JetBrains Fixes Controversial Dev Tool Subscription Policy

JetBrains announced changes to its new subscription model after developer customers complained that the policy went too far and would cost too much.

JetBrains subscription model

In a prime example of a vendor taking its customers into consideration, software development toolmaker JetBrains has adjusted a controversial subscription model that had customers and industry observers up in arms.

Two weeks ago, on Sept. 3, JetBrains, which makes the popular IntelliJ IDEA Java development tool, among others, introduced its JetBrains Toolbox subscription model.

In a post on the company’s blog, Eugene Toporov, vice president of marketing at JetBrains, said: "As of November 2, 2015, we will introduce JetBrains Toolbox—a collection of our popular desktop tools (IDEs, utilities and extensions) available on a monthly or yearly subscription basis. With JetBrains Toolbox, you can pick and choose one or more tools that best suit your current needs, or go for the 'All products' plan that comes with special savings. You decide what to put in your Toolbox and for how long."

The JetBrains Toolbox was to include the company's IntelliJ IDEA, AppCode, CLion, PhpStorm, PyCharm, RubyMine, WebStorm, ReSharper, ReSharper C++, dotTrace, dotCover, and dotMemory tools.

As soon as JetBrains made the announcement, users voiced objections to the changes. One user, who identified himself as Chris Spencer, on the JetBrains Website, said, "This is exactly what is wrong with this new scheme. I object to being forced to pay to continue to use something which I've already paid for. I know in my workplace I wouldn't have been able to prompt the switch from Eclipse to IntelliJ in the first place if it had required an annual subscription."

In addition, Mike Milinkovich, executive director of the Eclipse Foundation, which offers the open-source Eclipse framework for Java development, penned a scathing post criticizing the JetBrains move.

Milinkovich called JetBrains' switch to a subscription-only model, "a perfect example of why and how trusting a proprietary tools vendor leaves you and your business exposed to the whims of their profit margins. Make no mistake: this is motivated by what's good for their business, not what is good for the developer community. Even if JetBrains backpedals on this decision, it is a lesson worth learning."

Plugging his own organization, Milinkovich added, "Eclipse is the only truly community-based tooling platform. We are 100-percent open source from top to bottom. There is no 'Community Edition.' It's all open source. We are not beholden to any vendor’s agenda."

However, many developers cited the superior quality of IntelliJ over Eclipse as reason enough to pay the price for it. As Milinkovich noted, "We are well aware that IntelliJ is a great product. We are also aware that Eclipse has not been moving forward as quickly as we would have liked this last few years."

On Sept. 4, Toporov posted that JetBrains was listening to its customer base and that their comments, questions and concerns were not falling on deaf ears. On Sept. 8, the company updated its messaging to say that the licensing model announced previously, including conditions and prices, was not final and updates would be made.