It seems vBulletin are planning to change the terms of their licensing. But they've not gone about it all that well and it looks like it might become a fantastic case study in the behaviour of forum communities. Driven by the people who actually run forums.
<start of background information>
In the past:-
Previously it was possible to buy an "owned license" which would allow the current version of the software to be run for ever. The license allowed the download of newer versions for one year, and if you wanted access to newer versions after that year a support fee was required (roughly 20% of the initial licence per year).
The proposed licensing arrangements appear to be for customers to pay a one off fee, approximately 25% higher than the original licensing fee, which will allow the level of software and all of it's updates to be run forever. (ie we're looking forward to the 4.x series and would need to pay the same fee again for a 5.x in a couple of years).
Why customers are upset 1:-
The new cost structure will be a fair bit more expensive than the old one (Assuming the current rate of incrementing versions is maintained).
Why customers are upset 2:-
There doesn't seem to be much differentiation in the new pricing structure between customers who bunged $70 across to vBulletin for the cheapest package 3 days ago, and those who bunged $260 across for an expensive package at the same time. It seems all will have to fund the same extra fees.
Why customers are upset 3:-
A discount to existing customers has been offered on the forthcoming version of the software, but that discount was announced 2 weeks before the expiry date after which the limited information suggests that existing customers who have been sending money to vBulletin for years will be treated in exactly the same way as new customers.
There is very little information available about the new version (a few screenshots, no demo and no indication of a launch date) and customers don't know what they will be getting and when. I had to ask this morning whether the URLs were going to stay the same!
That's my reading, but the information has been poor so I apologise if I have made any mistakes.
<that's the end of the background information - phew!>
The fun thing for me is the case study of forum behaviour. This is a big change that affects all members and one that appears to have been poorly communicated. Pretty well every member will feel it is unfair.
It's a fairly large active forum, and while there is no dedicated section for complaints, every section where complaints could be made was instantly filled with threads about this issue.
Moderation is in place over there but will take a whole load of time and is ineffective when the majority of members aren't inclined to be helpful.
The fun bit when you ask "how are they going to get out of that?"
I'm guessing for them it's down to cash flow problems - I've also spent the last year developing cool new things with no fixed delivery date and can understand the cash flow side of things.
How would YOU get out of that?