The only drastic change that would move the needle enough to make this a business rather than a hobby would be to change the licensing (reducing the capabilities of the free version and ramping up the price for the Pro version). Which is something we don’t want to do (though we probably will increase the price once the new billing system goes online, for reasons that we’ll talk about later).
“invest some money”…What money do you think we have to invest? Investors don’t invest in something that has never turned a profit in 15 years, and we aren’t independently wealthy. There is no money to invest. We can, and do, invest time whenever we can (whenever our other work permits). If you’re an accredited investor and you want to invest get at me. (But, we’re not actively fundraising and have no plans to try to fundraise. I’ve been involved in startups for a long time. This is not a business that will inspire investors.)
And, we made a leap of faith 15 years ago when we started the company. It didn’t really work out. That’s been true for a long time, and we’ve all had to have other income for years (some years have been better than others and sometimes I was only doing occasional contracts to make ends meet); but, I think because Virtualmin is pretty popular (probably the ~4th most popular control panel, based on numbers I’ve been able to glean, and Webmin has more installs than any of them) there is an assumption that we’re also selling a lot of software and making a lot of money. Again, selling free software is a tough business…probably not do-able for most categories of software (for every OSS business success one can name, there are at least ten failures).
Again, we’re not going anywhere; you can count on Webmin and all of its sub-projects being around for years to come (Jamie and I are still young-ish and healthy with probably 20 years 'til we start thinking about retirement). Ilia is a decade younger. But, I wanted to be clear about this being a mostly volunteer-driven project, not a big corporate thing. It’s frustrating to constantly be told we’re not doing enough. Believe me, I’d love to have more time, more money, more help. But, we work with what we have.
We are potentially hiring some additional support help, but the money for that is coming from pay cuts to me (dropping from “almost nothing” to “actually nothing”) and Eric (reduced by a significant amount), and will hopefully be a temporary situation that having more time for development and documentation will alleviate by resulting in more sales.
And, we already invested in interface design! Ilia has been as close to full-time as we’ve been able to afford for years. Have you seen what it looked like before Authentic? Yes, it’s still too complicated. That’s a problem…we painted ourselves into a corner by saying “yes” to every feature request for years and years, and now whenever we remove or simplify anything (even ridiculous stuff like QMail-related mail features that haven’t been maintained upstream for a decade) we catch holy hell for it. We have the most flexible control panel on the market, which means most people are absolutely terrified of it, because it has too many options, and it is just too confusing for non-technical users.
Next major version actually will simplify quite a bit, and it will inevitably anger quite a few people because of it, but simplifying will reduce the technical debt of maintaining it all, and will have the pleasant side effect of reducing time spent on support. It’ll probably even make some users happier (the ones who just need a solid, easy-to-use, control panel and don’t care about the minutia of how things are done).