It was in May 2009 when the world first became aware of the infamous vBulletin 4 leak. Forums and blogs all over the Internet had screenshots posted for the upcoming plans for vBulletin 4. This extensive thread contained future plans in terms of pricing, licensing changes, changes to support, the process of beta testing, and so on.
Let’s take a look at some of the proposed changes and what ended up happening.
The pricing changes that were brought up in the thread ended up happening.
vB4.0 Publishing Suite – New license: $285, Upgrade: $250
vB4.0 Forum Classic – New License: $195, Upgrade: “Free”.
Note, that I am intentionally leaving out the discounted “pre-order” prices, since there was no mention of these in the leaked thread.
Also keep in mind, the pricing above is for vB 4x. Upgrading to vB 5x will be an additional fee (notice a pattern here?) which has not yet been determined.
The change to support – These changes also ended up happening.
Although customers get access through the forums, the Forum Classic customers only get access through the support system for 30 days and they will be forced to pay extra if they need additional support through a ticket.
One major reason people chose vBulletin is because of the affordable prices in the past, and the excellent support that was offered through tickets and the forum, yet once again, IB is taking something that worked well, and engaging in price gouging, because they know they can by charging extra for the software itself and for support tickets.
In the past, when the times were good and we had original development team, open beta testing was something of the norm. This was important because it gave members to try out the software so they could get a head start on getting their communities ready. It was also important because members of the modding and skinning community were able to play with the software to prepare their products for the new version of vBulletin. All of this changed however with IB and the new development team. Beta access to vB4 was only given to a select handful of customers. Later after much controversy they decided to give members who pre-ordered it a chance to try the beta as well, but only because they were forced to, because of all negative attention, and this was a feeble attempt to “give back” to the community.
News of this leak caused an upheaval. Most people were furious to hear about some of these planned changes. When the topic was brought up on the forums, it resulted in nothing but closed threads and IB simply ignored the subject, telling us to wait for “official word”.
In the leaked screenshots, Steve clearly states that if the situation is not handled correctly, it could cause a “negative impact” and he pretty much nailed it – yet even with this, they failed to transition correctly and failed to handle the situation accordingly. The last line regarding the customer issue is what makes this whole situation ironic: “If we want loyalty from our customers, then we should be loyal to them in return”.
IB had a chance to try and reassure their customers but failed to do so. People grew more and more frustrated and IB turning their heads in the opposite direction, continually ignoring the subject only added to this frustration. IB should have taken what they learned from the original leak to make changes, improve and do everything in their power to assure the community but they failed to do so.