Subscriptions are not fun
Marco Arment in the latest ATP episode said something along the that the reality is that an indy iOS app can’t exist without people subscribing to it. The obvious reality is that software maintenance is not free, and if people expect free updates forever, companies will go out of business. We suddenly discovered this new way of life where we rent software and it never dies. Even version numbers are changing to something which looks like either a large counter or a date. But I tell you this, I’d rather buy applications 10 times, all over again when there’s a major update rather than subscribe to it. It is better for me because it gives me a choice – run the obsolete version or switch to the new version. I can even run both versions at the same time. It is so much better. Like it or not, Marco, being able to choose a version of software you want to run, means you own it. What the subscription model takes from us is this choice. We are forced to always be on the latest version. It especially doesn’t make sense when an app is not tied to any backend and works offline.
Subscriptions might work right now for some financially, but in the long term, I think this model corrupts the development process like money corrupts politicians who are too long in power. This is not a problem for all apps and depends on the developer, but for some, it makes development dependent on a continuous flow of subscribers' money. Forces roadmap to serve features which transform application into a service, with non-necessary changes added and work to be shipped just for the sake of shipping. I mean come on, you don’t need to ship an update every 2 weeks. Maybe some apps need it, but most of them – don’t. What happened to the culture of shipping something great and then moving to a new thing? Why do we have to dwell on some projects to exist forever and capture more and more functionality? Subscriptions are to blame for what happened to Evernote which started to add more and more features, eventually, every app would want to be the only app you use and run all day. Becoming an ecosystem of its' own. That’s not the world I want to be part of. 1Password – we have been friends since the start, but this year I am transitioning the entire family to iCloud Keychain.
Subscriptions are not good for consumers as well. If you agree that owning a property is better than renting, you know what I mean. Yes, I want to own hardware I buy, I don’t replace it every couple of years. I don’t use phone contracts, I use my phones for 5 to 7 years, Macs even longer. I treat software the same. Paid upfront with Free Trial is the best thing that happened to the software, and it is achievable on iOS with 1 time non-consumable In-App Purchase. Yes, we do need iOS paid upgrades badly. We shouldn’t give up. What’s changed? We became lazier and greedier. We want safety, we avoid risks. That’s not fun at all.