scattering clouds

Soflyy’s website builder gambit: Breakdancing without Oxygen.

Note from author:

I am NOT INTERESTED in stirring up another argument on Breakdance VS Oxygen Builder VS any other page / website builder.

This article is written for my own posterity, because I couldn’t find a coherent story on the topic. A bit of self-serving journalism, if you will.

I made this article public because I also wanted to pad out my new blog.

It all started with an announcement.

Towards the end of Jun 2022, Louis Reingold, the CEO of Soflyy, sent out an announcement to his subscribers:

Introducing Breakdance

For the last 3 years, I have been working in secret on a new product.

It’s called Breakdance, and I’m ready to show it to the world.

It’s everything I think visual website building should be.

Learn more and get the free alpha at

Breakdance is a new-and-upcoming page builder plugin for WordPress. That’s a lot of jargon in one sentence, so let me paraphrase: You can build WordPress websites using Breakdance.

In another Facebook post, Louis made a similar announcement and claimed that Breakdance is “the website builder you always wanted”.

Following the announcement, the Official Oxygen User Facebook Group (also founded by Louis) erupted in a massive outcry.

The reason was simple: Breakdance is Soflyy’s second page builder plugin. Their first WordPress page builder plugin is called the Oxygen Builder. Soflyy has developed a product that competes against their existing product.

Nobody in the Oxygen community expected or asked for another page builder.

And the community has never been more divided. Some were sympathetic and understanding, others were furious and demanded answers.

Why build Breakdance instead of improving Oxygen?

Louis responded the following:

Oxygen has been around for 7 years and it’s 1/100th the popularity of something like Elementor. It’s much less popular than Divi, it’s much less popular than Visual Composer. So you want to build something that’s used by the mainstream.

… with Oxygen as a business that limps along selling lifetime licenses, if we change the pricing model to annual for new customers, it’s going to cut sales in half. And you also don’t know what you are going to get in terms of renewals.

Looking at Louis’ explanations, there seems to be two main reasons:

Reason 1: Oxygen is not mainstream.

Louis clarified in another Facebook post that Breakdance and Oxygen Builder are separate products aimed at different market segments.

  • Oxygen Builder has a steep learning curve and is geared towards advanced users. Those who understand how to build web pages the way it is meant to be built: using HTML and CSS code.
  • Breakdance is for non-techies who want a visual and intuitive drag-and-drop experience. Those who want to build websites WITHOUT knowing how to style a CSS class, or the complexities of creating layouts using flexbox or grid.

Louis maintains that 95% of the internet wants a mainstream visual builder.

Reason 2: Oxygen is limited by its business model.

Oxygen Builder is sold with an unlimited lifetime license. Purchase it once, and you get unlimited updates, unlimited support, and you can install it on an unlimited number of WordPress websites. However, there are only two software engineers working on Oxygen, because Louis claims that it is what the revenue supports.

For comparison, Breakdance currently has five engineers, but the money for them comes from Soflyy’s other product, WP All Import. And Breakdance will NEVER be sold as an LTD – it will only ever be available with a recurring subscription model.

The good and bad of LTDs.

At its core, LTDs or lifetime deals are just another marketing strategy.

Why are LTDs sold at all?

  • For businesses, LTDs are a good way to attract an initial userbase and solicit feedback for a new product. The business can also rely on LTD customers to market the new product through word of mouth.
  • For consumers, LTDs are a way to invest in the future of a new product. The idea is to support a yet-incomplete product early on, and gain permanent access for the lifetime of the product at a comparatively low upfront cost.

Once the initial development is complete, and the product has reached a minimum level of completeness and functionality, most businesses would transition towards a monthly or annual subscription model.

At this stage, some businesses would choose to keep selling LTDs at a much higher price (up to 5 times the cost of an annual subscription). Others would stop offering LTDs altogether and rely solely on the subscription model for revenue.

Oxygen Builder actually has a fairly successful LTD and a very loyal userbase. This is also in part thanks to Oxygen Builder’s reputation for clean and bloat-free code output and lightning-fast page load speeds on the front end.

  • The Official Oxygen User Facebook Group is a thriving community at 33.9K members strong (as of Sep 2022).
  • Soflyy also runs a Oxygen YouTube channel with tutorials and how-to videos.
  • There are a good number of WordPress YouTubers, bloggers, freelancers, and even digital agencies creating lessons and content around Oxygen.
  • Third party developers have also created a number of paid plugins and add-ons for Oxygen to extend its functionality and patch up some of its flaws.

I chose to purchase Oxygen back in 2020 despite being a complete beginner at website building and knowing very little of HTML and CSS. I loved the concept of an unlimited lifetime deal, I loved the helpful and vibrant community, and I wanted to learn how to build performant WordPress websites.

The limitations of LTDs

For a while, everything seemed well in the Oxygen Builder space. Underneath the surface, however, cracks were starting to show.

  1. Complaints started popping up about Oxygen Builder being too slow. This mainly applies to two things: slow interface load speeds in the WordPress backend, and slow development cycles (i.e. bugfixes and feature releases).
  2. A number of severe bugs in Oxygen took a very long time to fix. One of the worst being the duplicate ID issue, which took years to solve because the developers couldn’t think of a good way to address it.

Members of the Oxygen community created workarounds to deal with the duplicate ID problem while waiting for an official fix from the Oxygen Builder team. It took 3 years for the long awaited fix to be released in version 4.0 of Oxygen Builder, towards the end of May 2022.

Even then, the issue was not completely resolved because Oxygen still applies styling incorrectly at the ID level by default, instead of using CSS classes, which is how styles should be applied.

Louis’ explanation was that Oxygen didn’t have a large enough market, and its revenue was only enough to support two engineers.

And for some time, everything seemed well again. Things are moving along slowly but surely development-wise, and the Oxygen team is still responding to requests.

One month later, Breakdance was announced, along with a statement that Breakdance will never be sold as an LTD.

The biggest limitation of LTDs, at least in terms of Oxygen Builder, is the difficulty in transitioning to a recurring subscription model.

Not everyone can pull off a switch like this successfully.

Louis claimed to have tried switching Oxygen to an annual subscription model for new customers, and it cut sales in half. Combine that with an unpredictable renewal rate, and they would be forced to reduce an already small engineering team in half.

This would only slow down development even further, not speed it up.

The sentiment regarding Breakdance and the future of Oxygen Builder.

Oxygen users became concerned and discontent for a number of reasons.

Concern 1: Will Oxygen continue to be supported and developed?

With the revelation of Breakdance, it became obvious that Oxygen hasn’t been receiving much attention from Soflyy for the past 3 years.

Users became concerned that the development of Oxygen will lapse as Soflyy openly shifts their focus onto their second page builder.

Is Soflyy giving up on Oxygen?

In another Facebook post, Louis reassured that:

Oxygen is not going anywhere.

We are going to continue to release updates for Oxygen at the exact same pace we always have.

We are going to continue to implement feature requests and bug fixes for Oxygen at the exact same pace we always have.

Our commitment to lifetime support & updates for Oxygen has not changed.

Louis also acknowledged the slow development cycle of Oxygen Builder and explained why in a livestream:

Oxygen is a legacy codebase. It was coded in 2015 originally, it’s built on Angular 1, we tacked a lot of stuff on top of it after, because we didn’t know everything people would want as of 2022 when we originally coded it in 2015. So the architecture there was meant to support the initial features we built, but not all the new features people have requested. We can tack stuff on top of it but often it results in bugs, and it’s slower to build features that way.

Louis further added in a later segment that Oxygen’s development is about 80% done. There will be bugfixes, tweaks, and quality of life improvements, but they will no longer add any significant features or changes to the way Oxygen works.

It was also pointed out that there has always been a lack of a roadmap or any form of visibility into the development of Oxygen Builder. People have long been asking for a public roadmap for Oxygen but never got one.

In contrast, Breakdance has a roadmap upon release.

Louis responded by saying:

The Oxygen Builder business model does not work unless you are selling lifetime licenses. And we don’t want people to buy lifetime licences based on what the product might be in the future. A roadmap only works with a subscription model. I don’t think we can convert Oxygen to a subscription model…

It was a reasonable response, but it still stings to see a roadmap for Breakdance.

Oxygen Builder has no public roadmap and consequently, no certainty in its future.

Update 03 Feb 2023:

On 27 Jan 2023, Elijah Milis, the COO and Team Lead of Oxygen Builder, announced that Oxygen now has a roadmap on Github. Louis said there would never be a public roadmap for Oxygen, but seven months later, here we are.

Are things starting to look up for Oxygen Builder, or is this a last-ditched attempt to salvage what little reputation and goodwill Oxygen has left?

You be the judge.

Personally, I am averse to chasing false hope. A man is only as good as his word. Soflyy has only proven themselves incapable of sticking to their guns.

The only way I would change my mind is for the Oxygen team to substantiate their commitment and resolve by rewriting Oxygen Builder in a modern codebase. Until then, I will continue to give Oxygen Builder a wide berth.

Concern 2: Questionable business decisions by Soflyy.

Louis invested $42,000.00 (likely in USD) to obtain the domain name. Yes, just the domain name and nothing else. Credit for this information goes to Sridhar Katakam from WPDEVDESIGN.

BREAKDANCE.COM last sold for $42,000 on Oct 2021. Screenshot taken on Sep 2022.

Needless to say, this purchase did not reflect well on Louis and Soflyy.

Imagine what they could achieve if they invested an additional $42,000 and 3 years’ worth of development time into Oxygen Builder. Perhaps stripping out the legacy code and rewriting Oxygen in a modern codebase.

Oxygen could’ve become the best WordPress page builder on the market!

Instead, their attention and resources are now split between two page builder plugins. Two plugins built for the same exact purpose. One with an established niche and a dedicated userbase, and one with an absolutely ludicrous name.

People do get excited to hear about a new WordPress page builder. But few would get excited enough to start breakdancing on the spot. Website building tends to be a sedentary activity, and breakdancing is everything website building is not.

Why would anyone in their right mind spend $42,000 on a domain name that literally has nothing to do with the product?

According to Louis, it was because:

It was on Brand Bucket, and I could afford it, and it had ended in a dot com.

It was brandable.

You can get unused .com domain names for less than $20 AUD per year. I nabbed after a few days of casual searching back in Jun 2020.

So maybe it’s a good thing I’m too broke to have 42,000 odd dollars lying around?

Concern 3: The CEO went back on his word in public.

Some users were quick to note that Louis used to sing a different tune in the past:

When asked about the possibility of launching an affiliate program for Oxygen Builder, Louis once responded that he “would rather gets [sic] AIDS and die”.

Louis proclaiming his stance against affiliate programs for Oxygen Builder. Certain details are redacted for the sake of privacy. Screenshot taken Sep 2022.

But lo and behold, Breakdance has an affiliate program up and running on day one.

Louis clarified why an affiliate program would make more business sense for Breakdance, which will be offered on a subscription model, rather than for Oxygen, which is currently on a lifetime model:

Oxygen used to be 99 dollars. If we offered 50% commissions, our commission is only 50 dollars. Now when we lose 50 dollars off a 99 dollars lifetime license, that’s only 49 dollars left. Then we got 4% payment fees, 5% refund rate, we gotta pay support we gotta pay development…

The economics make no sense until you get the [subscription] renewal at full price, because that’s where your actual profit is. But with a lifetime license, paying a commission that would be remotely competitive in the market doesn’t make sense.

Given the circumstances, however, some users find it even harder to trust what Louis has to say. Especially since he went back on such a strongly worded belief.

After all, at some point in the future, Louis could’ve just as easily announced: “The economics no longer make sense, so we are dropping all support for Oxygen.”

Closing words.

Over the years, Oxygen Builder has gathered a sizeable following that is very loyal to the product. This is in part thanks to its reputation, its community, and its lifetime business model.

There were a number of niggling problems and some egregious ones, but people trusted that the Oxygen development team at Soflyy will work them out eventually.

Then everything went out the window following the announcement of Breakdance.

A significant portion of the Oxygen community became sick and tired of the lack of communication, transparency, and certainty in the future of Oxygen.

Louis is adamant that Oxygen will continue to be supported and updated for life. But he also proclaimed that there will never be a rewrite of Oxygen Builder using a modern codebase. Because it would break backwards compatibility, and it would break every existing website built using Oxygen.

Combined with its status as a legacy product, it becomes obvious that Oxygen will be sunset at some point. It will not happen soon, probably not within the next two to three years. But as its technical debt continues to pile up, Oxygen Builder’s eventual obsolescence is now a foregone conclusion.

Soflyy spent the past three years secretly developing a second page builder that will outlast their first, and Oxygen users are jumping ship to competing products.

Only time can tell what will come of Soflyy’s latest gambit.

P.S.: And this, ladies and gentlemen, is why I stand by my argument that ALL website builders suck.

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