Product Showcase

ACF Pro – Just Bad At Email [WPTuts Reaction Video]

8 min read
YouTube video


In the world of WordPress development, few plugins have garnered as much love and loyalty as Advanced Custom Fields (ACF) Pro. However, recent events have stirred up controversy within the WordPress community, particularly regarding the handling of lifetime licenses for ACF Pro. This article delves into the heart of the matter, analyzing a reaction video by Paul from WP Tuts and offering insights from Dave of

The controversy centers around an email sent by Delicious Brains, the new owners of ACF Pro, to lifetime license holders. This email, which asked for additional financial support, has been met with mixed reactions ranging from understanding to outrage. We’ll explore the nuances of this situation, examining the communication approach, the community’s response, and the broader implications for WordPress plugin development and sustainability.

As we navigate through this complex issue, we’ll unpack the importance of clear communication, the expectations surrounding lifetime licenses, and the delicate balance between supporting developers and respecting customer commitments. Whether you’re a WordPress developer, a business owner, or simply interested in the dynamics of open-source software, this deep dive will provide valuable insights into the challenges and opportunities facing the WordPress ecosystem.

The Email Controversy

The heart of this controversy lies in an email sent by Delicious Brains to ACF Pro lifetime license holders. This communication has sparked a heated debate within the WordPress community, with many expressing strong opinions about its content and implications.

The Email’s Content and Tone

  • The email begins by acknowledging the recipient’s lifetime license for ACF Pro, immediately setting a tone that some found concerning.
  • It proceeds to ask lifetime license holders to consider signing up for a discounted subscription, which many interpreted as a request to pay again for something they had already purchased.
  • The language used in the email was described by many, including Paul from WP Tuts, as poorly written and potentially guilt-inducing.
  • There was no clear explanation of why additional financial support was needed or how it would benefit the development of ACF Pro.

Community Reaction

  • The initial response from many in the community was one of confusion and frustration.
  • Paul from WP Tuts created a reaction video with a thumbnail simply stating “NO!”, indicating his strong disagreement with the approach taken by Delicious Brains.
  • Many lifetime license holders felt that their initial investment and support for the plugin during its early development was being overlooked or devalued.
  • The timing of the email, during the Black Friday/Cyber Monday period when budgets are often stretched, was seen as particularly poor.

Misinterpretation and Clarification

  • Despite the strong reactions, it’s important to note that nowhere in the email did Delicious Brains state they were revoking lifetime licenses.
  • The email was an attempt to encourage voluntary additional support, albeit communicated in a way that many found problematic.
  • The lack of clarity in the email led to widespread misinterpretation of Delicious Brains’ intentions.

The Importance of Clear Communication

  • This incident highlights the critical importance of clear, transparent communication in software development and business.
  • The way a message is framed can significantly impact how it’s received, especially when dealing with a passionate and invested user base.
  • There’s a lesson here for all businesses about the need to carefully consider the tone and content of communications, particularly when asking for additional support from existing customers.

Analyzing the Approach

The approach taken by Delicious Brains in their email to ACF Pro lifetime license holders has been a subject of much discussion and criticism. Let’s break down the key aspects of their approach and explore alternative strategies that might have been more effective.

The Missed Opportunity

  • Delicious Brains failed to frame their request as a call to action for supporting the continued growth and development of ACF Pro.
  • A more positive approach could have been to create a rallying cry, emphasizing the community’s role in shaping the future of a beloved plugin.
  • The email could have started by expressing gratitude for the users’ long-term support and explaining Delicious Brains’ vision for ACF Pro’s future.

Lack of Context and Explanation

  • The email did not provide sufficient context about why additional financial support was needed.
  • There was no clear explanation of how the funds would be used to improve ACF Pro or benefit the users.
  • A more transparent approach, explaining the challenges of maintaining and developing a popular plugin, could have garnered more understanding and support.

Timing and Presentation

  • Sending this request during the Black Friday/Cyber Monday period was seen as poor timing by many in the community.
  • The presentation of the request as a “discounted subscription” for lifetime license holders was perceived negatively by many recipients.
  • A better approach might have been to choose a different time of year and frame the request as an optional way to contribute to future development.

Alternative Strategies

  • Offering exclusive benefits or early access to new features for those who choose to provide additional support could have been more enticing.
  • Creating a tiered support system or a separate “ACF Pro Plus” offering with advanced features could have been a way to generate additional revenue without seeming to renege on lifetime licenses.
  • Engaging the community in a discussion about the future of ACF Pro and how to sustain its development could have fostered a more collaborative approach.

The Power of Honest Communication

  • Being upfront about the challenges of maintaining a plugin with a large base of lifetime license holders could have elicited more empathy and support.
  • Acknowledging any miscalculations in the business model and asking for the community’s help in finding a solution might have been received more positively.
  • Emphasizing the mutual benefits of continued development and support could have aligned the interests of both the company and the users.

Community Expectations and Reactions

The WordPress community’s reaction to the Delicious Brains email reveals much about the expectations and values held by users, particularly those who invest in lifetime licenses. Understanding these expectations is crucial for plugin developers and companies operating within the WordPress ecosystem.

The Value of Lifetime Licenses

  • Lifetime license holders often see their purchase as an investment in the long-term success of a product.
  • There’s an expectation that a lifetime license means perpetual access to updates and support without additional costs.
  • Many users who buy lifetime licenses do so to support developers during the early stages of a product, expecting to benefit from its growth over time.

Trust and Loyalty in the WordPress Community

  • The WordPress community places a high value on trust and transparency from plugin developers and companies.
  • Actions perceived as going back on promises or changing terms can quickly erode trust and loyalty.
  • There’s often a strong sense of ownership and emotional investment among users who have supported a plugin for many years.

The Debate Over Ongoing Support

  • The incident has sparked a debate about the sustainability of lifetime licenses and the ongoing costs of plugin development and support.
  • Some argue that lifetime license holders should understand the need for continued financial support to ensure the plugin’s longevity.
  • Others maintain that companies should honor the spirit of lifetime licenses and find alternative ways to generate revenue.

Varying Perspectives on Fair Practice

  • Reactions to the email ranged from outright rejection to understanding the company’s position.
  • Some users expressed willingness to provide additional support but objected to the way the request was framed.
  • There’s a general consensus that clear communication and respect for existing commitments are paramount.

The Role of Community Feedback

  • The strong reactions from the community led to a public apology and clarification from Brad at Delicious Brains.
  • This incident demonstrates the power of community feedback in shaping company policies and communications.
  • It also highlights the need for companies to be proactive in engaging with their user base before making significant changes or requests.

Lessons for Plugin Developers

  • The incident serves as a cautionary tale for other plugin developers considering similar approaches.
  • It underscores the importance of carefully considering the long-term implications of offering lifetime licenses.
  • Developers may need to explore more creative ways to balance user expectations with the need for sustainable revenue.

Alternative Solutions and Future Implications

The controversy surrounding ACF Pro’s email to lifetime license holders has sparked discussions about alternative approaches and the future of plugin development in the WordPress ecosystem. Let’s explore some potential solutions and their implications.

Expanding Product Offerings

  • One suggested approach is to offer discounts on other Delicious Brains products to lifetime license holders.
  • This strategy could create goodwill while introducing users to a wider range of tools and potentially increasing overall revenue.
  • However, with steep Black Friday discounts already in place, further discounting might not be financially viable.

Enhancing ACF Pro’s Feature Set

  • Adding new, related features to ACF Pro, such as custom post types and custom taxonomies, could justify additional charges.
  • This approach would respect the existing lifetime license while providing a path for generating new revenue.
  • It could also add significant value for users, potentially making them more willing to pay for these enhancements.

Subscription Models for New Features

  • Introducing a tiered system where basic updates are covered by the lifetime license, but new advanced features require a subscription.
  • This could balance honoring existing commitments while ensuring ongoing development is financially sustainable.
  • Clear communication about what’s included in the lifetime license versus what’s part of the new subscription would be crucial.

Community-Driven Development Fund

  • Creating a transparent development fund where users can contribute to specific feature developments or improvements.
  • This approach could foster a sense of community ownership and direct involvement in the plugin’s evolution.
  • It might also help align development priorities with user needs more closely.

Rethinking Lifetime Licenses

  • The incident may prompt other plugin developers to reconsider offering lifetime licenses or to structure them differently.
  • Future lifetime licenses might come with more clearly defined terms about what’s included and for how long.
  • There could be a shift towards “lifetime access” to the current version at time of purchase, with optional paid upgrades for major new versions.

Improving Communication Strategies

  • The controversy highlights the need for better communication strategies in the WordPress plugin ecosystem.
  • Companies might invest more in community management and engagement to build stronger relationships with users.
  • Regular updates on development progress, challenges, and future plans could help maintain user trust and support.

Balancing Innovation and Sustainability

  • The incident raises questions about how to balance rapid innovation with sustainable business models in open-source ecosystems.
  • There may be a need for broader discussions within the WordPress community about funding models for long-term plugin development.
  • Exploring hybrid models that combine open-source principles with sustainable revenue streams could be a focus for future development.

Key Takeaways

The controversy surrounding Delicious Brains’ email to ACF Pro lifetime license holders offers several important lessons for the WordPress community and beyond. Here are the key takeaways from this incident:

  1. Clear Communication is Crucial: The way a message is crafted and delivered can significantly impact how it’s received. In this case, the poorly worded email led to misunderstandings and backlash. Companies must prioritize clear, transparent, and empathetic communication, especially when addressing sensitive topics like changes to licensing or requests for additional support.
  2. Understanding Community Expectations: The strong reaction from lifetime license holders highlights the deep-seated expectations within the WordPress community. Users who invest in lifetime licenses often do so with the understanding of perpetual access and support. Companies need to be acutely aware of these expectations and approach any changes or requests with sensitivity and respect for their users’ loyalty.
  3. Balancing Sustainability and User Trust: The incident brings to light the challenges of maintaining a sustainable business model while honoring long-term commitments to users. Plugin developers and companies in the WordPress ecosystem must find creative ways to generate revenue without alienating their existing user base or breaking trust.
  4. Timing and Context Matter: The decision to send this email during the Black Friday/Cyber Monday period was widely criticized. Choosing the right time and providing proper context for such requests is crucial. Companies should consider the broader circumstances and timing when making important announcements or requests.
  5. Alternative Revenue Strategies: The controversy has sparked discussions about alternative ways to generate revenue while respecting lifetime licenses. Ideas such as offering new premium features, creating tiered systems, or providing discounts on other products could be viable options for companies facing similar challenges.
  6. The Power of Community Feedback: The swift and strong reaction from the WordPress community led to a public apology and clarification from Delicious Brains. This demonstrates the power of community feedback in shaping company policies and actions. Companies should actively engage with their community and be prepared to respond quickly and appropriately to concerns.
  7. Long-term Implications of Lifetime Licenses: This incident may prompt plugin developers to reconsider their approach to lifetime licenses. Future offerings might come with more clearly defined terms or evolve into different models that balance user expectations with business sustainability.
  8. Importance of Transparency: Being open about challenges, development plans, and the need for continued support can foster understanding and collaboration within the community. Transparency can turn potentially negative situations into opportunities for community engagement and support.
  9. Lessons in Crisis Management: The handling of this situation provides valuable lessons in crisis management for software companies. Quick acknowledgment of missteps, clear communication of intentions, and a willingness to listen and adapt are crucial in maintaining user trust during controversial events.
  10. The Evolving WordPress Ecosystem: This incident reflects the ongoing evolution of the WordPress plugin ecosystem. As the platform matures, developers and companies may need to adapt their business models and community engagement strategies to ensure long-term success and user satisfaction.

In conclusion, the ACF Pro email controversy serves as a significant case study in community management, business sustainability, and effective communication within the WordPress ecosystem. It underscores the delicate balance between honoring commitments to users and ensuring the continued development and improvement of beloved tools. As the WordPress community continues to grow and evolve, the lessons learned from this incident will undoubtedly shape future interactions between plugin developers and their users, fostering a more transparent, sustainable, and collaborative environment for all.

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