Last week WooThemes made a pretty big, and controversial, announcement regarding policy changes to their WooCommerce extension platform. The changes include increased prices, a consolidated licensing system, dropping their unlimited pricing tiers in favor of a 25-site license tier, and capping support and updates at one year. They also grandfathered any purchase made before their announcement to receive support and updates for 2 years. The lifetime purchase that many people had made was now good for 2 years. This was a big change for a lot of people, as you can see from the roughly 500 comments on the original post.
A few days later the WP Avengers entered the scene. As a premium WooCommerce extension developer the site immediately caught my attention. The site’s owner, the self-dubbed Captain Woo (seriously), plans to make a membership based site in which the subscribers will have access to 36 WooCommerce Extensions. There are a lot of problems with this plan, so let’s look at a few of those issues.
Selling WooCommerce Extensions They Didn’t Create
One of the biggest problems is that Captain Woo is actually selling WooCommerce Extensions that he didn’t create. Not only is he selling these extensions in his membership bundle, but he doesn’t actually tell the potential customers this fact. Yes, all of the extensions are released under the GPL, so technically there are probably no laws being broken, but shouldn’t the customer know what’s going on? If you were purchasing a premium software product from a website, wouldn’t you want to know if the website owners didn’t actually create that product? Of course you would!
Supporting WooCommerce Extensions
Now that we know Captain Woo is taking other devs’ extensions and reselling them, he also boasts that he will fully support these extensions going forward. This includes not only bug fixes, but also new features and premium support. I’ve been developing WordPress plugins for a long time. I’ve even written the highest rated book on WordPress Plugin development. I can promise you that maintaining 36 extensions, regardless of how basic they may be, is a monumental task. What if WooCommerce makes a change that affects every single extension available? What if WordPress makes a similar change? Are you trusting that a guy named Captain Woo is going to have the time and resources to update every single extension, thoroughly test those updates, maintain some form of backwards compatibility, and deploy in a timely manner?
Getting Back at WooCommerce
It’s obvious with the WP Avengers smear campaign website that Captain Woo wants to hurt WooThemes directly. The problem is, that’s not what they are doing. They are hurting the extension developers, who are not WooThemes employees, by stealing the products they’ve spent hundreds, if not thousands, of hours developing and supporting. The good majority of extensions listed are developed by third-party developers, not WooThemes. If you really wanted to get back at WooThemes, why not fork WooCommerce directly? Better yet, why not create your own E-Commerce platform for WordPress? CaptainCommerce, that’ll show ’em!
Good People Don’t Hide
If there’s one thing I’ve learned about online business: NEVER buy from a source who stays anonymous. A real business is not anonymous. A real person is not anonymous. Hiding behind a name like Captain Woo (I shake my head every time I write that name) proves that whoever is behind this idea knows what they are doing is wrong. They knew there would be a huge backlash so they decided to hide behind their mask and cape.
Run Away as Fast as You Can
Just reading some of the comments on the original Torque article, Postat.us, and Twitter, it’s obvious that anyone associated with the WP Avengers is going to have a bad time. Developers should stay clear of getting involved with Captain Woo and his team of misfits (assuming there is a team). Customers should absolutely stay clear of ever joining a site like this. This is a lose-lose situation for all involved and I really hope it dies quickly.
In the words of The Dude, “You’re not wrong, you’re just an asshole.”
Brad Williams is the co-founder of WebDevStudios.com, a co-host on the DradCast podcast, and the co-author of Professional WordPress (1E & 2E) and Professional WordPress Plugin Development. Brad is also one of the organizers of the Philadelphia WordPress Meetup Group andWordCamp Philly. Brad blogs at http://strangework.com and tweets at @williamsba.