Vladimir Prelovac has opened yet another can of worms but I feel its warranted. In his post, he suggests that WordPress sites have the option to select a setting which tells people that they are running a commercial site based on WordPress. If set to yes, plugin authors would get the chance through the dashboard to recommend those sites purchase a commercial version of their plugin albeit with a few special enhancements not available to the general public version.
I’m pretty sure something like this will never happen but, If I were a plugin author of a somewhat popular plugin and I saw it being used on a number of high profile, income generating websites, I would certainly be miffed if I didn’t see sizable donations arriving in my paypal account from those sites. Thinking about this subject today, I realize that the more plugin authors I talk to who have had a large share of success via their download numbers on the repository, the more I find out that they have barely made anything through donations. So then what is a plugin author to do?
As we have discussed in the forums and in various outlets across the web, it seems the only thing left for plugin authors to do is consultation, custom development, or Software As A Service. But how is this for an idea. What if someone in the WordPress community developed something like an iPhone app store where plugins were as cheap as 99 cents up to $10.00 and you had to purchase them before you could use them. Of course, you would somehow need a way to try before you buy, but with the prices being so cheap, you could almost consider this to be mandatory donations. After the plugin has been purchased a set number of times, the price restriction is taken away and is free for all.
But see, the code in these plugins would need to abide by the GPL and even though you can charge for the code, nothing is their to stop people from taking the purchased code, repackaging it and putting it on the WordPress repository for others to use. This makes my entire idea a moot point. The only other thing I can suggest as an idea would be to give each plugin an API key, similar to the way the Shopp plugin works where you can not access upgrades of the plugin without having purchased it.
I would just hate to see plugin authors who turn out to be something special in the WordPress community who would like to make a buck drop WordPress in favor of working on a software project which has a more conducive license to make a living from. Then again, I would hate to see all of the cool things you can do with WordPress via plugins or themes become something you have to pay for, which is what it’s like in the Joomla community. I apparently have no answers for this complex problem, maybe you do?