Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Sustainable Software

John Gruber:

Put another way, we’re going to charge something sane or die trying. We tried following the iOS App Store trend by pricing Vesper at just $2.99 for months. It didn’t work. Prices like that are not sane, and not sustainable, at least for well-crafted productivity apps. So Q Branch is drawing a line in the sand, and we hope other iOS developers will follow.

John Gruber:

In most categories, and “notes apps” is certainly one, it’s not hard to find a “good enough” solution among the free choices, so most casual users never even consider a paid app. So I think it was a waste to try to entice them at $2.99.

Instead, we want to embrace the users who are looking for the best app, and who are willing to pay a fair price for it if they think Vesper might be it. Going low didn’t work; we lose nothing by trying to go high.

Craig Hockenberry (in 2008):

We have a lot of great ideas for iPhone applications. Unfortunately, we’re not working on the cooler (and more complex) ideas. Instead, we’re working on 99¢ titles that have a limited lifespan and broad appeal. Market conditions make ringtone apps most appealing.

Milen Dzhumerov:

Looking squarely at the price, the $5 app will always win because on the surface, the two are not very much different. That’s certainly the case for consumable software that you only use a few times and does not provide repeat value to the consumer. But for software that people get a lot of value out of and which they depend on, the $30 app represents much better value.


At the end of the day, it’s in the best interest of both consumers and developers to price software sustainably. Consumers get an app that provides them value while developers get to make a living, it’s a win-win. Pricing software cheaply means that your software is doomed and has no future, guaranteed. Put a sustainable price on it and let the market decide whether it’s worth it, do not pre-emptively make the decision on behalf of your customers.

Alex King:

When striving to create sustainable software, the most important building block is happy customers. This necessarily includes the ability to provide support. Not matter how “easy” it is to use, providing support enables more people to successfully and happily use your product.

I’m saying that most WordPress plugins and themes are not sustainable. I’m saying that most iOS apps are not sustainable. And I’m saying that most VC-backed/freemium services are not sustainable.

This situation isn’t good for customers or software developers.

Update (2015-03-05): Brent Simmons:

Features are economic decisions.

Update (2015-03-06): Kevin Walzer:

When Brent Simmons has to take a full-time gig, what does that mean for the rest of us?

Update (2015-03-13): Mark Bernstein writes about the pricing of his application, Tinderbox.

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[…] on Twitter. At $50, it’s definitely not for everyone. But when a company is trying to build sustainable software, that typically requires going against the relentless tide of free or “freemium” apps. Whether […]

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