In response to concerns by their customers (as well as non-customers, Slashdot readers, and pretty much anyone with a blog and an opinion), Six Apart has modified the pricing structure for the Personal Edition of Movable Type 3. A couple of quick thoughts on this:
1. Six Apart is listening to their customers. Based on the specific concerns of their customers, they updated their pricing in just two days time. That Six Apart has sincerely listened to their customers in the past and continues to do so as a quickly growing company seeking to sustain itself is worth some goodwill on our part toward 6A. Many other companies wouldn’t have bothered.
Our best explanation for the tiering is that we feel a personal user who sets up weblogs for 50 of his friends should pay more for a license than one who uses only one weblog for himself.
Someone hosting 50 people should pay more, but that should be handled as a non-personal situation on a case-by-case basis. What I feel is happening instead is that 6A is offloading a business problem of theirs that concerns only a small portion of their user base (i.e. the folks hosting 50 friends on one install) to all of their customers. Because of a few potential offenders, customers have to deal with pricing tiers, definitions of weblogs and users, keeping track of how many active weblogs and users they have, upgrading their licenses when they add authors or weblogs, etc. We shouldn’t have to do that. I don’t want to get out my credit card every time I want to add a guest author to my weblog. Do I get a refund if I purchase a 13 weblog/13 author license but 10 of those authors and 7 of those weblogs are inactive after 90 days?**
The solution is to make it as straightforward as possible for customers. In addition to the free version (1 author, 3 weblogs), offer the Personal Edition for $70-$100 for unlimited weblogs and authors with the condition that too many (10? 20?) “weblogs for friends” will be considered non-personal use of the software and will be subject to extra fees. That way, the customer’s ownership of the product is vastly simplified and the burden of dealing with the non-personal use of the Personal Edition shifts back to 6A where it belongs.
** The license states that after 90 days of inactivity, weblogs and authors don’t count toward the pricing limits.