ColdFusion Should Have a Free Version

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My biggest complaint about ColdFusion has always been that you can’t get it for free. I can hear you taking a big breath to make all the standard arguments, so to save your breath, I’ll quote some text from this Ben Forta blog post (10/01/03):”Yes, we know that ColdFusion will save you money in the long run by reducing development and maintenance costs, and yes we know that ColdFusion is remarkably inexpensive taking into account all the included runtime services. We’ll continue to make that argument, and will continue to meet some success depending on who it is we are talking to. There are some developers who can never be convinced, and that is fine, so long as there are some who can be. The truth is, there is no good free ColdFusion business model, and even if there were I am not sure that it would actually really change ColdFusion use and acceptance one way or the other at this point.”I don’t know if Ben still believes those words, but I’ll assume he does. Anyway, his argument is a good one, and it’s basically the same one I’ve heard time and time again from other CF proponents (heck, I’ve made the arguments myself at times).That said, it’s extremely difficult to compete with free, and that’s what we’re up against with PHP, Perl and some of the others.So I’d like to see Adobe release a free version of ColdFusion along side version 8. Here are 3 ways this could be done (ranked from easiest to most painful for Adobe):

  1. Release version 7 as an unsupported free version. This would allow Adobe to still make tons of money from version 8, while throwing a bone to the wallet challenged among us
  2. Release a free, unsupported, stripped down version 8 at the same time as the supported, full feature versions.
  3. Release version 8 with a full featured, free for personal use (and students, non-profits, etc.) edition. Sell the enterprise edition, where the only difference is support (and the license, of course).

What would Adobe gain? Millions of new developers, that’s all! Right now ColdFusion doesn’t even show up in most articles that discuss web development languages, like this one by Joel Spolsky. I believe that with the rapid application development that’s already possible with ColdFusion, if the millions of budget crunched web developers out there could legally use ColdFusion for free, we’d see an explosion of new developers. And you know what? I’d put money on the expectation that many of these new developers would eventually bring more money into Adobe’s coffers.Because I don’t want to fight about this in the comments, yes I do know that you can get BlueDragon, Railo, etc. for free. I love BlueDragon, in fact this blog runs on BlueDragon. But let’s face it…if Adobe ColdFusion is already a weak language in the big scheme of things, what do BD and it’s relatives matter? The alternative CFML engines ride the coat tails of ColdFusion. The outsiders don’t know about BlueDragon.And yes I do know that ColdFusion has a strong presence in US governments, but that’s a very small market when compared to the public/private Internet in general. Finally, yes, I do know you can get the developer version of CF for free, and host CF cheaply on the web (not as cheaply as PHP/Perl, mind you). But that solution is not always an option for larger projects that still have tight budgets. Not to mention, you can forget about dedicated servers if you don’t own a copy of CF (or multiple copies if you need a lot of servers).All that said, I don’t believe that Adobe will give us a free version. Why not? Look up and down the Adobe/Macromedia product line. Adobe=expensive products, and I don’t think that’s going to change anytime soon, regardless of all the other companies out there doing very well with cheap or free products in their lineup.