TL;DR: A lot of my personal time is going into supporting LivePage. To keep the quality up all new users will be asked to pay a subscription of £2.99 a year. I'll do a follow up post in 3 months time.
Back in 2011 when I was working as a Junior Developer I launched LivePage, a small chrome extension to help me develop the front-end of websites.
LivePage wasn't my first open source project, however it is one of the few that I've quietly kept maintaining. At the end of June 2016 (When LivePage was fast approaching 5 years old), LivePage had just over 26,000 Weekly Active Users (WAU). This is fantastic!
Unfortunately to keep maintaining LivePage in a manor I'd expect from any piece of software, I feel the best option is to start charging a small yearly (£2.99) fee for it. Hopefully this article will help you understand why I've made the change & where the extension is heading.
Why charge for it?
I am currently in my 2nd year of freelancing full time, one of the lessons I've learnt in the last year is that I have to prioritise my compensated work, otherwise my cashflow quickly becomes unstable which will snowball any levels of stress.
In the last few months LivePage is slowly taking up quite a bit of my personal time. The main bulk of this time is spent simply answering emails, the majority of which are just a matter of helping developers with their setup or clarifying exactly what LivePage does. I'm happy to help other developers, but currently providing support has failed to provide any financial or tangible compensation.
I also want to improve the extension, I can do some of the things myself, however if LivePage has a small budget then I can easily justify hiring someone who specialises in what needs to be done (be it copy, translation or design), which will be even better for the end users.
Why not sell it outright?
Every other month or so, I receive a request to sell LivePage outright (Normally offering $0.10 per WAU). A quick search normally suggests the buyer simply wants to inject adware into the extension. I am 100% against exposing users who have trusted me to that level of douchebaggery.
What is happen next?
It'll still stay open source, though I've updated the license to be AGPL. Basically you're allowed to poke around the code & make changes, but you can't redistribute without my permission. I think this is a fair trade off.
My main priority is to add clearer copy and expand the internationalisation, as I feel this will help LivePage reach a bigger audience. If budget permits I'd love to be able to pay copyrighters and translators to do a fantastic job & really make LivePage as friendly as possible. Furthermore I'd love to add a test suite around LivePage's functionality (when I first wrote it I knew nothing about testing) & update the syntax to be ES6.
Lastly, in 3 months time (October 2016) I'm going to publish a follow up post on how successful switching to a subscription model was. I'm going to be completely transparent on the effect on WAU numbers and how many users have subscribed to the extension.
Caveats & Sidenotes
There are very few other extensions for sale in the Chrome Web Store, I think a lot of this comes down to the nature of the extensions & Google not supporting sales in all regions. If lack of availability proves to be an issue, I will look at alternative methods of distribution, such as direct sales (Like LiveReload does). If you are unable to buy a copy, please contact me (my email address is at the bottom of this post) & I'll try my best to help.
All current users of LivePage will not have to pay, only new users. I've also setup the Chrome Web Store to allow a 30 day free trial. It's also only £2.99 a year, which I think it's a reasonable amount of ask.