I recently had a need for a low cost / free mailing program. Something web based, that would allow users to subscribe, then allow an admin to send out messages to the list pretty easily.
With a little searching, I stumbled upon Simple Mail List – a great looking tool, just what I needed. Written in php and mysql, and free, it was the perfect fit for my needs.
Or so I thought. Turns out Version 2 of SML is “beta”, and development stopped several years ago. Many (basic) features were not implemented, or are buggy. After installing it, and discovering all the issues, I decided to tough it out and hack up the code, finishing the features I needed.
So now I have a working installation, at least sending emails, and performing the basic required functions. Since this software is basic, it is ok with me that it’s abandonware. That’s the term for software that has been abandoned by it’s original writers. Since the software in this case is still under copyright, I can’t fix it up and “sell” it, and probably can’t even redistribute my fixes.
This highlights a problem most webmasters will face when they “go cheap”. There’s a real risk that the time and effort invested in a free software product will be wasted when that code is abandoned, bugs aren’t fixed, new required features go undone, or major security holes are discovered and go unpatched.
So be wary of using software without a business model. If the programmers can’t sustain the development, eventually they will move on to other projects.