A change to licencing

It's time for an update to how bliss is licenced, and charged for. I don't do this easily; I've made two changes (to decrease the number of trial fixes, and to decrease the number of the top-up fixes) in the history of the bliss project, and the last one was over two years ago.

TL;DR: bliss will move to charging a yearly renewal fee to allow new licences to continue to work on new versions of bliss. Current customers are unaffected. But please read on and let me know your opinion...

Since bliss was started in 2009 I've provided unlimited updates for all customers. So, as an example, if you purchase the unlimited licence, you can use those unlimited "fixes" on all future versions of bliss. That means, for £30, you get continual improvements in the product forever.

This is in contrast to most downloadable, self-hosted software that requires upgrade fees for new versions. I've never liked that model, because of the artificial chunking of "major" and minor versions, delineations of what is a major new feature and what isn't, and so on. It becomes an impediment to continual improvement.

So I sided with rolling updates and unlimited updates for life. That was my promise and I'll be sticking to it for existing customers.

Unfortunately, this model of development and licencing is unsustainable unless the number of customers continually increases. Why is it unsustainable? Well, because as the total volume of bliss users increases, so do support costs, hosting costs and more. The promise of unlimited updates forever essentially becomes a debt I have committed to.

New releases of bliss average out at about one a month at the moment. In the past year I've been adding loads of new value into the product:

  • AIFF, DSF and WAV support
  • Custom rules
  • A fresh new look for the app

But all this takes development time to write and support, and so now is the time to address the debt.

So, in the next few weeks, I'll be introducing a tweaked licence model. The basic idea is the same as the old one with a 500 fix "top up" or the unlimited fixes version. However, the change is that both licences will work with new updates of bliss, but only for one year. Updates of bliss made after that year will not work with fix licences which have expired. A renewal licence will be offered which, for £9, 'unlocks' the licence and allows new updates to be used for the next year, and so on.

Let me know any questions you have about this in the comments below. Now, in anticipation of what I think will be the likely questions...

How does this affect my existing licence?

It doesn't affect it at all. Existing licence holders will be able to use their fixes in all future versions of bliss.

One caveat to that. If you have a per-fix licence and you purchase a new top-up after the introduction of the year's update limit, then you will join the new model. The workaround to that is to either purchase lots of top-ups, or upgrade to unlimited, both before the change is introduced.

I thought unlimited fixes meant unlimited?

It does. It means unlimited fixes. You'll be able to use your fixes forever without paying anything else; just that you won't be able to upgrade bliss after your one year subscription expires; unless you pay a renewal fee of £9.

As above, existing unlimited fixes users get unlimited fixes and unlimited updates.

Is this a subscription?

No. We will not store your payment details, and we won't take any money automatically.

If you purchase a licence which has a one-year update limit, we will email you when you are approaching the expiry date to renew your licence. You'll also get warnings in the app.

Do I have to do anything now?

No, existing licence holders will see no difference in service, and new licence holders will have all this stuff built in.

What about bug fixes?

It would be very rare for a major bug fix to out-live a year's subscription of updates. If one is found, we will fix it and issue an update. This, of course, depends on the definition of "major". By this I mean a bug fix which stops bliss from working entirely, with no workaround.

When will all this be started?

The code for this is actually already rolled into bliss. The next steps are to publicise the change and to populate our charging back-end to issue licences which have an update expiry date.

Before then, existing per-fix licence holders may want to upgrade to an unlimited licence to "lock in" unlimited updates.

As I said above, this is not a change I have made easily and I have been thinking a lot about how to go forward. I thought a pure subscription model paying year-by-year would be a little unfair for self-hosted software. So I decided to target updates, because this is essentially where the cost is from my side.

Let me know what you think!

Thanks to Joybot for the image above.
tags: licence
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The Music Library Management blog

Dan Gravell

I'm Dan, the founder and programmer of bliss. I write bliss to solve my own problems with my digital music collection.