Tweaking fairware, again



After a year of fairware, one thing I learned is that many people have troubles understanding it. For most people, open source means free stuff and they're not interested in reading theories about intellectual property and other whatnots. Sometimes, people feel cheated when they see the fairware reminder to compensate for unpaid development hours when they thought the app was free. All of this is, I think, a rather negative side effect of fairware.

I have to admit, it's a bit unfair of me to require the user to understand the theory behind fairware in order to use the applications. Most of the time, users have something else on their mind. They have a problem to solve, they're looking for a solution and they just want to know how much it costs.

I recently discovered a nice community, Donation Coder where there's a lot of discussions about software in general, many of which are interesting. A topic on fairware recently cropped up and an interesting idea was brought forward: Dual-mode software. The app, when in default mode, would behave like your typical shareware app (demo limitations until you buy it), but with a mention that there's more to this facade. The typical "I don't care about this, tell me how much it costs" user would be satisfied, and the curious user would have the possibility to "unlock" the fairware mode.

I'm going to implement this in the upcoming dupeGuru release. It stays fairware, open source and all that, but I'm going to bring back demo limitations. The curious user could go read the fairware "About" page to know how to unlock the fairware mode (I'm thinking about making the user type "fairware" in the registration dialog). This unlock procedure can't be too easy, or else it would just be the "I want free stuff" option. It can't be too complicated or "secret" either (like for example a quizz on whether the user understood fairware), we don't want to enter the realm of silliness. Just a mention of the procedure on the About page should be enough to at least make the user aware that knowing about fairware concepts is part of the "contract" for using the app under fairware's terms.

Because, I suspect, many users don't care, dupeGuru should be going to go back, income-wise, near its pre-fairware levels (well, I write this but I'm not sure, the market changed a bit since the advent of the Mac App Store). Increased income is not my main goal (or else I wouldn't have open sourced my apps) but it's always a nice side effect to have :) That means that quite a bit of surplus will probably accumulate. I'm not sure yet what I'll do with it, but with some luck, it should be an additional incentive to bring external developers to the project, my long lasting (and unachieved) goal.