The future of Akeeba Subscriptions

 

Executive summary: Akeeba Subscriptions will be rewritten with a much simpler and smaller feature set and its paid version and support will be discontinued in 2014. Existing clients will continue to receive support and bug fixes for a limited time, but no feature requests will be fulfilled. Read on for the full details.

NOTE: Further clarifications can be found towards the end of this article.

Dear all,

Akeeba Subscriptions has been an unsustainable endeavour for us. We’ve spent nearly four years in its development but it is still not making enough money to cover its month-to-month costs for development, maintenance and support – let alone cover the costs of the time we have already spent on it. We’ve tried very hard to make it sustainable but no matter what we tried we failed. Akeeba Subscriptions has been a big black hole, sucking our resources and hampering our ability to develop new features on the software that matters the most: Akeeba Backup and Admin Tools.

It is with great sorrow and pain that we have decided to discontinue Akeeba Subscriptions in its current form. We won’t be abandoning its development outright –we use it to power our own business– but its current commercial and supported nature has got to cease. It will be redesigned and relaunched as a developer’s product. This process will begin on November 2013 and be rolled out in phases over the first few months of 2014.

In the very first phase, effective November 3rd, 2013, we will discontinue subscription levels which include Akeeba Subscriptions. The AKEEBASUBS and COMMERCE subscription levels will be removed from our site and the DELUXE pricing will drop to 80 Euros and no longer include Akeeba Subscriptions. Existing clients to these subscription levels will continue to receive support and bug fixes, but any feature requests will not be fulfilled.

We are currently in a late development phase for Akeeba Subscriptions 3.3. As promised, it will be released in mid- to late-November 2013, most likely in the third week of the month. We expect one or two maintenance releases to be published until the end of 2013. These will be the last releases of Akeeba Subscriptions. Support for it will be provided until June 2014 and only for using with Joomla! 2.5 / 3.2 on PHP 5.3 / 5.4. After this point in time the download area and the support category will be removed from our site.

Please note that there will be no refunds for existing users of Akeeba Subscriptions whatsoever. Per our support policy we only issue refunds if a product becomes discontinued within 30 days of purchase. Akeeba Subscriptions will be discontinued eight months after the last user bought a subscription for it. We would like to have extended that offer to 12 months, but on or around June 2014 the supported Joomla! versions (2.5 and 3.2) will be discontinued by the Joomla! project and PHP 5.4 will be end of life (PHP 5.3 is already end of life). As a result there will be no supported server environment for our software any more, therefore we can't offer any support. Sorry about that.

Starting mid-November we enter phase two. We are determined to do a massive feature cleanup and partial rewrite of the component, calling it version 4. We are going to remove most payment processor and integration plugins: maintaining over a hundred of them within any degree of quality assurance has been impossible. As it was originally intended, the only integration we will include will be the Joomla! user groups one. It’s been over 3 years since Joomla! 1.6, bearing the first full-fledged ACL implementation, was released. It makes no sense supporting components which have still to be updated to these coding standards. As for the payment processors, we intend to keep only the three PayPal plugins and the two payment plugins (2Checkout and PayMill) we use on our own site.

Moreover we are going to be cleaning up several features, especially the duplicated ones, e.g. upgrade rules will be removed in favour of subscription level relations. Some features, especially those in the subscription levels, that make management overcomplicated will be removed. The resulting component will be much lighter and far less complicated. We are returning to our original goal of providing a dead simple very basic subscriptions component. If you need a complex workflow we urge you to seek a solution from another developer such as (in no particular order) PayPlans, AEC, CBsubs or nBill.

This rewrite is expected to take several months. The resulting code will be available free of charge on GitHub, along with instructions on building the component yourself. Every time we have reached a stable point we will be tagging it in GitHub, but we will no longer be providing installable packages or one click updates. At best, you will see the occasional dev release on our site, always marked as alpha.

It goes without saying that we will no longer be providing support or accepting feature requests for Akeeba Subscriptions 4. If you do find a bug you’re welcome to file an issue in the GitHub repository (it will be linked to in our product page on January 2014) or, better yet, submit a pull request with the bug fix.

We thank you all for your support through the nearly four years we’ve been developing Akeeba Subscriptions.

FURTHER CLARIFICATIONS – November 22nd, 2013

As there is some confusion about what is going to happen, let's put it in bullet points:

  • The software will continue to be developed. Our business depends on selling subscriptions. We can't stop developing our software, it would kill our business. In fact, what we're doing aims at making it easier for us to continue developing Akeeba Subscriptions.
  • The software will be available free of charge. Anyone will be able to fork it from GitHub. We are also going to regularly provide installable packages through our download section, in the Developer's Releases page. There will be some infrequent numbered releases as well. If you have a problem you're supposed to use the developer's release. If you see a developer's release being uploaded it means that we use it on our own site, trusting it with our business.
  • The Live Update service for Akeeba Subscriptions is discontinued. One click updates are no more. Updating the software is still easy, though. Just download a new version and install it on your site without uninstalling the old one. That's what Live Update used to do anyway, no magic was involved at all.
  • Existing versions of the software will continue to work beyond June 2014. As long as you are using Joomla! 2.5 or 3.2 on PHP 5.3 (5.3.5 or later) or 5.4 (any version) our software will work just fine. If you decide to upgrade to the next Joomla! 3.x release –it will probably be 3.3 or 3.5– or a newer Joomla! version we can't guarantee it will work. In this case you'll have to upgrade to Akeeba Subscriptions 4, with the gotcha mentioned in the next paragraph.
  • Limited support for version 3.3.x only will be provided until June 2014. As long as you're using the latest 3.3.x version of Akeeba Subscriptions and you are already a subscriber in the AkeebaSubs, Commerce or Deluxe subscription package you will still receive support from it until June 2014. We will only be able to provide support for issues regarding the use of the software and some bug reports. If a payment integration breaks, tough luck. If you want us to give you step by step instructions on how to implement your client's specs / do your work for you, it's a no-go (we never allowed that, per our support policy). If you want a feature enhancement, or new feature: no way.
  • Some features will be removed in version 4. Most payment processor plugins and integration plugins with third party software will be removed. There is already a developer interested in continuing the development of payment plugins. As for integration plugins, it's up to the developers of the respective extensions. The ones we approached didn't want to bother. They are making money out of their extensions; we make no money out of Akeeba Subscriptions. We used to bother providing the integrations (losing money), they don't want to bother (making money). Now you see why we're discontinuing those plugins. Furthermore some duplicate features (e.g. update rules, already covered by subscription level relations) will be removed to make the software easier to maintain.

You might wonder, if we're still going to develop the software why not provide support for it. When talking about support we mean if someone has trouble using the software they ask a question to us and we reply. We have observed that support requests fall into these categories:

  • Bug reports. We will still take them, fix the bugs and possibly reply to them, as we always did.
  • How to use something, in the rare case that it's not documented (these tickets can be counted on one hand...)
  • How to use something, which is already covered in our documentation. We do not want to answer these questions. That's why we religiously document every feature of the software.
  • A third party extension breaks the Javascript on the site. We can’t help with that as it’s not our software. People don't seem to understand that if they can't use our software because plugin X written by a different developer is screwing up their site is not something we are to blame for or able to fix.
  • A host (usually of the abysmally low quality) is acting weird. We can’t help with that as we’re not your host. If your host doesn't want to support you we're not responsible for that. Many people don't get this and give us hell for having the audacity to require at least PHP 5.3.5 (which was released FIVE YEARS AGO; what the bloody hell was your host's tech team doing for so long?!) or for requiring your server to be able to –surprise!– communicate with the payment processors' servers. I mean, come on. If your host is absolute garbage how are we supposed to work around it? With magic? We're developers, not Harry Potter!
  • People giving us the client project’s spec and demanding us to give them step by step instructions. This is not support, it’s consultancy. Consultancy is very specialised and very expensive. People don't want to pay extra for it. Sorry, it won't work. Consultancy costs big bucks and it's something you have to factor in to your proposal to the client. If you can't afford it, spend your time. If you have neither the time to figure it out nor the money to pay for consultancy then don't take the client's project. Why should we bear the cost of your decision –and share none of the profits– is beyond us.
  • People demanding us to implement bespoke features for free, features that have nothing to do with our software, were never promised to be in the software and which we obviously can’t develop for free. People get angry at us when we tell them we can't be their free of charge coding slaves and we definitely can’t spend weeks per client for approximately €0.02 per hour (without taking into account updates and support).

As you see most of the "support requests" we receive are not support requests. They are demands for free consultancy. Consultancy costs. All other subscription extensions' developers charge by the hour for support, on top of the subscription fee to get their software. We can now see why. We didn't want to go there, so we are discontinuing support.

 

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