Phasing out fairware

When I started my adventure with open sourcing my shareware apps, I had two main goals. First, I wanted to see if it was possible to make money with open source shareware-type apps. Second, I wanted to bring more developers to the projects to ensure their continued existence (and for the fun of it).

The first goal, after a few tweaks, was easily reached. As a matter of fact, my income has been higher with my apps open sourced than closed. As for the second one, I could never do it. I have no idea why, but there seems to be zero interest from any developer for working on my projects, even with the prospect of that work being paid. Well, that is a mystery that is likely never to be solved because I'll be starting to phase fairware out.

I've been lacking motivation to work on my apps for a while now and I've been looking for something else to work on. I ended up taking a job as an open source consultant at a local firm four months ago. I like it there, the team is nice and the challenges are motivating. For me, this confirms that I'm tired of working on shareware-type apps and that I'm moving on.

Because fairware is about selling development time rather than usage rights, therein lies a problem: because I have no intention of continuing to work on my apps and because I could find nobody else to work on them, I'm not justified to ask money for it. I should then announce right here and now that I'm about to remove all fairware nags from my apps and make them "purely" open source (I quote purely because they already are).

However, it feels exceedingly stupid of me to simply forgo 4000$ of monthly income like that. In the last four months, I've worked very little on HS apps and I have yet to receive any complain about the legitimacy of asking users for that money. Technically, since all development hours for dupeGuru (the only app that really brings money in) have long been compensated and that enough of a surplus has accumulated to pay for all future development I can foresee, I don't have that legitimacy. But it's more complicated than that.

Since the latest "fairware tweak", the deal has been that the user has access to the faiware deal if and only if he bothers to at least read about it and thus know the rationale behind it. If he didn't, dupeGuru would act like a typical shareware and be in demo mode until he paid 20$. Believe it or not, money coming from these users constitute, by far, the majority of my income. This was the case even when there were still fairware hours to pay (so the app in fairware mode popped a nag as well). These users, I have absolutely no problem, moral or otherwise, accepting their money.

So, I don't want to stop taking their money, but I also can't just remove fairware mentions in the app's nag because if I did, the "fair user" wouldn't get the opportunity the learn about fairware and would just think that dupeGuru is another typical shareware.

The solution I see to solve this problem is to make it clearer, on the contribution page and the "About fairware" page that payment isn't required and that, at the bottom of the about page are instructions to enable the fairware mode (and thus remove all limitations and nags). These instructions have always been there, but most people aren't patient enough to read to the bottom of the page and realize that the "fairware mode" exists. I want to make it so that as soon as you bother enough to at least click on the "About fairware" link, you're immediately informed of the existence of the "fairware mode" and that this mode means "dupeGuru for free".

In this text, I've been referring only to dupeGuru because I'm going to remove all fairware nags from other apps. The income they bring is too small to bother keeping the nags and I think that their removal could help spur adoption, and thus be in the interest of the projects.

I'm also going to remove the nags from the Linux version of dupeGuru because I think that those nags hinder dupeGuru's inclusion in the various package managers around. dupeGuru has been packaged on Arch Linux, but the package builders strip the nag from the app (and I have absolutely no problem with this). What this tells me is that it's probably unacceptable for an official package repository to have an app with any kind of nag, but that other package managers might not like the idea of, like the Arch people, simply strip it out. I'm going to make the decision easier for them.

Lastly, I'm going to stop publishing contribution statistics since they won't mean much anymore. I'll keep historical statistics around for people to see what fairware has been.

I will, of course, continue to maintain and support HS applications.

If anyone wants to draw conclusions from this adventure, I'd say that it shows that getting money from an open source shareware-type app is absolutely no problem: A little shareware-type demo mechanism and you're done. Users aren't going to recompile your source themselves and you'd have to be really unlucky for another developer to maintain a free version of your app out of spite.

But fairware as a development model? Meh. Didn't work for me.