Thursday, 27 September 2012

Interesting Times for Forum Owners

Interesting times in the world of forums at the moment. I've written about being a vBulletin customer previously, but now that time might come to an end. Internet Brands, the company who own the rights to vBulletin, have announced plans to release vBulletin 5. However there are two problems with this from my perspective:

  1. A demonstration copy of this has been released, and to say the least it isn't very impressive, mostly in terms of performance.
  2. The cost to upgrade is $249. As a UK resident I would need to add 20% VAT onto that, and even with a discount for upgrading it is still a significant financial hit for someone like me. Paying for vBulletin 4 was a stretch, the cost for vBulletin 5 might have finally priced me out.

In addition to those two points there is also what they mean together. As a customer why reward an inferior product by paying to use it? The only way as a customer to show that a product is not good enough is to not buy it, that is the only thing a company will understand.

From what I've seen the most viable option is a product called Xenforo. It has a high entry price and then has an annual support fee for a more manageable price. It is reminiscent of the pricing plan that vBulletin used to have, and that probably isn't an accident. There are a number of people within the Xenforo team who used to work on vBulletin before it was taken over by Internet Brands.

Now whether it is related to that point or not, there is an enormous amount of friction between Internet Brands and the team behind Xenforo. There is an ongoing lawsuit which has been served by Internet Brands which will go to court in January of 2013. However at the present time development on Xenforo has slowed to a crawl, partly due to the ongoing litigation and partly due to what are at least perceived to be personal issues among the Xenforo team.

So what is the answer if you're someone like me? Well my personal preference is to keep up to date on security patches for vBulletin 4, sit tight on any present buying decisions and see what develops. It needs to be seen what will take place in regard to Xenforo, because if they are able to continue and offer commitment towards development they will probably be the product I move to. However the present litigation is a big cloud over the product at the present time.

Waiting isn't a particularly fun thing to do, and however much I'd like to get a hold of a copy of Xenforo and play around with it this doesn't feel like the right time to do that. I cannot realistically invest in a product for whom the future appears to be insecure at present. That is my right as a buyer, and something which Xenforo must address, in the same way that vBulletin should address quality and pricing issues if they feel that is an issue for them, although unfortunately it looks as if repeat business and past reputation is allowing them to continue with a disappointing product.