A Great Agency, an Average Extension Provider

We're an ecommerce agency that specialises in Magento. Over the years, we've released a range of open-source commercial and free (as-in-beer) Magento extensions. Knowing that 10,000s of stores and 100,000s of their customers have benefited from our code is a satisfying part of being a developer and a member of a community. However, from today, we will no longer be providing extensions on a commercial basis. Any extensions we do release will continue to be open-source and only listed on meanbee.com and GitHub.

Like all agencies, our priority is to create performant, tailored solutions for our clients that they can benefit from. Over the years, we've also been able to capitalise on our insights and personal development time by releasing innovative solutions like Shipping Rules, Inventory Run Rate, and Automatic Sale Category. I'll acknowledge that at one point, we considered extensions to be a great route into a product business. A desire of many an agency owner but we never really committed to this idea. I think we knew how difficult it was to succeed at it. As Fooman wrote last year, the life of an extension provider can be rewarding but it's far from glorious.

In truth, the time needed to create great extensions, much like great websites, is more than just the time needed for initial development. You also have to consider time for regular maintenance, responsive and engaging support, as well as iterating on the product to continue to provide to the needs of customers. I will admit that we have been far from great in these areas. Extensions have always been a second class citizen at Meanbee. This has meant that responding to extension customers has always been difficult to prioritise and product updates few and far between.

Last year, we migrated our most popular Magento 1 extension to Magento 2. Being on a more modern platform encouraged us to create it as a generic PHP library and release that to the wider PHP community on Packagist. We then created the Magento 2 extension on top of this, which can now be more lightweight, and listed it on the Magento Marketplace. Magento 2 and the marketplace experience is definitely a step forward but it's not without issues.

I believe that Magento creating a financial incentive for themselves to proactively maintain the extension store has long been called for and it's a positive move. The transition to such a programme and team is not going to be without challenges to overcome. We've haven't had a good experience so far and it has discouraged us from listing there. Though in hindsight, perhaps we're precisely the kind of vendors that they're looking to discourage!

We found just getting our Magento 2 version of our extension live with an almost identical description to the Magento 1 version was painful. Even with their documentation, the lack of two way communication, inconsistencies in reviewers and review delays that can be measured in weeks has been difficult to overcome. We've had customer refund requests take 4 weeks for Magento to respond to. The refund was requested because of an open issue with Magento 2 being blamed on us. Most recently we've had our extension de-listed because of the automated system being unable to resolve dependencies which we haven't been able to repeat. We're now in the 2-3 week cycle of re-submission and marketing review.

Reigning in my frustrations, ultimately this together with the need to migrate extensions to Magento 2 has forced us to reconsider being an extension vendor as it's an unnecessary distraction to our core business. It's wise for us to do one less good thing to enable us to do greater things as an agency.

So let there by no doubt, we're an agency focussed on working with our clients on a regular basis, creating innovative solutions rooted in technology while also valuing the long-term benefits of good maintenance. We will continue to share our solutions open-source when we can for a couple of reasons. Firstly, we believe in giving back to the community that we've learnt and benefited from. Secondly, we believe in not repeating ourselves and others. The best way for us to provide value to clients is to build on top of products, on a commercial or open-source basis.

You can find our Magento extensions on Github tagged as "Magento Extensions".

Browse all of our open-source contributions on meanbee.github.io.