A license is required after upgrade to version 6.0.10

Today I upgraded Certifytheweb to version 6.0.10. Previously, the application only displayed a recommendation that a license must be purchased for business use (blue window). Now the box is red and a license is required. Is there any change in licensing? I have one certificate in the application. I am sending screenshots.

Thank you.

Thanks, we just changed the box colour and changed “are required to purchase” to “should purchase”, so we’ve softened the wording but made the colour brighter.

We have well in excess of 150K daily users and the majority use the free version, the majority are also businesses and they could stretch to buying a $49.99 license if they really wanted to. We’re trying to make them want to, but it’s still optional.

The app will show a nag message when adding new certificates, up to the 5 certs limit in the free version. For many people that’s fine, that’s all they need and they don’t need support. On the other hand, this app is my day job and that doesn’t happen if we don’t have paying customers (which thankfully we do). The license prompt is not a legal contract, it’s a call to action for those who can afford to purchase a license to do so.

Understand the need for income. That need’s common to all including those who idealistically and unrealistically think they don’t need it. But the bright red box and “should purchase” language is still jarring and strikes fear into users who upon updating CTW suddenly think they’re somehow out of license compliance.

I felt so disturbed by this box suddenly showing up in the human interface, the first thing I did was search for replacements to Certify the Web. I did find what appear to be very suitable alternatives. My decision to replace CTW was already made in the affirmative and was mere seconds away when I stumbled across this post.

May I suggest using the word “Please” and perhaps the phrase “We need your help”? Maybe a yellow box instead of a bright red? Such an approach might be less likely to drive users away…

Another suggestion would be to consider a “custom” payment amount that would allow organizations to support your work at some point below the $50 for 1-yr subscription. I’d guess that the majority of your audience chose free for a reason and while they might not begrudge providing some financial support, some might experience the lurch from $0 to a $50/year paid annual subscription (not even a perpetual license, mind you!!) a quite large and uncomfortable shift.

If you imagine only that businesses and organizations must be flush with cash, think of non-profit charities operated by one or two people with a miniscule budget. Suppose some will actually cease to exist as their finances are drained away by operating expenses, meaning that increased expenses will shorten the life of the organization as an existential matter.

There may also be, within your audience, very small and even part-time businesses that exist in situations that are barely more endowed than the non-profit charities I’ve described.

I’ve always thought software developers need to eat and pay their utilities like everyone else. I’ve even held an opinion that software products and quality are simply and truly too important for the field to be killed off by hobbyists (even very bright ones) who give away “code” until they can no longer keep power supplied to their computers and/or until they have offspring that need to be supported. I recognize there is tension in this space but still suggest that some of your audience might find $50/year annual subscription costly enough to motivate leaving – especially if they believe it to be a mandatory minimum price as a recurring subscription expense.

@Glenburble thank you very much for your detailed feedback, I do appreciate it. Yes I agree we need to experiment more with the upgrade call to action and we will seriously consider more changes to soften that once we have gathered metrics for the current release.

I’m very aware that users with simple requirements do often opt for a free tool (we sponsor several good command-line alternatives such as win-acme and Posh-ACME), there are also the most common tools like Certbot and acme.sh but they can be hard to use on Windows: https://acmeclients.com/ - I also volunteer on https://community.letsencrypt.org/ to help with general certificate management questions which are often unrelated to our app.

We don’t really see ourselves as being exactly the same as these other tools but you can achieve much the same results especially if you’re just managing a few certificates. Going with a free tool is the right thing for some users especially if they only require a few certs and will never need support, this is a balance if their certs are business critical (which many are). Perhaps though, there are simply enough free tools and what some users need is a supported option, which is where we come in.

Where we try to differentiate our app and add value is in:

  • firstly providing a supported app with a full UI for the management process
  • supporting the large-scale management of many certificates (we currently run a test server with 50000 managed certificates renewing monthly and are aiming to eventually support 1M certs for installed instance).
  • Extended features like our DNS support (particularly our managed Certify DNS service) and Deployment Tasks exceed what most other can tools provide. Obviously you can patch similar things together.

With the aid of our website and API we also provide extended features that no free client offers, such as zero-configuration email notifications when repeated failures occur (not just expiry warning emails from Let’s Encrypt), diagnostic notifications when your server develops a problem (low disk space, clock skew etc). We also offer a basic dashboard via our website for multi-server reporting.

I completely agree that some users will not get $50 of value from our app, so for personal use we offer the standard community edition. For businesses though, we price our app roughly based on how much it would cost you to have a half hour meeting discussing how to manage your certificates. $50 fits pretty well and below that the procurement process in most organisations would cost much more than the license. Certainly our enterprise license bundle is comedically under-priced. For non-profits, it depends, we’ve had emails asking for free licenses from non-profits with $350M revenue (!) and to me there is a difference between a non-profit gun club and non-profit food bank, so there is discretionary wiggle room there that can be resolved one way or another by contact our support. The worst (and definitely the most common) reason for not purchasing a license is “the hassle” of asking your boss to authorise the procurement.

So yes, we will review the license call to action. We have considered requiring all users to register (including community edition) so we can get a better understanding of who is using our app and what their requirements are, but again it’s difficult to predict how users would respond to that.