Schmooze branding becoming overbearing?

…or is it just me? As a user since the days of Rob and FreePBX being made “down under” - I understand a project cant live on bread and water, its all about funding, and having an ad campaign is a great thing - but when I open the module admin and FreePBX is no longer developed by “FreePBX” - it strikes me a bit odd.

When I first saw the name Schmoozecom (already quite familiar with them) pop up as developer on a half-dozen modules, I thought “cool, some commercial modules that they are offering to us, very enticing, I might buy a couple” - in fact I had a couple people buy them… But today, I cant tell whats commercial and what is “community” anymore - Free appears to be leaving the PBX.

I understand Schmoozecom is a major funder, long time contributor, and base of operations, and heck they deserve recognition for sure, I would prefer the name be plastered on the bottom, and even that they have a couple banners flying across the top, but when 97% of FreePBX is no longer developed by FreePBX - that kind of lights my fuse off- we appear getting heavy in to the bloatware isle leading down commercial row.

The other funny thing is a few of the commercial modules, they closely resemble a number of community contributed code snippets built many years ago - tactics like these remind me of the green monster that bought a great product and sunk it to the bottom of nothing back in ~2007.

I understand Philippe is now a full member of the Shmooze executive team, good for him, he deserves some paid vacations, does that now mean any code he writes is owned by Schmoozecom?? Interesting how Schmooze snatched up all the lead community devs under its hut (even Rob now), what kind of contract did they sign?? Was it GPL? Or something else tucked in a oak desk? leads to: how did PBXact come to be? I am not privy, but wasnt it “licensed code from somewhere…” - was it FreePBX? So a license was paid to wipe out the brand and paste in PBXact? - thats great, they should keep the PBXact product as is - they bought it fair n square, and it funded a lot of dev hours - but they should also leave FreePBX as is.

But now we appear to be in an alter-reality like I went to Ford and bought a dealership, but now I have decided since I sold a lot of trucks I want to change Fords name to JoeMoCo? Ford bought Jaguar a number of years ago - but did they put their name on it - no, that would destroy the brand = alienation of loyal customers.

I would like to suggest a bit of “tasteful discretion”, maybe revert back to circa ~Q1-2013 “Sponsored by Schmoozecom, check our PRO addons” in 2-3 locations instead of “Owned by Schmoozecom, soon to be renamed SchmoozePBX” - dont erase the FreePBX name as there are already talks on some other boards of “the next generation of Asterisk gui (not FreePBX)” - people will jump ship en-mass like SugarCRM is seeing.

Thanks for everything you guys do, I know there were millions of early AM hours, I just hope you can keep with the “spirit of community”, rather than turn the commercial corner.

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Perhaps you missed all the announcements about Schmoozecom purchasing the rights to the freePBX name. Plenty of posts about it on this forum.

Let’s go through this. If you don’t know me I am often referred to as “that James”. I have been around for about 10 years and am probably one of the oldest community members. I came through [email protected] etc etc.

Let’s start with the source.
As you can see it’s all there…

Schmooze owns the trademark for FreePBX and sponsors the project. There is mention of the green name grabbers which shows you may not have a full grasp on what schmooze does.

A brief history of things.

A certain company bought a very popular project for their name recognition. They closed off development to the outside and focused on their commercial project which was completely unrelated to the community project though it had the same name. yadda yadda community project is dead now you can go buy the commercial project if you desire.

Now Schmooze bought the trademark and took ownership of a very popular project. That ends the parallel.

Schmooze employs Me (full disclosure), @xrobau (mentioned above) @plindheimer (mentioned above) and other long time community members who have put in a lot of blood sweat and tears such as @tm1000 @GameGamer43 and @qwell. If you have been around the block you know all of these guys. These guys spend hundreds of hours developing FreePBX at the expense of Schmooze.

So where the green monster took a name and did nothing with it Schmooze has expanded the dedicated development team and brought the project through multiple releases.

The confusion of what is what:

Above is the module manager. The 4th column is publisher. Where you see Schmooze it means we have done development within that module. The 5th is the License where you can clearly see what is and is not commercial.

Why do a lot of the modules look like the modules from pre-schmooze FreePBX, because they are. And they are developed, maintained and cared for.

I can count the number of active community developers on one hand. These guys are super fantastic but are also a rare breed. When you are a community developer for any project this competes with things like real life, family, etc. Many of the staff developers were in this boat prior to schmooze. You have to decide between code and family often code takes a back seat. When your code takes care of your family it is a whole different world. Schmooze has taken a group of people who did this for the love of doing it and allowed them to not be hated by their families for doing it. If you have done any open source development you know this is huge.

All of these efforts are funded through those commercial modules and training. So a good way to look at it is without that branding the project could die then a whole heap of people (non-schmooze people) who depend on this software to feed their families could be out of luck.

We understand how many mouths this feeds. Thousands of people make a living off of what we do. It is our sincere goal to make sure all these people have a job (business) tomorrow, next month, next year. From your comments I would assume you are one of these people we are trying to keep employed.


Also if we equate “freepbx” to mean community developers and “schmooze” to mean paid developers. There aren’t as many community developers as you may think. What the community development has turned into is a small handful of people (somewhere around 4-5 developers, the highest contributor being @miken32 and great work with translations from @coverup020) that do not code full on modules, they provide fixes and patches, except one person and that would be @lgaetz who provides support for some third party modules (like wake up calls and superfecta among others) The Schmooze development team are the ones releasing the open source modules:

  1. User Manager
  2. Contact Manager
  3. FreePBX 12 with Asterisk 12 support
  4. The new user control panel

That is some of the open source work we’ve done in the past year.

Schmooze is also the team that takes care of any RCEs that get released and we usually get a fix out in a day.

That said one should also consider that the mentioned “next generation of Asterisk GUI” which is mentioned around the internet still uses FreePBX on the backend. It did not get rid of FreePBX.

As for the contract I signed. I did not sign a contract. I signed an NDA which prevents me from talking about source code in our commercial modules among other internal things. A contract can’t be “GPL”. Apples and Oranges. All of the code I write is released under GPL but the copyright is owned by Schmoozecom. This is a common practice, done by companies like Digium (Asterisk) and Google and Facebook. If Schmooze didn’t copyright my code and I left the company I could take the code with me because without a copyright I legally own the code. Then that puts Schmooze and FreePBX in a weird position.

If what you are asking for is more involvement in the development aspect of FreePBX outside of Schmoozecom then we fully welcome that after you have signed a CSA (same thing that is required by companies like Digium and Facebook and Google, etc). Modules would then be released under you “published” name. As such “FreePBX” itself can’t be a publisher because that doesn’t mean anything.

What exactly does the word “FreePBX” mean to you? Does it mean people all over the world contributing code to a project to make it better because that is not how it works. If Schmooze decided to just work on our PBXact branded product and not support FreePBX you may think FreePBX will continue on and live on but I am sorry to tell you it won’t. People get burned out with real life problems. The development staff consists of former community developers because Tony (our CEO) recognizes the fact that these developers are the ones who fully understand both “php” and “dialplan”. Wouldn’t you want those same people working and getting paid to make FreePBX better?

As for PBXact, over the past 2 years Schmooze has moved to bring all of those features to FreePBX. This allows the entire community to benefit from the improvements we’ve made.

It’s good to have discussions like this. Rather refreshing and I’d love to hear what the rest of the community thinks as well.


I remember rhino James, was there with Andrews [email protected], as long as history doesnt repeat itself - that would be great. I contributed a bunch back in those days and was jaded when my contributions were sunk to the deep. I understand when life calls, development takes a hold, and its hard when nobody gets paid.

I just opened the latest release and it is severely “busy” looking - I was overwhelmed and the familiarness was lost, it was hard to tell where I was. Evolution can be good, and sometimes something falls back in extinction, I hope that doesnt happen here. I will come back more often to keep an eye on progress :wink:

Can you explain what you mean?

I know that the FreePBX distro is “busy” looking to me, but that is due to many, many modules being installed by default. That’s not to say that those modules shouldn’t be installed by default, but it’s getting a bit tough to navigate. As an example, the first two menus have 21 and 24 entries on my system. I could probably disable modules to get that back to a manageable number, but I haven’t gotten to it. Module admin is also a mess, partially because there isn’t an obvious/intuitive way to uninstall those modules that are not installed, but available locally. This means that the list of modules available to upgrade is longer than it should be, as these uninstalled modules show up there.

Obviously, neither of these things is the end of the world, or I would have done something about it by now. Having said that, perhaps the number of modules has outgrown the five-menu interface model?

On the topic of Schmooze, I have been happy to see the project receive support from folks that can pay the bills. Like @totalimpact, I have also been somewhat put-off by the branding. This may very well be a result of having been burned in the past. That sword cuts both ways, though, as I have also experienced it in the past when a project has forked (or tried to fork) FreePBX, which was a non-starter for me.

I have bought (or plan to buy) a few of the commercial modules, and they provide functionality that I value, for which I am happy to pay. I like this model, but the long-term proof of the pudding will be in making sure that the new features and improvements do not ONLY go into the paid pieces. I don’t think that’s happening thus far, but it’s always a temptation that needs to be resisted.

Lastly, each and every logo and commercial tagline takes away from the “feeling” of “community project”, so there is a balance to be struck, if only because that “community project” appearance is valuable from a marketing perspective. If nothing else, continue to be aware that many in the community have been down a road that looks similar-ish in some ways to this one, so they may be nervous (even if Schmooze has done nothing that should make them so).

Thanks @rymes we hear you about the menu and should have some news on that by the end of next week!

Interesting discussion for sure, and before I give a couple opinions on this, I just want to say that I think Schmooze has done a great job overall, and has moved FPBX forward a great deal over the past couple years. It’s also been a pleasure to have the oppertunity to meet people like Tony and Phillipe.

That said, and somewhat along the lines of rymes comments, I do find it to be a bit of a pain that in the modules you seem to be forced to leave all the various commercial modules enabled, if you don’t you get a lot of barking about this can’t update as it requires this or that to be enabled. Now I will admit I like, and use the FreePBX Distro, but if you apply an update, it re-enables all commercial modules on you. I try and lean out the loaded stuff that is running, this is just being a good sysadmin, and only running what you need on your server. So when I see modules I know a client will never use, I disable or un-install the modules, so it’s not part of the active system. This seems even more important on the licensed modules, as they are not functional if you haven’t bought the rights to use them, so are a waste of resources to load.

So I run through and unload the unused fluff, and I come back later and reaslize, wait it’s all back, let’s check another PBX, yep all back here as well. So applying any update results in all the commercial stuff that I know isn’t licensed being put back in and enabled. Somehow this can’t be a good practice. So I started setting things to disabled. vs using uninstall, and now I end up with constant bitching about updates for disabled modules, that can’t be fixed unless I enable the module and update. So you end up in a position where you have to leave all enabled, or you have lots of other issues. Now when you leave then all enabled, now you end up with the issue of all the non-licensed stuff is now in the menus with bark messages/redirects to the Schmooze website. So you end up driving some clients batty, as they know they have no need to buy module X, but it’s stuck in the menu, constantly trying to sell it to them, and if it’s disabled or uninstalled, you end up with the above mentioned issues.

As to branding, as Schmooze is the owner of FPBX now, and produces a lot of the code, I see no reason they shouldn’t brand stuff for the most part with their name. I do think as is stated above, a lot of us make money (or a living) off of installing Asterisk/FPBX based systems, that it would be nice to make it so it’s easy to add in your branding when you install this stuff. I mean your out working your client base, and you put in a FPBX system and all that is seen is Schmooze, as the vendor we get lost in the rest of the branding/marketing. A final small example is support, they load the web page and they see an option for support. Now I am here to admit, I have sold POMPS, both basic and premium to various clients, I think it’s great that Schmooze has a support channel to use, At the same time, when we install systems, and you represent yourself as the vendor, you want the system to point your customer back to YOU, and if you can’t help them, then WE turn around and go to Schmooze (our vendor of FPBX) to resolve the issue.

Sure you can go in and edit things, but as we all know, load any update, and every customization we make is gone. I am guessing with the new module signing, if we even put a tagline for our company in, that new code will bark at it anyway, not that I have tried this yet. Still we are left as a vendor of PBX solutions, with having to either resort to witchery, or going to the client and saying things like “Ignore the support button, the software supplier has embedded this in, and it won’t get you to us. So if you have an issue, just make sure you look up our number and give us a call.” Sure this very much works, but it just seems like we could come up with a better way of making sure all are represented, and everyone can prosper with Asterisk/FPBX.

Anyway I have often thought the various tid-bits above, but never really bothered to voice much of an opinion as I figured it wouldn’t carry much weight. With the above thread going into branding and modules, I figured I would just toss my .02 out there for what it’s worth…

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Good idea!

We do encourage you to add these ideas to the bug tracker yourself, as it’s quite easy for them to get lost in the forums.

Thanks for the feedback. I think we all like the idea of cleaning up the menus. A lot of work has been done to clean up module admin in 12 so hopefully that work will continue as part of 13. It is a high wire act balancing the commercial and non commercial aspects because the commercial aspect is what keeps the project alive and allows forward motion. Many projectsbsuch as Asterisk, MySQL, redhat/centos/fedora, Ubuntu etc etc would all be foot notes in FOSS without the commercial aspects. The risk is there to go the other way where there is no polish, all your ui graphics are done in MS paint and you can’t present a product to your users because they think it was designed by toddlers. We compete with billion dollar companies like Microsoft and are expected to put out an equal product. I think we do a fantastic job doing this with a fraction of the resources. My job is to engage the community and I hope to drive the community back in to development. Our staff developers prioritize issues as security bugs, other bugs, features. I would like to see some community folks knocking out some of the feature requests and other bugs. In a perfect world we could just focus on features and always push the next big thing. In the real world we aren’t so lucky. Remember to search through vote on feature requests to show your interest, submitb feature requests that aren’t already present.

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Thanks for the response, and I agree your up against the big boys, and I am sure they hate the fact that Asterisk does as well as it has, and FPBX is a big part of this success. I will be the first to admit I am not a software guy, if I was, I’d be happy to put in some coding effort as well. I am a hardware/network guy, and design systems (PBX and other items) for various clients, so I stick with what I do well, and commend the software guys for their effort in making this all play well.

That said, as a small business man as well, I do think (as mentioned in my prior posts), that a few things could be done to make it easier for us guys pounding the pavement and installing the systems, to represent ourselves to our clients directly. I see xrobu opened a request, and I have signed on to it as well, good job. I will also say I have spent a lotta $$ with Schmooze over the past year or so, and trust me I try and support the effort as much as possible, I have nothing bad to say, so good job.

Still as mentioned before, it really is annoying (unless I am missing how to do this) as a vendor, that no matter what we do, there is constantly issues like the support links that don’t point our clients back to us as the first step. Maybe not intentional, but it just seems with stuff like that, Schmooze is trying to grab the support so to speak right out from under us, so we have to put in the extra effort to make sure they call us first. With existing clients, no biggie, with new clients, it puts us in the position of users saying well why should we take support from you, as on here it just says click here and buy it from Schmooze. It just puts the vendor in the position of competing with Schmooze right off the bat for the initial business when you sell a new system. I guess the real point is, with Schmooze backing the FPBX project, we want to be a team with Schmooze, to sell your development via the commercial modules, and hardware in your store to our clients, but at the same time we want to be the vendor of the overall solution, and put ourselves in front of the customer as their point of contact, and not have every little thing from the opening login screen say ‘buy this from Schmooze’, we want it to be buy this from your vendor, a vendor that is a re-seller and has the relationship with Schmooze to support you.

Not sure if that all makes sense, but again I fully support and enjoy our working relationship with Schmooze, you guys are great. I just think some small things could be done to make it more vendor friendly as we pound the ground and put out the systems based on Asterisk/FPBX.

As always, thanks for the quick feedback James…

This is a very legitimate concern, and one that I share. Having spent a lot of time talking with Tony, I’m convinced that he is committed to keeping the open source component of FreePBX open source and free.

The reality is that after Trixbox left the part, FreePBX probably would have died were it not for Schmooze.

The only criticism that I have of how Schmooze has handled FreePBX is how Schmooze has forced the install of Commercial Modules. I’m all for making them more available, but forcing the installation of every commercial module is, IMHO, a mistake…