Recently the makers of Webstorm, Jetbrains announced something called Jetbrains Toolbox. The site describes it as a “new licencing model” marketing speak aside, it is a subscription based model which means users will now rent their software instead of owning it.
If you’re a polyglot developer, then this might appeal to you. If you’re working with C# and love ReSharper and also working with the front-end and using WebStorm, a subscription based all-you-can-eat-as-long-as-you-keep-paying model might make sense to you.
But I like owning my software. I think Jetbrains have seriously underestimated the number of polyglot developers out there who would find value in a subscription model.
I paid $49 for my WebStorm licence initially and every time I want to upgrade I only pay $29. The upgrade schedule is roughly on a yearly basis. So by that logic (forgiving the initial $49 purchase) I pay $29 per year to upgrade WebStorm and perpetually own a copy of it. Meaning if I decide upgrading to the next major version isn’t important, I can happily keep using my old copy.
So if I want to continue using the latest version of Webstorm, I pay the same $29 per year, but I don’t actually own the software. If for whatever reason I can’t afford to renew or there is a billing error, I potentially find myself in a situation where I can’t use my IDE to make money (I could fall-back to Sublime, but that is not the point).
For some a subscription model might make more sense. Being able to rent applications for particular use-cases might be a better business decision, but for developers like me who freelance and use WebStorm at work as well, this irks me.
People like to point out that Adobe has a similar cloud based offering, they were the first to introduce the concept of renting your software on a large scale. But look what happened, crackers managed to pirate Creative Cloud still. Moving to a cloud based offering doesn’t make you immune to piracy or problems as a result of phone home calls.
Jetbrains is basically telling their customers they’ll need to crack their software if they want to “own” it perpetually.
Then there are other unknowns:
- What happens if the software can’t phone home to verify the user owns the software in a reasonable amount of time?
- What happens if Jetbrains licencing servers go down and people can’t use their software because it can’t verify?
- What happens if Jetbrains goes out of business?
- And perhaps even likely: what happens if Jetbrains is sold or acquired by another company?
I am not saying that a cloud based solution is horrible. I am saying for some, it makes no sense. I only use one Jetbrains product and that is Webstorm. If I were using many of their applications, then I might think a subscription model makes more sense.
There is also the problem of developers (potentially working on large teams) within corporations where budgets are assigned and purchases need to be requested. I know from personal experience a lot of companies hate subscriptions. This is why it is a common occurrence to see companies using older versions of software because it can save the company thousands of dollars.
For many, getting approval for a recurring cost (especially for a large team) is a pipe-dream. This is just going to cost Jetbrains business because developers will flock to other tools because they know it’ll be a nightmare getting approval for a cloud based IDE, if they can even get approval in the first place.
The only compromise here is offering bundles of applications as a cloud offering and allowing perpetual licences to be purchased for individual applications like you can now. You just want WebStorm, buy a perpetual licence. You want; PHPStorm, WebStorm, ReSharper or other tools in a bundle: get a subscription.
I would prefer to actually have the piece of mind knowing I am not going to be locked out of my IDE, especially half way through a project with a tight deadline. Poor form Jetbrains.