On the JetBrains Subscription Reaction

A few days ago, JetBrains announced that they will be moving from perpetual licenses to a subscription based model. An overwhelmingly negative public response followed.  People are going as far to say they are going back to Eclipse, no matter if JetBrains heed the angry masses. Even Eclipse chirped in with a rather unsavory blog post.

Let me say from the start that I love JetBrains products. I also think it is safe to say their products are far more superior than most other IDE’s. I’ve used PHPStorm for about two years now and shudder to think about going back to the Netbeans/Eclipse days. I’ve also started using TeamCity recently (the free tier) and it has already proven very useful.

From the lists of features that get released, it seems as though they really go the extra mile in providing new features for customers. One of the main complaints is that users who do not renew their licenses won’t be able to use the products, as in the past. So instead of paying for updates, you’ll be paying for continued use of the product. The question is, is it really that terrible for them to ask the users of their products to pay for their products? Now, before you blow up in the comments section, I do think they made some key mistakes. But overall, to me it seems fair that continued use of a service equals continued pay for the service. We as developers should be most sympathetic to the effort, time and money that goes into excellent software.

A subscription plan that seems to be largely ignored in all the ranting, is the JetBrains Toolbox. It’s a subscription with access to all the greats, for $149 USD a year, for existing customers. Even at $199 for new users doesn’t sound excessive, especially if you compare the current ReSharper Ultimate price of $249, which will be included in the ToolBox plan. I realize this plan won’t be appealing for all kinds of users, but to me that seems like a great deal. I’ve always wanted to dabble into Ruby, Python and C#, but doing so without a proper IDE has discouraged me. I also don’t have the cash to buy licenses for all of the IDE’s that tickle my fancy this month, even more so if I may not used it for very long. For $199 a year, I’d easily subscribe to this plan. If you weigh it up against other costs, it’s about the same cost of two months of internet here in South Africa. Seems reasonable.

That all being said, the part that worries me is the apparent notion that if you stop renewing your subscription for a while and you want to resubscribe, you pay a higher price. To me, that does not seem like an act in good faith. It smells a bit like ransom. Also, it nullifies the stated flexibility advantage, because in the end you’ll cough up more if you change your subscriptions throughout the year.

I also sympathize with indie developers who are willing to work on older software. Perhaps JetBrains can make a concession on perpetual licenses for personal licenses. My feeling is that it would appease many customers and would show that they care about the individual.

I trust that JetBrains will listen to their customers. From their replies and comments on Twitter and their blog, they seem like be taking the raging seriously. I myself have gotten used to their high quality products and probably will stick with it even if they raise their prices significantly. In the end, you need to measure the value they are providing against what you are willing to pay. Personally, I’d like to be a fly on the wall when the complaining guy goes back to Eclipse – my bet is it won’t last long.


Two weeks later, JetBrains replied with this. Judging by the response on Twitter, customers seem appeased. The summary: If you subscribe for 12 consecutive months, your IDE version you started the subscription with will still be available even though you have stopped subscribing. And some other discounts. Pretty clever, because it means if JetBrains releases a cool new feature during your subscription, you won’t still have that feature in your fallback perpetual license. Still, seems like both JetBrains and their customers are satisfied.