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Is DirectAdmin Going the Way of cPanel? Some Angry People Think So

DirectAdminOur community loves DirectAdmin, and I think that’s for three main reasons:

(1) it’s cheaper than cPanel

(2) it’s in the same ballpark as cPanel in terms of functionality

(3) the company doesn’t have the negative vibes that cPanel does

For a lot of people (1) is all they care about.  For others, (2) is as important.  Most people feel that cPanel, on a feature-vs-feature basis, is a better product.  But cPanel also has things not everyone needs.  It’s one of those “if you only need Google Sheets, do you need to pay for Microsoft Excel?” situations.

As for (3), well…there’s a small chorus of people who would disagree.  It has to do with legacy lifetime licenses.

At one time, DA sold lifetime licenses, which allowed you to pay once and use the product forever with all the updates that followed.  However, DirectAdmin recently stated that MariaDB 10.11 and later versions will no longer be supported for these legacy licenses.

That’s kind of a sly way to make those legacy licenses unusable.

This policy means those licenses will start to slowly age out as newer software and customers want MariaDB 10.11+.  Eventually MariaDB 11 and 12 will come along and running 10.x will no longer be tenable for anyone other than determined hobbyists.  MariaDB 10.10 will go out of support in 2026.

What about other software?  PHP?

As someone in the DA forums commented, “This is how DirectAdmin becomes cPanel without becoming cPanel.”

That’s a bit unfair perhaps but this is the problem with lifetime licenses: they never last your lifetime.

I remember when Invision Power Board, a popular forum software, came out with IPB 4.  Users that had bought lifetime licenses in 2.x and 3.x and were told “here’s a discount for a few months, but after that, you’re the same as anyone else.”  The arguing in the forums went back and forth over two poles:

Company: “You paid ages ago, got free upgrades for years, and now we’ve made massive improvements and the product we’re offering is no longer remotely the same as the lifetime license you bought.”

Users: “True, but we were the ones who sunk money into a license back when no one knew if you were going to survive.  We took the risk and gave you lots of money really early on, and the deal was that in exchange for taking that risk, we’d get lifetime support and upgrades.”

It’s the same situation here.

As I recall, IPB stated that these lifetime licenses were something like 4% of their userbase, so it was a bit lame to kick up a fuss in exchange for allowed a few people to download updates, but that’s what Invision did.

I don’t know what percentage of users of DA have lifetime licenses, but since they stopped selling them years ago, no doubt it’ll shrink over time.  I believe they disallow transfers.  These legacy licenses have powered some providers’ lifetime licenses, or allowed them to off free DirectAdmin with VPS purchases.  How much longer will that be possible?

It’s unfortunate that this new direction came in a forum post about upgrading software instead formal statement.  It would have been better if DA said “we’re turning off support for legacy licenses in 12 months, those using them receive a permanent discount of ____ on the monthly price”.

Lifetime licenses never last your lifetime, and it’s a lesson the market keeps relearning.




  1. J:

    Well perhaps we can all learn a lesson (again)… there was VESTA and there is the much improved and actively maintained fork HESTIACP… True, missing some features and integration needed. HOWEVER, if those who pay the escalating fees of cPanel, DA, etc. would funnel a bit of that money into a FOSS system AND contribute to ADD/maintain those features they want/need… WELL, there would be a sustainable environment.
    I use HESTIA exclusively and almost everything can be automated in the shell and less technical users do get a GUI too… now there is a great concept – CLI! – lol. Unlike VESTA, which fell behind for various reasons, this is a very capable panel. The shortcoming vs cPanel/DA is in the billing integration – you want/need it -> contribute.
    In the long run FOSS is the better choice!

    October 4, 2023 @ 3:08 pm | Reply
  2. MD:

    This must be concidered as a warning to DirectAdmin customers!

    As some people already mentioned on the DirectAdmin forum, it’s a walking timebomb, now it’s MariaDB 10.11, next time they drop installing or upgrading PHP 8.3 or higher, then it’ll be NGINX, Apache, Exim, Dovecot. And don’t forget a possible increase in price they eventually might come up with as well.

    October 5, 2023 @ 3:06 am | Reply

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