Friday, May 21, 2021 [Tweets] [Favorites]

New Many Tricks Upgrade Model

Rob Griffiths:

In theory, upgraders and new customers for a new release funded all the work we did between initial release and the major update. In reality, that model is broken for us—and for you, our customers—and it’s been broken for quite a few years.

[…]

A related issue is the amount of other work we have to do for free; there’s no way with our current model to ever cover the time we put into updating for new macOS features, or to work around bugs in other apps that cause problems in our apps, etc. […]

So you’re not happy (no new features) and we’re not happy (stressful, no revenue stream). Clearly the model had to change. So we changed it.

[…]

At the end of the full year, you’ll own the latest version released during that year, and you can keep using it without any sort of restrictions. It’s your app, and it won’t stop working just because a year has passed. At some point, if you want to update to the latest version, you can do so by paying a much lower “update only” price—and that price also includes at least one more full year of updates.

This is not a subscription in any way. You own the app, and you decide when (and even if) you want to add features we’ve added to the app over the time since your original year of updates passed.

It seems like they are keeping initial prices the same and offering a year of updates for 50% off. So, for a customer who wants to always be current, this represents a price increase vs. the old model of up to 9 years between major upgrades. But, as popularized by Sketch, it’s a good compromise vs. subscriptions in that you’re not renting the app and are never forced to upgrade. In theory, you can get access to new features sooner because they don’t need to be held for business reasons. And the predictable schedule has benefits for both sides. For the customer, there’s not really a bad time to buy. For the developer, as long as you keep making good updates you can get smoother revenue.

Rob Griffiths:

[The] App Store doesn’t support anything like what we’re trying to do. Thankfully, we don’t have to answer it right away, as our App Store apps aren’t up for major updates right now. (Moom 4, which will be our next major update, won’t be in the App Store, because it’s not allowed under their rules. It’s only there today because Apple allowed the current version to stay when they changed the rules.)

Benjamin Schaaf:

Sublime Text license keys are no longer tied to a single major version, instead they are now valid for all updates within 3 years of purchase. After that, you will still have full access to every version of Sublime Text released within the 3 year window, but newer builds will required a license upgrade. These are the same license terms we use for Sublime Merge, and they allow us to deliver more frequent and exciting updates as soon as they're ready, without having to roll them into a new major version.

Previously:

Update (2021-05-25): Zengobi:

We actually just switched to this model for our Curio 15 traditional licenses. Ironically Sketch was an inspiration.

11 Comments

Vlad Ghitulescu

I'm using the CMS Joomla (https://www.joomla.org) for dynamic websites.
Because Joomla is open source the only business modell for templates, extensions & plugins (https://extensions.joomla.org) is subscription: you pay a one-year fee and get updates (important due to increased security-risks) and more or less support (*) for 12 months.
There are some extensions - like the very popular Joomla Content Editor (https://www.joomlacontenteditor.net) - that offer a basic free version and an extended one with subscription and others that have only a subscription version (and even a few of them accept questions only after paying the subscription).
That's not to say that there are no completely free templates, extensions & plugins! There are plenty of those, some very good and some not so much, some very active and some completely abandoned.
After one year the payed templates, extensions or plugins remain usable (some go back to their standard version and loose the advanced features, like the above mentioned JCE) but there is no update & support anymore until one renews the subscription.

This is how subscriptions work in Joomla-CMS.

What does Joomla has to do with Many Tricks Upgrade Model?!

I become aware that in its blog post Many Tricks - as well as recently BusyMac (https://www.busymac.com/store/index.html), the maker of BusyCal and BusyContacts, apps that I use daily and treasure as much as Many Tricks Moom and Witch - do their best to avoid the word "subscription".
They explain that the new model is not a "subscription" since one can use the apps after the payed-period expires:

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Many Tricks (https://manytricks.com/blog/?p=5465)

> Our New Model
> First and most importantly, we are not moving to a subscription model: Once you buy our app, you own our app, and it won’t require ongoing payments to keep working. We don’t like the idea of requiring recurring payments to keep using an app that you already paid for.

BusyMac (https://www.busymac.com/store/index.html)
> Is there a Subscription fee?
> No. Each purchase gives you a perpetual license. Our apps are free to download and free to try for 30 days. Once you pay for the product, you're making a one-time purchase, not a recurring one. You own the product and are entitled to 18 months of free updates, after which you get to keep the last update released with an option to upgrade in order to receive an additional 18 months of updates.

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However if you reed further you'll discover… well, nothing else that the old Joomla subscription-modell: One gets updates and support only for a certain period of time. After this the software remains usable. You get the new version (or the updates) and support again once you renew the subscription. DUH!

I suppose "subscription" is still a loaded term in the Mac world - even if it is absolutely normal in the Joomla-community.

(*) Sorry for the VERY long posting, but I want to make it a little longer :-) with two comments re support in Joomla.

1. The support of Mac apps varies (I have my favorites - Michael is definitely one, as well as Patrick & Rich of BareBones and Rob at Many Tricks - and… well, the other ones - I'm totally looking at you, Path Finder!!! :-) but in general is some order of magnitude better than the support in Joomla, even the one included in the one-year subscriptions.
I'm using Macs since 1989 but the worst support I ever got in the Mac community was way better then even the payed one I get currently in the Joomla-community.

2. Over the years I've got some valuable and quick support in the Joomla-community as well - in my subscriptions and a couple of times free, from unknown helpful heroes in the Joomla Forum (https://forum.joomla.org) - so that's not to say that there is no hope with open source… ;-)

Beatrix Willius

I have moved to a similar model. Instead of having free updates between 1 and 3 years my users now get at least 2 years. A couple of users have whined until I explained the new model.

I still don't understand why people are willing to pay so much more money for subscription software. I won't pay 20$ a year for software where I paid 20$ one time.

Cleanshot X recently moved to this model too. As a consumer, I like it more than a subscription, but it's always a bit painful when there's a switch. And apps that require updating with every version of macOS (like mail suite) I'm fine with.

Michael, do you think that you're going to be moving any of your apps to something like this?

Tony Collins

I really like this model: what you bought will continue to work, and you can add stuff to it. It's so much more friendly than a subscription. Agenda is an app that I do pay for every year, and I think it's because the way they tell me "you don't have to keep paying; all the stuff you've paid for so far will continue to work" is such a good faith thing, it makes me commit to the developer.

If other devs are reading this, I'd really urge you to consider adopting this instead of a "your app stops working properly if you stop paying" model. I think it deepens the bond between user and dev.

I just don't use subscription apps - there are times when I don't have the money, and suddenly no matter how much I've paid in the months/years before, I lose all the subscription features. So devs who operate such schemes don't get my business, unfortunately.

@Joey I’m not sure. I definitely like it better than the subscription model, though.

@Tony Agenda has a slightly different model in that you continue to get bug fixes and compatibility updates for free, just not new features.

As a developer, I'd gladly move to this model, if it were easy to do. One checkbox in the Mac App Store? Done.

But right now, it would mean setting up my own distribution, and updates, and licensing, and payments, and support for all those additional layers, and who knows what else.

OK, Sparkle is great for updates, but if I still want to use the sandbox (which the Mac has had for 10 years now), I'd have to use the unreleased "beta" version of that. And mjtsai has an app for more easily making disk images, which would be nice for the initial download. I could probably find ways to do the rest, eventually. Oh, and I'd have to figure out how to let people migrate their Mac App Store purchases to my new system, which I've already looked at and couldn't figure out at all.

So I'd waste a month of work building my own App Store, for one app, because a couple people on the internet said they thought it would be a good idea, with no idea if they're even in the market for the type of software I write.

Somebody, please make an alternative Mac App Store already.

Kevin Schumacher

@Vlad Perhaps you could call it an update subscription that you get your first period free with purchase of a license, and then pay for thereafter, but the perpetual base license that you are purchasing is in no way a subscription.

From your description, there are three types of Joomla templates: free, pay once for a perpetual license with an optional subscription for updates, and subscription. The middle one is what Many Tricks has done here.

I don't think anyone's claiming it's the first instance of such a model. vBulletin offered it 20 years ago when I worked for them, and IIRC it was the same business model that Ultimate Bulletin Board (UBB) had when vBulletin ate their market share for lunch (by moving to PHP from Perl, primarily, same reason that WordPress that supplanted Moveable Type, which Moveable Type also had that business model, again IIRC).

@Sam If you're happy with your current business model, fine. Without knowing what it is and whether you currently offer subscriptions, I will tell you that, eventually, there will be a revolt against subscriptions when it turns out that every single app we have wants a monthly payment. And the developers who have gone in 100% on it with no thought to any alternatives will likely not find it very pleasant, especially those who insist on rendering your app mostly or completely useless when you cease your monthly tithe to them. Models like that described here are a massively more consumer-friendly way forward for a whole host of reasons.

@Kevin I used vBulletin for about 15 years (starting around 2005), and my recollection is that it was more like the traditional Mac model where you got bug fixes for free and paid upgrades for major new versions. I don’t remember anything being tied to the calendar year except perhaps priority support. I think they only charged me 3 times in all those years.

Vlad Ghitulescu

@Kevin You're absolutely right, what is called "subscription" in Joomla is Many Tricks new upgrade model (and BusyMac's new licensing).

Two examples:

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1. I'm paying for JoomlaContentEditor Pro (https://www.joomlacontenteditor.net/purchase) right now. As soon as my subscription expires I'll loose all the Pro-features (Image Manager Extended, Media Manager, Columns, etc.) and cannot get support anymore but still can use the basic JCE and get its updates.

2. I'm also paying for Joomlashack's "Everything Club" (https://www.joomlashack.com/joomla-products/everything-club/) that gives me 20 templates, 32 extensions and updates and support for it for one year. After this one year expires I'll loose the future updates and the support but I will still can use the templates and extensions.

---

There is no business model in Joomla where you cannot use a template, extension or plugin any more the moment your payed period expires (like Tower's subscription (https://www.git-tower.com/pricing/mac) or everything contained in in the Setapp(https://setapp.com)).

Kevin Schumacher

@Michael Hopefully this link works correctly. https://web.archive.org/web/20020610070312/http://www.digibuy.com/cgi-bin/order.html?vbulletin

They offered two types of licenses, "leased" (basically the Microsoft 365 subscription model--you could not run it at all without paying each year) and "owned," which was a perpetual license for the underlying software but you only got new releases, bug fix or not, for one year. You could renew for additional years for $30 a year. We did offer some security fix releases past the year, but I'm nearly positive it was limited to security fixes.

The reason I remember the way it was licensed is because when I cofounded HiveMail in the early 2000s, we adopted the exact same model.

They maintained that pricing structure throughout 2.x and 3.x, and it looks like it was changed to what you describe when they released 4.0, which was in late 2009. That was subsequent to the parent company being acquired by Internet Brands in 2007, so that might explain the shift.

@Kevin Ah, that makes sense. I think I started midway through 3.x.

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