A few weeks ago I noticed a tweet in my timeline by Derick Rethans, author and maintainer of Xdebug:
Friday afternoon debate club: I'm considering making Xdebug 3 no longer free for commercial use. Discuss.— Derick Rethans ???? (@derickr) August 30, 2019
I have to admit that the struggle of investing time into an open source project should have been something that should have been more clear to me, so I’m thankful Derick opened the discussion. But I want to apologize for only thinking inside my bubble, which has created a blind spot for me regarding this issue.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s not the first tweet of its kind and they all follow the same pattern:
“I (or we) run an open source project, we have trouble maintaining our effort because little or no money comes into the project.”
Unlike other OSS projects, Derick sparked a pretty reasonable discussion which was focussed on solving both sides of the story. Now you might ask yourself how there can be two sides to this story… it’s us, the commercial, evil, money-sucking locusts and on the other side it’s Derick, creator and maintainer of Xdebug.
First off, we’re an open source service company ourselves and find ourselves in the exact same spot as Derick - our task is to create revenue so we can support our OSS project, so that hopefully gets us off the “locust” narrative. With that being out of the way, let me explain why Patreon doesn’t work for us.The answer is simple - invoices. Proper invoices, that tax authorities will accept.
And no, there is no “if you really want it, you can make it work without a proper invoice” (unlike some people want to believe). Lucky for us all, Derick came up with a working solution that works for us (and from how I understood it also works for him).
So Xdebug offers three different plans. The Community plan is what you should choose anyway, shell out a few bucks a month and feel good for doing the right thing. The other two (Pro and Business) are what’s interesting to us here. I’ve heard people complain about the pricing models (as in “it’s too expensive”). We at TYPO3 GmbH disagree.
Here’s how we decided to go for the Business plan:
It took Derick about a week to come up with the plans which work for us. We used this week to run an interesting experiment: we had every developer in our company check for themselves how much time xdebug saves them on any given day. It averaged out at about an hour per day saved (which includes days where no PHP development took place, so for you it might be even more). So if we do the math, we end up with a sweet little formula:
8 Devs x 1h saved per day x 200 working days a year = 1600hrs saved per year
I am fully aware that not every country on the planet can charge the same hourly rate. But the Business tier of Xdebug’s Support plans is 999 pounds a year (yes.. year) and these work for 2 - 20 developers. So the “payment” for an hour saved ranges from 0.25 to 2.49 pounds per hour - I truly hope amounts like these are manageable for any PHP business on the globe.
Yes… it might sound weird, but it’s an investment. You invest into making it possible for your developers to save time. You invest into keeping that opportunity. And your hourly rate should be higher than 2.49 pounds, so the investment pays off incredibly fast.
My advice for any business working with PHP is to buy the Business Support plan for Xdebug. Mainly because it’s a no-brainer business-wise. But to us at TYPO3 it’s also a no-brainer from a moral point of view.
We’d like to thank Derick for his ongoing effort on Xdebug and hope that this post encourages more people to support their fellow open source developers.
Xdebug is an outstanding tool to debug your code. If you're interested in a detailed analysis of the code of your TYPO3 project, you should opt for our Project Review: