Subscription based license for Rhino

This is a controversial topic I know, but why not poke the bear a little bit. I believe it would be great if Rhino would offer an optional annual license.

The main reason people don’t like cloud based subscription models is that if you stop paying you lose access to the software. I don’t like this either. What I do like a lot about cloud based models is that you don’t have to wait 1 year, 2 years, 3 years to get an update for the software.

Both Fusion and Onshape introduce new and improved functionality on a monthly basis. This is really nice, that means if the developers at McNeel finish a great new feature they can release it and all the Rhino users that are on subscription benefit from this.

One company that I believe has a great license structure is Graebert, the company that makes the Ares Commander AutoCAD clone. Screenshot below.

-If you pay the annual license fee, your software will be continually updated throughout the year and you get access to support. This is actually a very reasonable $250 per year.
-If you don’t want to pay an annual license fee you can buy the full version install it on your computer and use it as long as you want and never upgrade if you don’t want or need to.

Imagine the following scenario. Rhino is installed on your computer and you are free to use it as long as you want, no changes there, same as it is now. User that are on the subscription model get new and improved features on a monthly basis. Yay. software Christmas every month!

Let’s say I can’t afford to be on subscription all the time. I have Rhino installed on my computer and can use it as long as I want. Rhino is releasing updates to the software on a monthly basis, I review the new features and they don’t improve my workflow. I simply keep using the one I have, but after let’s say three years Rhino releases a new features that would enhance my workflow.

I get back on the subscription model and the fresh Rhino install does come with all the new features that have accumulated. For some users this may mean they purchase an annual license once and hardly ever upgrade because it does what they need it to do. but for other users that are on subscription, they get upgraded features on a monthly basis. I know I would love that.

The reason I say this, is because I don’t understand Why we need Rhino V4, V5, V6, V7 etc. everytime we wait years to get one big batch of enhancements, many I’m sure having been done early in the development process and just sitting dormant until the release.

Get rid of the Version designations and just let Rhino be Rhino. You pay the license fee, you get access to Rhino for one year and the monthly updates that come with that. If you stop paying the annual fee, you no longer get access to the monthly updates, but you can continue to use Rhino until you see it fit to get back on subscription.

The benefit for users is that they get access to new and improved features on a monthly basis and don’t have to wait years for a batch of new features. The benefit for McNeel is that they will a much more consistent revenue stream to support the development and enhancement of new features. Just a though, but I know I could really get behind this model.

You have poked dozens of angry bears.:rage:

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I have software which provides a perpetual license, and then charges an annual fee which allows installation of any maintenance fixes, an annual update, and tech support for the year. If you stop paying the annual fee and then decide you want to get back on the subscription plan they charge the accumulated annual fees, not just a single annual fee. McNeel, in contrast, provides all service releases, which occasionally have new features, and tech support in exchange for a single new version license fee every few years .

New features are already available on a frequent basis to anyone with a license for the current version of Rhino. Just download and install the WIP version alongside the current version. The WIP version has new features added periodically.

My guess is the Rhino development process is efficient for the size of the McNeel organization. Even an annual release would probably require adding significant people which would need to be paid for by increasing the cost of Rhino.

Plug-in developers need stability, not a new version of Rhino frequently.


So why don’t you like this potential license model?

Hi David,

You make a good point regarding Plug-In developers.

With that said though. How would my proposed license model of a continuously updated version of Rhino be significantly different from running the WIP installation alongside the current Rhino version?

If a new feature is added Rhino is updated and users have access to it. For sure Plug-In developers will need to update their Plug-In to work with the new feature, but again, how is that different from the current model? If you are a Plug-In developer you will need to update your Plug-In to continue to be functional with the current version of Rhino.

Case in point, T-Splines and VSR Shape modeling have disappeared with the release of Rhino V6.

I guess it would cost you more, for one thing… =)

But, WIP features are not finished features - it’s not the same thing as an official update and I doubt, off hand, that we’d be actually adding enough, month to month, in the way of new, finished, stuff to make you feel like you’re getting something worthwhile for your subscription. I don’t say it will never happen, these questions are far from being in my bailiwick, but I think it’s safe to say it would not be a simple matter to implement this type of system.



Hi Pascal,

Yes, I realize it would cost me more and I’m perfectly OK with that. The point I’m trying to make is that there are many users on the forum that want to see improvements to the software and invariably it boils down to McNeel doesn’t have the same resources as the big guys do.

Development of Software costs money, the good people that do all the hard work to make the magic happen have families and lives that need to be supported. I would be more than willing to pay a reasonable annual license fee if that resulted in more resources for McNeel to develop new enhanced magic faster.

The month I threw out that was just an example It could be quarterly, every 6 months whatever time frame makes the most sense. I’m in no way shape of form suggestion moving to cloud based subscription, but the whole point of Fusion and Onshape is that there never is a new “version”. There’s only the current version and it’s always a little better when you login. I have Fusion because it has T-Splines. When you login there’s a little “Find out what’s new” notification. This feature doesn’t have to be cloud based, it could be service release based, just like it is now. You start Rhino it checks in with the McNeel servers and upgrades you to the latest version and whatever new or enhanced features are part of that service release. The point is that new features are added very frequently, not every 3 or 4 years.

You are all super involved, hence you replying on a Sunday. I love the fact that you guys care about your user base. Rhino is by far the cheapest software I use, the upgrades take several years and the upgrade cost is low. If all or most of the users pitch in with a reasonable annual license that would generate more revenue for McNeel that can be applied to more resources we get better features faster. Increased useability would grow the user base which would in turn generate more revenue etc, etc. Rhino is a very good NURBS modeler but it could be better and I would happily support that.

I agree. While the addition of Grasshopper and more recently the rendering enhancements are great, I feel McNeel is lagging behind in freeform mesh editing and SubD. So if a subscription base license will allow you to hire the developers you need to get this done faster I would be happy to support this. If you’re concerned that you will turn off hobby users you could offer a basic package at reduced price.

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hmm, those words vaguely ring a bell somewhere…

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Hi Abraham,

Actually I don’t believe this could be implemented and still be attractive to hobby users. If you go on annual subscription you get immediate access to all new features as they are released whether that is monthly, quarterly, or every six months.

McNeel compiles all those changes and than every 3-4 years, they release a new version that has all the features. The wait time would stay the same, the upgrade cost to the new version would also stay the same.

The advantage for people that are on subscription is that they would have access to some of the early features several years before other people. Yes, this would cost a little extra, but my guess is that most users will want access to the features and not wait 3-4 years and go on subscription. The $250.- annual fee I threw out there seems totally reasonable to me for several new features per year.

Must be really vaguely since you’re posting on a Sunday :grinning:

You might be right-I’d leave it to McNeel to understand their customer base and develop the right solutions for users who may not want to pay a subscription fee for advanced features.But your suggestion of one Rhino on subscription with all the latest stuff released continuously instead of versions works for me as long as it enables faster release of better tools and UI.

Biggest question in my mind might be trouble for plugin developers who would have a constantly moving target instead of stable platforms. But in my opinion Rhino is slipping now and having more new features developed as part of the core software with additional in house resources rather than as add on plugins might help focus McNeel on actually hitting tool and UI release targets faster.

It sounds like you believe McNeel currently works on a succession of projects for new features and capabilities, and as each is completed puts it on the shelf until they have accumulated enough for a new release. My guess, based on being a WIP user for both V5 and V6, is that is not how McNeel works. Some enhancements and new features may be stand alone but others are interconnected.

Hi David,

I’m not a software coder/developer so I don’t know what’s involved in it. For sure if you are talking Grasshopper integration or massive rendering update those are big projects that influence Rhino in ways I can’t even start to imagine.

At the same time I have to believe certain enhancements can be released when ready. V6 has the enhanced extendsrf command that redistributes the control points evenly. I love that feature and this is probably an example that could be released when ready.

The mouse sensitivity buttons in the Move UVN dialog box is another example I can think off.

It certainly is possible for Fusion and Onshape to release enhancements on a regular basis. Onshape has modeling enhancements roughly once a month. Check out their what’s new page if you are interested. Most of these are not earth shattering large project implementations, but nice little enhancements of existing features or improved functionality.

Hi Abraham,

It could actually be easier for Plug-In developers (This is just me speculating, but why not). If Rhino is finished with a new feature they release it to the Plug-In community and announce that they plan to release it in Rhino is say six months. This gives the Plug-In community six months to make sure their Plug-in is compatible with this one feature.

A few Months later Rhino finishes another feature and the cycle starts again, they release it to The Plug-In community and they have six months to develop this new feature. It would spread out the work load, you wouldn’t have to get your Plug-In to work with a whole slew of new features.

I have done big product launches in my career (100+ products with one release date), and it’s always a nightmare getting everything ready. You simply have too much on your plate. At the same time we have done off-cycle releases of just a few models and without exception those product introductions were much smoother.

Not a fan of this idea. One of the things that is appealing about Rhino is that we don’t pay any maintenance and the support is outstanding (best I’ve experienced with the variety of software solutions I deal with). We don’t need to pay in advance for new features, just for the sake of getting new features (that we may or may not need). We already do that for other products, to the tune of more than $200K a year. Currently with Rhino, we can assess the new features by participating in the WIP and beta process, and we can make an educated decision on whether or not we want to upgrade.

We have another product that we pay maintenance on that is so buggy and glitchy that we sometimes have to skip the entire year, hoping that the following release will be better. I’m not saying that would happen with Rhino, but I am saying we’re tired of paying in advance and hoping for the best.




Don’t users already get the mechanism you suggest, at no incremental cost, via the WIP system?

Your thesis seems to center on the idea that: if only McNeel would extract more revenue from its customers, said customers could then get more of what they want, and faster. Correct?

On the surface such is a logical conclusion: in practice, perhaps not. Additionally, when a company has been run successfully under one model for 20+ years, with a loyal customer base, there are significant risks.

Still, private equity does part of your ask - extract more, increase efficiency. Read about the most successful software PE firm in existence, then report back on your feelings, please. (Ignore that the fish is too small. Focus on concepts.)

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Well, yes and no. I’m an independent contractor and I can install a WIP no problem. I have also worked for companies and in my experience getting a WIP or a Beta installed on a company system is simply a non-starter. The subscription service release/feature release would make it an officially supported version from McNeel and as such can be installed by everyone.

The post was not intended as a way for McNeel to extract more revenue from it’s customers but actually the other way around. I wish McNeel nothing but the best and as a user I would like to support them. The optional subscription system is a way for users to better support a company that is doing right by their customers.

V5 was released I believe in 2012. Last month I upgraded to V6 for $395.- This means McNeel got roughly $65.- per year from me for the use of the software.

I also use SolidWorks for my work, because a lot of my customers use it, this means I need to stay current since there is no backwards compatibility. SolidWorks hasn’t added anything the benefited my workflow in years.

So I end up paying well over $2,000 a year to a company I don’t care about and one that doesn’t do right by their customers and the company that I do care about and does right by their customers gets $65.- per year.

I believe they deserve better than that and I would gladly support it.

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I hear you regarding paying a lot of maintenance for products that may not seem worth it, see my reply to ec2638. I just figured this could be a great way for happy customers to better support a company that does right by their customers.

I had the same with Alibre\Geomagic every year I paid hoping the next would add something worth my £400.00 but from 2010 to 2014 barely anything was added just a version increase and a few bug fixes so I gave up and moved to Fusion.

What makes you think McNeel wouldn’t end up the same, Fusion and OnShape are quite new so the scope for adding features is quite big not so easy for Rhino. Also you mentioned plugins, do you thing they will be free upgrades, some might but I’d bet some will use it as an excuse to charge every year as well. I’d be happy if new versions of Rhino are released more often but going to a yearly cycle could upset some customers if nothing useful is added but at least McNeel don’t punish you if you don’t upgrade and have backwards compatibility. But that might have to change if too many people kept skipping a version or two.