The tyranny of free software

28 September 2009 The tyranny of free software

A couple of weeks ago, Spotify launched their long-awaited native iPhone client. In doing so, they made the bold decision to make it available for premium subscribers only. Having built up what I can only guess is a strong user-base through it's free ad-supported desktop counter-part, Spotify faced a pretty hard sell to get users to upgrade to their £10 a month premium service. No adverts and higher quality are all well and good but I'd imagine that the majority of their users were content with the free service. With the new iPhone (and Android) client (and clients for other platforms in development), it's fair to say that Spotify had a killer feature that could be used to incentivise premium uptake. It's hard to see the move as anything but a smart business decision. After all, Spotify - a business - has to make money somehow. The problem is this: give people something for free on one platform and they'll expect it to be free on any platform. I have no idea where this deluded sense of entitlement comes from but you only have to look at the reviews in the "iTunes App Store": to realise that a lot of people are not impressed with the iPhone app being premium-only. It's not the people complaining about the price that annoy me - to some people £10 a month *is* too expensive - but the majority of reviewers seem to have this sense of entitlement that seems to have come from nowhere - it's like they expect, nay *demand* that Spotify's service should be free and that to even suggest that they pay for it means they are being ripped off. h3. And then there was Tweetie… "Tweetie": has been my iPhone Twitter client of choice for a while now but it appeared to have been neglected of late. iPhone 3.0 has come and gone and there has not been an update to be seen. Then, earlier today, Tweetie author "Loren Brichter": posted "an entry on his blog": detailing what he's been up to for the past 4 months. As it turns out, he's been working hard on a brand new version of Tweetie for both iPhone and Mac. From reading his post it's clear that Tweetie 2.0 represents a significant upgrade and many months of hard work and as such he has decided to release it as a brand new app meaning it will *not* be a free upgrade to existing Tweetie owners. This is hardly a new practice - software developers have been charging for major releases since forever, often with discounts for existing users. Tweetie 2.0 has no such discount (Apple's distribution platform simply has no way of doing this) but at only $3 (£1.79) is hardly going to break the bank. However, as soon as I read this I knew immediately the whiners would be out in force. And a "cursory search": on Twitter shows that I was right. h3. You aren't owed ANYTHING Now I can sympathise with those who have bought Tweetie in the last month but at the end of the day, developers, like anyone else, need to earn a living. Tweetie 2.0 represents a significant amount of hard work by an independent software developer who has to pay bills and put a roof over his head. It's great that he's managed to get into a position where he can support himself doing what he loves full-time - many developers don't get this chance - but to begrudge a paltry $3 for his hard work is nothing short of a mean and miserly dick thing to do. But even if you don't want to pay for the upgrade, stop trying to make out as if you're somehow entitled to it for nothing. All you're doing is coming across as a spoilt child who can't get what you want. Would you work for free? No, didn't think so, so don't expect software developers to either. *Update:* Jeff LaMarche has also posted "an excellent rant": on this subject.