I didn’t expect this post to have a sequel, but I guess it does. My other website is in need of a redesign, so I was going to go with a product that I have used many times: Community Server. It gives me a blog framework and a download section, which is primarily what I needed it for.
I had recently used Community Server (CS) at work and actually blogged a little about it. We ended up not using it, but at that time when I was evaluating it, I was kind of surprised at how expensive it had gotten. I mean thousands of dollars expensive. We were lucky that for our needs we fell under the Express license, which was free. I don’t think we could have justified the expense to buy it.
So today I went back to the CS website to get the latest Express version for my personal site. The web site had changed dramatically and I didn’t see any references to Community Server. It was so different, I couldn’t even tell they sold a community product. A short bit of browsing later, I found out they eliminated the Express version – they had no free version anymore. I discovered this news in a support forum and the post had a lot of links to other posts for more information. But to read those posts, you had to login. Luckily, I already had an account from previous dealings with them, but for others, how crappy is it that you have to sign up to learn you’re being denied.
Ok, so now we understand. Your product is now too good for normal people. You only care about BIG companies. Ones that can afford what must be obscenely-priced products. In fact, the price must be so obscene, you have to convince people to buy it. How do I know that? Because you can’t buy the damn product without talking to a sales person. There’s no shopping cart. If you actually showed the prices on the website, you’d get no customers at all. That reminds me of the shock I got when I was evaluating the CS product the last time. I recall a company representative being displeased that someone had leaked the pricing onto their forums (where I and many others could see it).
By eliminating the free version, they also eliminated a dedicated group of users who would give back to the community (there’s that word again) by posting enhancements and extensions to the base CS product. I did make my own small enhancement, but I never posted it, since it wasn’t really practical for many people. I also participated in a couple forum discussions and shared some code with others, so I gave back a little. With less people using the product (because they priced them right out), they will find the support from other users to shrink proportionally. I hope their internal support team is ready for this. And when people pay 5 figures for software, they expect a high level of service and support.
So how well is this strategy working for them? Their latest update to the community product has had 123 downloads in almost a month. Compare this to thousands of downloads when their pricing structure favored small businesses and hobbyists. And the funny part is the download has been rated at 2 out of 5 stars! Oh how funny, their database is down as I write this. No downloads, no forums, no support.
Now they are no longer going to be able to call themselves the biggest, most-used, most-popular anymore. But what enterprise software uses the term “popular” anyway? They’re just so beyond that. And so…
Farewell, Community Server.