Just thought I'd open this topic for your thoughts. As a WordPress user and web devsigner (saw this term in a godaddy garage article), I rely heavily on plugins. I try to conduct due diligence before recommending and using the plugins. Of course the consideration of cost almost always comes in. From the profit-making side, we all want to keep costs down as much as possible. And here comes the core of the question.
Because many plugins (and themes) are based on the GPL licensing structure, how safe and ethical is it to use some of the plugin subscriptions that provide tons of resources at a ridiculously low price? Here is an example -- http://www.woogang.com
On first glance, it appears its a great deal and the explanations of how it works can be seen by just doing a search on woogang or woogang.com Keep in mind there are other sites/services that operate exactly the same way.
Here's my take - in the GPL license you are free to modify the code as you see fit. The importance of this becomes apparent in that someone can provide you a perfectly functional plugin, but within the execution other things, some being malicious, can be embedded. Since I do not want to take the time, nor am I a strong enough programmer, to fully examine the intracasies of the code I steer clear.
Part two of this, in providing support to my clients I need the support that is offered through the original authors. Most of the GPL subscriptions do not supply any sort of support. If something goes wrong and I cannot figure it out, I need the pros! Yes, it does cost, but it is my responsibility to my client that they get what they pay for when the site is deployed. I could write a customer care plan that has the "as-is" clause in it, but I just don't like delivering a business tool for a customer that may be subject to problems.
Looking forward to what our community has to say about these GPL subscription sites!
So that you can understand where I am coming from I will first say that as a design firm we receive more money per year in maintenance subscriptions than we do for design. Typically our clients can spend between 5 to 10% of their total project cost in recurring maintenance costs. We complete around 30 to 70 new web projects per and have almost two hundred clients on maintenance plans. We now require that all of our web design clients commit to a maintenance contract.
Our goal is to provide our customer with the most unique and robust product to which we are capable. To that effort it is my view that plugins serve as a hindrance to our goal. Certainly there are robust and proven plugins but it is a literal wild west atmosphere with regard to plugins. In the past we have taken over plugins we thought useful that were abandoned by their authors but as a service to us and our client ANY plugin we use is gone through line by line. There is some really abnormal things in some of these plugins if you take a look. Not everything you find is malicious but certainly you will note things like, extra code, badly written code, bad documentation, strange calls, security problems... Sometimes (like in a lot of our plugins) you will just see a bit of easter egg in the code.
We often see a nice plugin, look into the code, read the license, contact the author and modify public licensed plugins to suit our needs. Sometimes we take over the plugin, sometimes we create a new version and occasionally we just fork the code and go in our own direction. We have even seen a premium plugin, liked the idea and the reengineered the code. I feel like all of that is fair to do, I'm only even contacting the author as a courtesy most of the time. The largest problem I have with plugins is they typically contain code that can be directly included it a template or theme. Plugins are great if your goal is to use a modularized layout but we generally will integrate those pieces.
I will also say that I do use WordPress but it is not my first choice in platform. WordPress is great for a lot of people but because of how my business is structured we don't see a lot of the benefits plugins provide. If there is a client request we will design and support WordPress based websites. Please understand that I am in no way bashing WordPress, it is just not my first choice as a platform.
I feel entirely responsible for any website under our maintenance and work to mitigate our exposure to risk, cost and liability. Sometimes that is manifest in our choice of platform, hosting, theme, template, plugin, client and other variables. I honestly don't see much room for the use of GPL plugins or themes in paid projects.
roy darling *my posts seem a lot shorter in my head