The list of new features was quite extensive, and in general everyone was very supportive of the idea saying that they would be wel worth paying for. Unfortunately there does seem to be the odd one or two rather vocal members who are against the subscription idea, and they tend to have a few arguments as to why I shouldn't do this. Here are those arguments and my replies:
PlasticBishop.com has always been free and should always remain free.
In an ideal world without money this would be true, but we do have money and the website costs me an increasing amount. Currently I pay aound £50 per month to keep the site going - that's £600 a year. But, the server package we're on is reaching the limit of what it can efficiently cope with and if there is much more growth in the site it will become pretty much unusable for everyone. I estimate that within 6 months this critical point will occur and then what - do I pay out of my own pocket for a considerably more expensive package?
I've talked to my webhosts about the future of the site and together we've come up with the sort of package that will be needed to keep plasticBishop.com running smoothly for the next couple of years, and it's going to cost me £120 per month, plus advertising costs to keep new members coming, so all in all that is approaching £150 per month, or £1800 per year. Who would want to pay that much to play on a chess site? I can't afford it, so unless I start making money from the site we'll all start to suffer from slower performance as time goes on.
By charging a subscription it will no longer be a free site and people won't want to join.
No one will be forced to pay anything. If a player doesn't subscribe then that's fair enough, they don't subscribe. They will get the same features that they get now and it will be free for them. By subscribing you get extra features, but by not subscribing you lose nothing, so you can still play free chess on the site.
Why don't you just have advertisements on the site to pay for your costs?
Some chess sites do both - they have advertisements that are removed if you pay a subscription. Advertisements work best when you have a large volume of unique visitors on a site each day, but we have pretty much the same visitors each day. Once a person has seen an ad they will ignore it for ever more. Ads on our site will be totally inneffective, distracting and ugly, and I'm convinced that they are not the way to go. They will be a downgrade of the service that everyone currently gets and I'm not willing to do that.
You just want to make a profit.
Yes and no. My main concern at the moment is in paying for the site's cost. Any profit that is made will go straight back into the site in the form of more advertising hence getting more people to join. In the long term (i.e. a year or more from now) it would be great if looking after the site became my fulltime job, but do we consider that profit? I have no interest in becoming a chess millionnaire, I'd simply want to be able to turn my hoby into my job and be able to look after the kids during the day while the missus goes to work (modern family, ey? [we don't have any kids yet, but who knows what will happen in a year or two]). Anyway, I digress - all proceeds will in one way or another be spent on the site to make it better for everyone.
I hope that this explains my decision to implement subscriptions. It's not as if I've just spontaneously decided to do it; a lot of thought and discussion has gone into it and I'm convinced that it will result in a better site for everyone.