vBulletin 4 Forum – The Controversial Upgrade Offer

For almost a decade, Jelsoft’s vBulletin software dominated the software market for online discussion forums. It was the quintessential example of how an enthusiastic customer base can extend a product and grow the base business exponentially. In 2007, Jelsoft and its potential was sold to Internet Brands, a public company, for an undisclosed sum and moved forward with few changes and little fanfare. In October 2009, everything changed in just two short weeks. The recent customer revolt against the new management team (the founders and most of the original team are gone) – ostensibly renamed as vBulletin Solutions (“vBS”) – is an interesting, ongoing case study that companies changing their software licensing models may want to follow. In the interest of full disclosure, I am a current owner of vBulletin software, managing a long running legal advice & assistance forum since the earliest versions appeared in 2001. My comments below represent my good faith understanding of the confusing events of the past two weeks and subject to correction. [Read more…]