Core Is Back!

Today we are happy to reintroduce ExpressionEngine Core, the feature-limited free edition of the most flexible content management platform you’ll ever meet.

tl;dr: Download ExpressionEngine Core now.

What sites qualify to be powered by ExpressionEngine Core? Quoting our updated software license:

Users of the Core License may use the Software only on a website engaging in personal, non-commercial, or non-profit activities.

Additionally, sites powered by the Core edition are required to display a “powered by ExpressionEngine” link or graphic on their publicly accessible site, pointing back here.

So if your site doesn’t need all of ExpressionEngine’s features (see a complete list of the breakdown), is not engaging in direct or indirect commercial activity, and is able to give front-facing credit to the technology behind it, feel free to choose the Core edition.

ExpressionEngine Core is also a fantastic way to evaluate ExpressionEngine for use in your business. You can easily migrate from Core to the full edition at any time, without losing any of the work you’ve done.

And thanks to our recently retooled support system where we support people instead of installations, if you are on a support plan, your Core sites are covered too.


For those who are interested, we’d like to take a moment and share the history of the Core edition, why it was on vacation, and why we’ve brought it back.

Originally we offered 30-day hosted trials for $10 and a 14-day Zend encoded downloadable trial. They were both okay, but had some shortcomings. The hosted trial did not allow file system access, so tinkering with the code or using custom plugins was not an option. The downloadable trial’s use of Zend allowed time-locking but likewise prevented people from tinkering with or examining the code. And it didn’t always work on a customer’s server, depending on the version of Zend Optimizer installed by the host.

Almost exactly seven years ago, we decided to lower the barrier to entry for getting acquainted with our platform and began offering a free feature-limited edition known as Core. It took off and became quite popular, especially among people running personal blogs on WordPress who wanted more flexibility and room to grow. We offered Core for four years, and it powered thousands upon thousands of sites.

However, we did not see what we had hoped, that Core would lead directly to sales of the full version. Fewer than a fraction of a percent of users who signed up and downloaded Core eventually went on to be paying customers. So in late 2009, we ended the free version, and offered a 30-day money back guarantee. It turns out that that too wasn’t ideal in many respects.

One of the learning moments for us was realizing that our measurements for Core’s success were simply flawed. Core had led to many future purchases, we just hadn’t been able to track it correctly. Many people from our community have told us “I wouldn’t be using your software today if it weren’t for Core.” Some of our own employees are counted in that number. For even small agencies, the designer or developer who had the gumption to try us out and then show ExpressionEngine around the office was rarely the user account that the agency would later use to purchase dozens of licenses. Lastly, there’s simply no denying the extended reach that a free version provides.

Simplifying our license types was key to reintroducing Core, otherwise choosing an ExpressionEngine license would be like choosing which version of Windows Vista to buy. Obvious to a few, confusing to most, guaranteed to fill our inbox with daily license questions, and a lot of overhead with each release for no benefit other than making it look like you have more products on the shelf than you really do. Our new store also affords us better analytics to measure the effectiveness of the Core edition.

Thanks to our recent internal changes, we were able to execute this in a remarkably short period of time. Last month at our new site launch we introduced a free 30-day on-request trial to buy us some time and we were hoping to reintroduce Core sometime in early 2013. One month later, we are ahead of schedule and thrilled to reintroduce ExpressionEngine Core to the world.

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