, are you telling me Invision Power’s engineers can’t figure out how to write a system that’ll handle it?
Literally telling me they must “hack” the system to make it compatible is telling me they don’t know how to properly implement a system that’ll handle it.
Mind you these are my options if I stay with this product:
- Don’t upgrade, stop receiving updates when Invision Power stops updating 3.x, get my IP.Board install hacked.
- Upgrade, get two years free usage, then pay $50/yr after that.
At the end of the day, I’ll just find another board, but I’m sure going to recommend a long list of boards before this one now, and I’m going to feel really burned that I dropped money on the future of a product (literally), and got that taken away by the very company I gave money to.
And to leave with this tidbit:
“Please think about what the Internet has done in the past decade, how it has evolved and how we, as a company, have evolved. Ultimately, we need to move forward and we feel we’ve found a fair and just way for you to join us. We do recognize, however, that not everyone will feel that way and apologize for those ill feelings.” – Lindy, IPS Management
Literally “People are moving things to recurring payment services now, and we want a piece of that”, thanks Invision Power.