A few years ago I was running a Chinese forum using the most popular forum system in China, Discuz. Discuz has a very useful user point system where points can be assigned to forum users depending on how much they participate. Depending on how many points a user has, he is granted different levels of permissions to do different things such as viewing file attachments, broadcasting global “shout outs”, etc. Discuz also included a feature where users can purchase these points through Alipay (China’s most popular online payment system). However only people living in China can use Alipay, so since all my bank accounts are Canadian, I had no way to monetize my forum through this point purchasing system.

I searched around in the Discuz official forum for a PayPal module which I could use outside of China, but had no luck. However I did notice many other people in the same situation searching for the same thing. So I thought maybe I could write this module and sell it, which I did, and made about a thousand dollars off it. The module was basically a free download, however I added some basic authentication mechanism to it so that the user can only use it for 10 times before the module locks up. It will become usable again only if the user purchase a password from me that is generated from the user’s domain name, so one purchase is only usable for one domain. This authentication piece was encoded with Ioncube so that a typical user cannot easily neutralize it.

Unfortunately the Discuz platform upgrades so frequently that my plugin soon required update. I originally wrote the plugin for Discuz 6.0, but soon Discuz 6.1 was released. I updated the plugin for 6.1, then 7.0 was released. I updated the plugin for 7.0, but more new versions were released, and now it is Discuz X1! Finally I realized it is a bad business model anyways that my product is based on another company’s product, so I decided to cease development. My time is worth more than what I can make with the plugin if spent elsewhere.

Moral of the story? Don’t based your product on product of someone else, if their product becomes obsolete so will yours. However the upside is I am now pretty good at programming for PayPal integration.