Some people from the community have been saying for years, that we should make a paid version for better funding of the project. I was unsure that this would be a way forward. However, the last year has had me re-evaluate the completely "free to use" model and whether such a strategy is sustainable or good for the future of VirtueMart.
One clear issue is that, while I am busy with updating and testing the core, third party developers work to quickly update their extensions and earn revenue immediately on release of the core. Unfortuantely the majority of my ISTRAXX extensions are not able to be updated for compatibility until after the core is released which results in customers being negatively impacted by the delay, a major loss in user installations and significant loss in revenue for my business.
Additionally, in order to make this current business model economically viable, I have to direct significant efforts to bespoke customer projects, effectively further reducing the time available for core developement. This was a major factor in the speed in which the latest version of VirtueMart could be delivered. - Joomla 4 compatibility along with PHP 8.0 support required significant core changes.
We also have our wide user community offering a lot of suggestions, solutions and fixes. A tiny feature, for example, for which 3 community members donate their 30 minutes, has to be discussed, tested and eventually a core solution must be optimised by myself to ensure a compatible and long term resolution.
Many of you will wonder why these tasks fall on me alone and why this work has not beeen distributed to supportive interested parties. Such a distributed and loosely managed approach was used in the past with VirtueMart and it eventually led to a codebase that was a mish mash of confused, personal style, bespoke, often hard coded and short term "solutions" that rendered VirtueMart too unweildy for people to maintain or develop in a cohesive and coherent manner. Today a key part of my role is that of VirtueMart Product Manager, taking ideas and features forward and ensuring code compatibility and flexibility such that it is suitable for multiple ecommerce use cases now and in the future, with the additional workload of creating releases and associated documentation - weeks and months of time is being expended.
Over the many years core VirtueMart has helped secure significant revenues for: customers selling products, agencies selling compatible plugins and agencies building strong revenue generating customer bases throught the use of VitueMart. Unfortunately only a tiny fraction of these businesses and customers have made any contribution to the ongoing work of the VirtueMart business, even when it was obvious how such a contribution could be made. This is not a unique situation, but it is one that is misaligned and unsustainable. VirtueMart clearly needs a better funding model. On analysing the sold memberships over the last years, I have found that less then 1% of virtuemart shops are members, incredible but true!
The new approach is that the core code will still be free in the SVN, but the new installer or package will only be available with a membership on extensions.virtuemart.net.
I have added a small manual showing how to update VirtueMart by the SVN directly https://docs.virtuemart.net/tutorials/installation-migration-upgrade/246-how-to-update-virtuemart-from-svn.html.
Users willing to expend the time and effort to learn how to do this update and implement it via SVN should understand, in a very small way, how much effort one tiny aspect of VirtueMart takes to maintain.
There will be still an older VirtueMart version on VirtueMart.net. This will be updated less frequently than it is currently.
These slightly outdated versions will be good enough to start with VirtueMart, but the convenience to update to the latest VirtueMart version with one click will not be offered unless you support the project with at least a Bronze membership.
You can still install the latest version via our SVN, but for the small price of a basic membership you will save a lot of time and effort as you will be able to update VirtueMart to the latest version with the click of a button.