Openness is one of our most important company values. The decision to make our online shop software open source boosted the user base of our software tremendously. Following this approach through and through, we decided to stop encrypting our additional features using ionCube encoder with the release of Shopware 5.2.
Continuing with this principle, we also believe that knowledge should be free and accessible for anyone. That’s why we offer free courses online on Udemy, and plan to expand this offering in the near future.
"We are convinced that the entire community will benefit if we open things up even further, including in the store," says Sebastian Klöpper, Director Research & Development at Shopware.
Before we explain why we believe this and how we respond to potential concerns from plugin developers, we would first like to briefly explain the term "open source".
What does open source mean?
Open source means that the source code of a software application is accessible to anyone. The term does not specify how the software is licensed, although it is often used synonymously with “free software”. This means that open source software can be released under a proprietary licence that limits the use of the software.
What are we trying to achieve with the open source concept in the store?
We’re looking to offer an even greater variety of useful plugins in the Community Store. When plugins are open source, shop owners are able to make minor adjustments and send feedback directly to the plugin manufacturer – in fact, this is why we have been able to consistently improve our plugins since the release of Shopware 5.2. Of course, the plugin manufacturer has complete control over which changes they would like to integrate into the plugin itself. Similarly, additional plugins can be developed and offered as extensions to an existing plugin. Together, we are able to significantly boost the growth of high-quality plugins based on the open source concept.
How does the community benefit from open source plugins in the store?
Open source plugins are more modular and versatile, as shop operators or agencies can customise the plugin to satisfy their own very specific requirements. When coupled with the ability to view the source code in advance, this increases merchant acceptance. In addition, the ability to work with the source code reduces the need for support from plugin manufacturers.
Plugin manufacturers that provide open source plugins have a major cost advantage, in that they do not have to spend money on the license fee to encrypt their plugin using ionCube.
Let's summarise the benefits:
Benefits for plugin manufacturers:
- Increased acceptance and greater reach
- The quality of code can be seen immediately
- Other developers can offer extensions for plugins more quickly and easily
- Plugins become even more attractive thanks to useful extensions from other developers
- Saving on licence fees for ionCube encoding
- Less need for support
Benefits for shop operators and agencies:
- Source code is visible
- Plugins can be customised as needed
- Plugins become even more useful thanks to extensions from other developers
What is the "danger" of offering an open source plugin?
When considering offering open source plugins, one of the first concerns for manufacturers is: “Couldn't competitors then just copy my plugin and potentially offer it for a lower price?".
To start, it’s illegal to create a pure copy of an existing plugin. In essence, this is outright plagiarism and does not align with the open source principle. For that reason, we actively work to combat illegal copies of your work.
We believe that the same is true here as in many other industries: competition stimulates business. Manufacturers are encouraged to differentiate themselves from the competition through high quality, innovative ideas, professional support and consistent compatibility with the latest Shopware version.
How do we protect manufacturers against code plagiarism?
As a first line of defence, we have implemented a “Report” button to combat illegal copies of your work, with more measures to follow in the near future. Should you have any reason to believe a plugin makes use of your original work, you can use this button to report the plugin manufacturer directly to Shopware. This is a measure that we hope should not have to be used, since copying and unlawfully distributing plugins goes against the spirit of our community, and is also illegal.
If your work is illegally copied and used, we reserve the right to remove the plugin from the store and take legal action if necessary. In the future, we will create more transparency in the store regarding the use of plugins by providing insight into rental charges and subscriptions.
What factors make a plugin successful?
The success of a plugin is influenced by several factors. For example, offering a plugin earlier than other providers, providing good support, and marketing all play a significant role. These factors are independent of whether a plugin was provided open source or with ionCube encoding.
The USP of a plugin is another important factor for success. The plugin can stand out from other plugins by demonstrating particularly high quality, or by occupying a niche.
If the scope of a plugin is fairly simple, even ionCube encoding does not protect against "imitators", as the functions can be easily recreated. On the other hand, if a plugin is very complex and available to the community under the open source model, nobody will copy it, as the effort required is high and there is a risk that errors will creep in. On the contrary, the ability to see the high code quality will result in even more respect for the plugin and thus the manufacturer.
In addition to high code quality strengthening a plugin's reputation, open source plugins give the community the opportunity to create useful extensions for plugins. Therefore, the architecture of a plugin should be designed with this in mind.
We are convinced: the more plugin manufacturers decide to take the open source route with us, the more our entire community will benefit.