Fog Creek Software
Discussion Board




DonationWare

I am thinking about asking for donations for my application instead of releasing it as shareware.

Advices? Anyone here is making money this way?

To donate or not to donate? That's the Q
Wednesday, January 07, 2004

I've done it. No, you won't make much money.

Brad Wilson (dotnetguy.techieswithcats.com)
Wednesday, January 07, 2004

This reminds me of an excerpt of a post by Rory Blyth http://neopoleon.com/blog/posts/2198.aspx

"It's much easier to get people to pay for your software if you charge for it. It will also be less confusing for your customers if you ask for money up front rather than later.

I don't travel much, but when the pleasure is mine, I find myself in the usual position of having to spend great stretches of time in airports. While in the airports, I'm often approached by people who want to leave little trinkets with me. Sometimes they'll leave stickers, other times they'll leave plastic jewelry. Whatever it is, they just hand it to me. Confused, I accept the crappy, low-quality gift, and then go back to whatever it is that I was doing before being interrupted.

Then, invariably, the person who left the "gift" with me comes back to collect on it. There isn't a fixed price - they just want whatever I'm willing to give. Five dollars? Ten dollars? Whatever. Just some cash, you know? It's a donation.

Then I refuse to pay. And then the person freaks out. Then I get "the look" as though I'm pure evil. And then I brush the trinket off my lap. ..."

Just me (Sir to you)
Wednesday, January 07, 2004

What I want to know is how you're gtoing to send the evil eye down the internet.

A cookie, an IM, a graphic, a flash animation?

Donation ware will make little money. You might get more than you would by charging though. Plenty of people like myself hate going through the hassle of installing shareware only to find the trial is  so severely crippled they might as well get rid of it on the spot, or that the chances of it being worth paying for are so infinitesmally small that it's not worth the time invested finding out if it's any good.

Now a decent micropayment system open to the whole world and not just a sub set of Americans would solve the problem in no time.

Stephen Jones
Wednesday, January 07, 2004

Stephen: you clearly haven't been reading your Shirky.  ;>  (See http://shirky.com/writings/fame_vs_fortune.html which links to http://szabo.best.vwh.net/micropayments.html .)

Sam Livingston-Gray
Wednesday, January 07, 2004

My advice: make the program shareware, not "donationware".

You won't earn much with donationware.

Mac
Wednesday, January 07, 2004

* Then I refuse to pay. And then the person freaks out. Then I get "the look" as though I'm pure evil. And then I brush the trinket off my lap. ..."

Make yourself a little business card along the lines of:

Mr. Just Me (sir to you)
Product Evaluation Consultant (whatever)
yatta... yatta... yatta...

When they return and demand payment, show them your card, give them a quick evaluation of the product<g> and then insist on payment for your market research services.

:)

professional w.a.
Wednesday, January 07, 2004

I find the fundamental point of Shirky's musing, that there is a growing volume of free content undermining the ability for anyone to charge, highly questionable: My perception of the web is that the volume of free content has been drying up for well over half a decade now (I could find much larger amounts of _quality_ content 5 years ago than today) -- many of the people with value to add simply don't have the time or the motivation to dedicate to a web project because the advertising revenue model failed.

As a sidenote, I had a raving rant about Micropayments (http://www.yafla.com/~dforbes/micropay/index.htm), authored almost 3 years ago (wow...hard to believe it's been that long), in wide distribution. Mind you what I'm actually discussing isn't as much the "penny per page view" Micropayment concept, but rather a financial structure that can support small payments with minimal overhead.

Dennis Forbes
Wednesday, January 07, 2004

If you want to do "donationware", write uncrippled shareware, because that's basicly what people will treat it as.

Back in The Day, offering to do custom paid extensions based on your free apps was a great way to make money for computer upgrades. ;)

Flamebait Sr.
Wednesday, January 07, 2004

If it's DonationWare you can get away with whatever level of quality you see fit.  If it's shareware people will expect at least some level of quality for the money they are paying.

chris
Wednesday, January 07, 2004

"Then I refuse to pay. And then the person freaks out. Then I get "the look" as though I'm pure evil. And then I brush the trinket off my lap. ..." "

Good grief, what a complete ass. It ought to be pretty clear that they are pan-handling. Is it so hard to just indicate that "no, I'm not interested."

Instead you have to prove how friggin' smart and clever you are to a person that has been reduced begging at an airport.

Congratulations. You're so cool.

Get Over Yourself.
Wednesday, January 07, 2004

As a personal experience, I have bought a fair number of shareware programs, but I have donated only once. I  certainly prefer to know upfront how much money do you expect for you work than "as you wish". Even worse is when people have only a Paypal link: I'm not, and I won't be, a Paypal user so you won't get any money from me with that. Do you want money? Put a price and accept credit cards (at least Visa and MC). I stopped using paper checks in 1995 (I know many people that have never written one in their lives) so allow for the use of plastic.

Most money making enterprises work in the basis of a single or multitier price structure (professional, academic, site license -the latter may be negotiable) where people in the same tier are expected to pay the same price. If you value your work and you are in it not only for fame (and then go for free, as in beer) tell people how much you want for it.

uncronopio
Wednesday, January 07, 2004

"Instead you have to prove how friggin' smart and clever you are to a person that has been reduced begging at an airport."

Yeah - forget about getting a job; begging for cash by handing out the plastic crap cutlery they give to the passengers on the flights is a much more sound and respectable income. I can see that...

Tsk.


Wednesday, January 07, 2004

"Yeah - forget about getting a job; begging for cash by handing out the plastic crap cutlery they give to the passengers on the flights is a much more sound and respectable income. I can see that..."

Well, we can't all be over-paid programmers who snub their noses at the less fortunate, can we?

Get Over Yourself.
Wednesday, January 07, 2004

You're the self-righteous one.  Begging is not a job many people want, but it pays well.  And this kind of begging is blatantly manipulative.  A common con, especially in jail, is to offer something to a newbie and then later demand it be repaid somehow.

burningman
Wednesday, January 07, 2004

So, getting back to Donation Ware ...

What do you see as the difference between DonationWare and full version shareware?

Think you'll make any more with one than the other?

I think it's back to; be honest. If you want $30 for the use of your program/utility, tell them. If it's worth that they'll pay it - well the honest ones will.

I recently donated to newsreader that I've been using for about a year - he only just recently set it up. I had no idea "how much" to donate - it puts the person donating in an awkward position.

I'll soon have one too :(
Wednesday, January 07, 2004

Instead of panhandling at the airport he could run a book on how many posts it takes on average before any discussion on JOS degenerates into an irrelevant flame war.

Stephen Jones
Wednesday, January 07, 2004

Shirky is talking about micropayment for content and basically he is right.

However people are prepared to pay small amounts as you can see from itunes; loads of people will pay $0.99 a track. If shareware authors could get that for ten percent of the customers that download their stuff they would be rich.

The truth is simple; scarcely anybody pays for shareware (one very good reason being that 99.9% of it isn't worth paying the price asked anyway) , so you might do better asking for donations with paypal. For those who are embarrased at what to give put a suggested list (i.e students $1-$3, teachers and social workers $2-$10, businesses $5-$20). Put a link to it though, as you don't want to put off the people who are feeling really generous, or are using stolen paypal cards.

There are two reasons for going for donationware. One is ideological; the other is that you might actually make more money than you will if you try and charge for it (though as Brad says you're not going to be a millionaire either way).

Stephen Jones
Wednesday, January 07, 2004

Just me,

I had a similar experience walking the streets of NYC. I was on Broadway & 4th street a few years ago in front of Tower Records. A good looking guy with a stack of books walks up to me and gives me a "free" book on hinduism or buddhism or something. I graciously accept it. He then asks if I want to "buy" the second book for $19.95. I refuse.

At this point he asks for the first book back, so, not being so curious about the contents that I want to argue with him, I return it to him.

The funny thing is, he seemed genuinely confused about this sort of thing.

Wasn't giving things out in the airports deemed illegal?

Depending on the kind of software, I'd offer a free version and a pay version with some more features. I hate time crippled software, but I hate having to pay before I try something more.

Fully functional, but not as robust strikes me as a good way to go. Like a text editor that's fully functional, but without the regular expression search & replace, spellcheck, and the ability to password protect/encrypt documents.

If you have no real desire to make money, ask for Postcards, or for people to give donations to worthy causes. Call it Guiltware and put pictures of African children with distended stomachs next to an overweight Sally Struthers.

www.MarkTAW.com
Wednesday, January 07, 2004

What about a Starter Edition with a content limit - you pay to get the edition with the limit removed?

I'll soon have one too :(
Thursday, January 08, 2004

"Good grief, what a complete ass. It ought to be pretty clear that they are pan-handling. '"

For the record, I give to charity (and I've set up a system that funnels dough into charity: http://www.neopoleon.com/blog/chooseFeedGroup.aspx), and I give to panhandlers - *when I know why I'm giving*.

I have little interest in being *guilted* out of the money I've worked for.

"Is it so hard to just indicate that 'no, I'm not interested.'"

Probably not much more difficult than saying "I'm panhandling - gimme some money."

Remember: They came to *me* - I didn't go to them.

Rory
Thursday, January 08, 2004

MarkTAW,

<quote>
I had a similar experience walking the streets of NYC. I was on Broadway & 4th street a few years ago in front of Tower Records. A good looking guy with a stack of books walks up to me and gives me a "free" book on hinduism or buddhism or something. I graciously accept it. He then asks if I want to "buy" the second book for $19.95. I refuse.

At this point he asks for the first book back, so, not being so curious about the contents that I want to argue with him, I return it to him.

The funny thing is, he seemed genuinely confused about this sort of thing.
</quote>

He seemed confused, since you broke the rule of reciprocity - see Joel's review of Influence ( http://www.joelonsoftware.com/navLinks/fog0000000262.html ).

Seeya


Thursday, January 08, 2004

---" Fully functional, but not as robust strikes me as a good way to go. Like a text editor that's fully functional, but without the regular expression search & replace, spellcheck, and the ability to password protect/encrypt documents."----

And what you should do (and nobody ever does) is have the fully functional version turned ON by default for the trial 30 days. You wnat them to use the product and see how good it is. Give them a crippled version and they will have bad vibes. Let them use everything, and then turn off the advanced features, and if they're hooked they'll buy.

To give you an example of the wrong way to go there is a program called Duplicate email remover which finds duplicate emails in Outlook and removes them. Unlike another utility I've downloaded it makes a good job of this. But the trial ware will show you how many you've got but only let you delete ten at a time. Now I had one folder with about 500 duplicates because when I went on holiday I had set the laptop to leave messages on the server, and forgottien all about it when I got home. I would have to use the program 45 times, which was not impossible but slower than doiing the job manually, since duplicate messages are next to the orignal so you just have to select every other message for manual deletion.

Had they left it uncrippled, I would have used it. Had they not disabled it at the end of the trial period, but left the crippled version to work on my system, I would have kept it, and the next time I made the same kind of mistake, maybe paid the ten or fifteen dollars just to avoid the hassle of having to delete everything manually again. What I did with their time limited and crippled system was uninstall it straight off so the toolbar didn't take up any more space on Outlook.

Stephen Jones
Thursday, January 08, 2004

Yep, I read Influence a while back. Exellent book. I may have read it before the encounter with that guy, in which case I knew what he was up to. Or I may have just thought it was silly to be asked to buy a something after being given a gift.

My general rule is this: If you expect something in return, it's not a gift.

I was dissecting social interactions long before I learned of Robert Cialdini.

www.MarkTAW.com
Thursday, January 08, 2004

Stephen,

Some guys do that. Onecompany I use for  e-mail had all the stuff turned on by default for the first month, but I got along fine without it. I eventually registered for the extra space, not the extra features.

I was thinking more along the lines of Treepad and Treepad Plus. There are two distinctly different products, and it's obvious to me that Treepad Free isn't just crippled - it actually meets different needs, and though I'm a registered user, I prefer the free version 99% of the time.

Another example is PGP. Remember that discussion of PGP Disk? That's something that's not included in the free version.

Zone Alarm is another good example... though ZA Free is just a crippled ZA Pro (when you install it asks if you want to try the pro version for 30 days). Most users will be fine with ZA Free, ZA Pro is for the power users.

I can't back this up with data, but I would suggest that giving away a free version that meets most people's needs would discourage people from using a cracked version of your software. Most people won't need to, those who do decide to upgrade are more likely to actually buy it because you've been so generous to them (there's that law of reciprocity again).

Plus, if you can use the free version for years and see how good it is, one day when you're needs expand, you'll look go that company to fill your expanding needs. You know their product is good, and/or you're used to all the quirks. If I've been using Zone Alarm Free, why would I switch to Black Ice?

Trillian is another great example. It competes with Gaim and Miranda as a multi protocol instant messenger. The Free version works fine, and the Pro version adds a few features. But once you're used to Trillian Free, it'll be harder to switch to something else. Again, they give them seperate dot numbers (free is 1.x, Pro is 2.x) to let you know that the free edition isn't just a crippled version of the pro software. (In actuality it is, but keeping them distinctly seperate makes me think that I'm not getting something crippled free, I'm getting something that's a complete package by itself.)

www.MarkTAW.com
Thursday, January 08, 2004

Mark
Another good example of this is CityDesk. Plenty of room for small time users and testing before you get out the credit card and leap to the unlimited version.

Thoughts on "Free for non-commercial use" anyone? Are commercial users more likely to pony up because they'll be in a similar position when they market their product?

I'll soon have one too :(
Thursday, January 08, 2004

I didn't mention CityDesk because it really is crippled at 50 items and not a really viable demo. This is little different from time limiting the software.

What's the point of Content Management if you aren't able to constantly manage new content?

www.MarkTAW.com
Thursday, January 08, 2004

Mark

I'll a agree that 50 is a little tight but that's a personal belief and I'd expect there are plenty of uses/users that the Starter Edition works well for. I used for a number of different function for about six months and it worked fine. I don't see it as crippled at all - guess it depends on needs.

"What's the point of Content Management if you aren't able to constantly manage new content?"

Depends on the volume of content you have.

I'll soon have one too :(
Thursday, January 08, 2004

I agree that the free edition of CityDesk may work well for small sites, but I don't feel that this is the same as giving away a completely function program that just has a different feature set - a subset of the full program.

CityDesk without WYSIWYG editing, or the 1.x version once 5.x comes out in a few years is more along the lines of what I'm thinking.

Kind of like Microsoft giving away Word for DOS.

www.MarkTAW.com
Thursday, January 08, 2004

Mark

"CityDesk without WYSIWYG editing, or the 1.x version once 5.x comes out in a few years is more along the lines of what I'm thinking."

I see ... where it's possible to limit a product in this manner, I'd agree - it's good for the user(s) and probably (in the current discussion) one of the best options for the vendor.

Anything on "Free for non-commercial use."
I like this type of proposal and use several of them. Some paid for, some (used correctly but) not.

I'll soon have one too :(
Thursday, January 08, 2004

I use WS_FTP which is free for non commecial use, but I have to fess up that I used it commercially as well. It's a fine line when every 20th time you're FTPing you're doing it for a customer.

I think here you're subject to "Why do I have to pay just because I'm not a student etc."

What you're counting on here then is not individuals who use it commercially, but really organizations that are large enough to order a thousand copies, and for auditing purposes will want to order a thousand copies because someone is looking over their shoulder.

In other words, if the difference between paying for it and getting it free is lying to a checkbox, most people are going to do it.

www.MarkTAW.com
Thursday, January 08, 2004

Plaxo http://www.plaxo.com/ is the ultimate example of this.

Free for life it's getting increadible word of mouth advertising, and I don't think the pay version has been introduced yet.

www.MarkTAW.com
Thursday, January 08, 2004

Mark

"In other words, if the difference between paying for it and getting it free is lying to a checkbox, most people are going to do it."

Yea, I guess it's easy to get over the little pang of guilt (if that's the users experience) each time a program gets used in a manner that should have had the author get a little $$. Being naive, I have that little voice in the back of my head telling me that most people are honest and the ones that can pay - will pay. Maybe this experience will finally crush that little bastard and he'll LEAVE ME ALONE! <bfg>.

What goes around ...

I'll soon have one too :(
Friday, January 09, 2004

Mark

> Plaxo

I get what you mean - in spades. Thanx

I'll soon have one too :(
Friday, January 09, 2004

I tried to crush the voice in the back of my head too, but all I ended up with was a bloody skull and a large hospital bill.

www.MarkTAW.com
Friday, January 09, 2004

*  Recent Topics

*  Fog Creek Home