As time goes on, and as I see more and more apps simply disappear off the face of the Earth when developers deem them no longer worthy of their time, I find myself switching over to software that's either backed by large corporations or open sourced, regardless of how clunky it might be compared to "designer" alternatives. My hope is that we soon find a way to collectively monetize the latter. It's simply awful that an app can just "pop" and take so many years of developer and user time with it.
(None of the above is meant to blame Vesper or even comment on the sustainability of the app economy. It's just my sad reaction as a user and, um, app enthusiast. And props to Gruber for the introspective and humble post-mortem.)
"This isn't making us any money, it's costing us money to maintain. If you still depend on it, here's the tools that will allow you to continue to depend on it"
It's one thing to say it should be open sourced but to put further effort into something that's already losing you money just for the love of it doesn't seem like a winning proposition.
"The biggest factor is that we have recurring costs: the sync server and the licensing fees for Ideal Sans, Vesper’s typeface."
They'd need to continue paying for their font license.
What I was thinking about was opening sourcing the app. If we do that, we'll have to replace Ideal Sans with another font. The obvious choice would be iOS's system font.
> Some people have asked that we make it open source. The request is getting serious consideration, but I can’t make any promises.
> The code is all Objective-C. It’s an iOS 6 app with just enough changes to keep it working on iOS 7 and beyond. It knows nothing about size classes, presentation controllers, and so on. Doesn’t even use auto layout. It’s not an example of how you’d write an app these days.
It's all a red herring anyway, you can't pivot without a single developer.
I think the GitLab or Nylas model works better for open source companies: open source the whole thing (or most of it), but charge for a hosted solution if you don't want to figure out how to git clone make install.
Maybe you're thinking of Wordpress (Wordpress.com offers paid hosting)?
Yeah, I keep confusing Wordpress with GitLab. After all, both are MMORPGs. Thanks!
There is plenty of support for Google/Dropbox/AWS etc, all proprietary-backend-driven APIs. If the API is good OSS developers don't mind too much, and they can always clone it anyway.
Instead of sun setting the app I'd switch it over to use iCloud (free backend), make it free, and set up a public support forum. This way it'd work and there would not need to be any ongoing investment of time or money.
Even something as simple as a basic code dump (with whatever needs to be removed, removed) would be better than nothing. I'm sure you'd be able to find a steward in someone for this project.
App stores also contribute in that an app without a dev account ceases to exist and can't be easily installed by anyone. So if the maintainer goes away so does the app.
In the PC era software could live forever. Even closed source PC apps can still easily be run today on emulators.
Still, PC era shareware (the equivalent to these small apps made by a couple developers) wasn't immune to cloud dependency, particularly when they had online license validation mechanisms.
Though I guess that doesn't solve the problem of fixing bugs in the app itself. Especially if I might not have time to babysit an open-source app.
Are there any examples, in iOS, of apps that were open-sourced and are controlled by some kind of committee or foundation and still kept up-to-date in the app store? What's the lightest-weight version of that that still keeps it totally free?
(I bought Vesper over a year ago and thought it was nice but it didn't become one of my regular-use apps. No biggie: I've long been a DaringFireball reader and I'm happy to throw a few bucks Gruber's way. Plus, I was really hoping the "quality paid apps" model would work, sigh.)
There is no vendor lock-in if your data stays yours. Some inconvenience perhaps; the sort of inconvenience that comes with freedom.
Personally, I store all my notes in plaintext org-mode files in a Dropbox-synced folder.
For example if I've developed a whole workflow around keyboard shortcuts, APIs, whatever, for manipulating a set of data using an app, and then that app disappears, even if I have the underlying dataset it might take me quite a while to get up to speed with a suitable replacement.
All of that might argue against investing heavily in developing expertise with a closed, indie, proprietary, or even an OSS app. Ultimately whenever you invest your time in developing a skillset or workflow you are inherently also obligated to evaluate the future risks involved.
 Despite it being OSS, if it becomes unsupported and stops working on newer OSes/platforms and no one steps up to do the non-trivial work, or host the servers or whatever, you're still in the same boat.
I wrote about it as well https://arielmichaeli.com/my-thoughts-on-vespers-unfortunate...
Ultimately a lot of the sadness comes from what looks like missed opportunity IMO, which is really tough to predict.
Then someone like you could take a swing with a different business model.
Maybe a few dollars upfront and a tiered royalty model, to minimize risk for both sides.
But I do agree that it's a possible "exit" strategy.
On the other hand, if the devs have just moved on, there may be a sustainable company. See https://railslts.com/
Free Software puts the user first. All other forms do not.
If you look at it as a programmer, sure. To most people however, "how it works" is a lot more important than how it's licensed or even what it costs.
> Brent took a job at the excellent Omni Group in September 2014, and from that point onward the writing was on the wall. We could have, and probably should have, shut Vesper down a year ago. But we loved it too much. Or at least I did.
> I even cheat, personally, and run Vesper on my Mac in the iOS Simulator
1. There was only one developer in the company.
2. That developer got a day job (quit).
3. Gruber and the musician partner are stranded with an app they can't update and a Mac app they can't finish on their own.
Gruber clearly loves Vesper. He runs it in the freaking simulator. I really doubt he needed to see huge financial returns to keep at it.
It sounds like the real lesson is: It sucks when your technical cofounder quits.
This especially annoys me after their enfillade of blog posts about best practices for UI and pricing of Vesper.
If you're abandoning a project, releasing the source seems like a Good Thing To Do. But people should be allowed to walk away from things if they do not enjoy it as much anymore (modulo service contracts).
But still, one of the awesome things about working at Omni is that they pay you.
A minimalist note-taking app that only runs on iOS — even if tastefully designed by famous-in-the-niche and well-liked programmer, and publicized by the most widely-read Apple blogger — not so much.
They say flat out that it didn't make enough money; I don't see any reason to second-guess them and develop alternate theories...
> It sounds like the real lesson is: It sucks when your technical cofounder quits.
But I think you're right.
But reading contemporary accounts of what Vesper was , it sounds a lot like yet-another-notetaking app, like Evernote, and lately, Google Keep, albeit one with nice typography and pleasant UX. I sympathize that the price pressure on mobile apps is intense, but could it be that it just didn't offer a compelling enough value, or differentiation from better-known competitors? Perhaps the question is, is there truly space for a dozen different apps that on the surface appear to do the same thing?
I still use Vesper as my preferred "really quick" note/scratchpad taking client, even though I'm an Evernote Plus subscriber, and basically run my entire life off that App.
I think that's the major problem for Vesper - the top end of note-taking is owned by tools like OneNote/Evernote, and Vesper was never going to be able to compete in that market. People are happy to pay $30-$60/year for a world class, secure, multi-platform note taking app, but probably not willing to pay that much for a scratch-pad note taking app, when the built in one is free, and syncs well across platforms.
Obviously you can't avoid all problems this way (Apple and Google and Dropbox sometimes change their APIs, or discontinue them, e.g. Google Reader), but it goes a long way to building confidence that even if the company fails, people can continue to use the app.
Only major cloud providers, Apple, Dropbox, Google, Amazon can be relied on to run a utility service on a long timeline.
The service needs to be effectively free, stay up forever and add new features over time.
This is not a hobby.
There had also been issues around this time with Dropbox changing the way the SDK presented information. A small change, but one that ran afoul of Apple's In-App Purchases guidelines. Debate the merits of the conflict all you want; it was still an issue everyone wanted to avoid at the time.
Basically, you're not wrong, but I believe the devs made the best decision they could at the time they wrote the app.
You could also roll your own solution with S3 or something like that. The point is that you will be using fairly common and popular services which aren't likely to go away anytime soon, and aren't operated and maintained by yourself.
You could also take the approach 1Password does: operate your own sync service, but allow users to use Dropbox or iCloud instead. The onus is on them to make sure the files are in the right places, but they effectively have total control over the files, which a lot of people like.
Disclaimer: I work for Couchbase.
I'm not sure how realistic it is to expect users to pay a subscription fee for productivity apps like this. There's been a ton of backlash whenever developers, even small ones, announce subscription pricing (see 1Password and Pushbullet). I get the impression users are starting to feel nickel and dimed every time one of the apps they use switches over to a subscription model and they start looking for alternatives instead of being willing to pay the subscription cost. Simultaneously, obviously maintaining a sync service has a recurring cost and there needs to be a way for the developer to cover those costs, otherwise you end up in this situation where you simply have to shut down.
The whole "free with in-app purchases" model was driven by users' unwillingness to pay for apps. So in some sense this nickel-and-dime thing is a self-inflicted wound. On the other hand, (we) developers ought to be smart enough to figure out how to handle that.
And then there is that third class of App, the ones where subscriptions don't offer much value, but honestly, we use the apps so often, we're happy to pay to support them (Overcast, Tweetbot, MyFitnessPal are ones I would put in this class)
They're also facing stiffer competition from Microsoft with OneNote and this year's Evernote importers for both Windows and Mac they released which seems to be quite popular, which they might've made worse themselves by clamping down so much on their free users and the relatively limited data quota's on any of their subscriptions. 6$ a month is a lot of money, for barely 3$ more I can get a full Office 365 subscription including a truck ton of Skype credits and a TB of storage with OneNote providing a fair amount of the functionality Evernote provides. I wonder how long people will continue to be willing to pay for it, especially considering it doesn't seem to be evolving much as a product.
Agreed that Office 365 is a serious competitor to Evernote, but the existing dedicated customer base of Evernote is unlikely to go anywhere. Kind of like those people who paid AOL dialup fee's for 10 years after the Internet came online.
Exit might be to just sell off the business/customer base to Microsoft, and have them all folded into Office 365 - until then, I'm happy with what they offer.
The problem is most indie apps fall into this category. Useful, but not necessarily useful enough to pay a subscription.
This is the analogy I use: if I am drilling holes every weekend for three months, I am going to buy a drill, not rent one evey Saturday and pay as much in rent as I would to own it. And when I own that drill, I expect it to work for at minimum 12-18 months (warranty/devleopment) and at that point, if something goes wrong (massive OS changes) or there is a fancier drill, I will buy it if that is worth it to me.
The peace of mind of owning software is more important to me than a reduced cost / continual upgrade of renting it. I will always look for software that sells me a license over one that doesn't.
I think the alternative of issuing regular paid upgrades makes more sense for productivity apps. You get recurring revenue, but it's tied to an incentive (new features) to pay the upgrade cost.
The only problem is that the App Store doesn't really have a great method for issuing paid upgrades. You basically have to release a whole new app.
When even a stalwart Apple partisan like Gruber will concede this you know things have gone horribly wrong in the iOS app market. The bulk of the blame here lies with Apple and their stewardship of the app store. They can push the iPad as real productivity device all they want but until they do something to make selling anything but games on the appstore worthwhile they're wasting their time.
Uh, maybe the app just wasn't that good, or someone made a better/cheaper one.
The only reason this is even being talked about is because of who the author is.
>The only reason this is even being talked about is because of who the author is.
If you ask me, this is completely nuts. Apple could've easily quintupled their App Store earnings if they'd just have a "try" button next to the "buy" button from the start. People would've owned fewer, better apps that they'd use more intensively. (for all its faults, the Windows Store does this right. but hey, too little too late)
> People expect everything to be free nowadays
Imagine you were sold a car not as one, but piece by piece. Need a steering wheel with that? A seat belt? Another seat belt? Oh you need a rear bench too? Another tire, maybe? A few more screws? Brake light too? Or the OS: Would you pay for calc.exe? For the file explorer? The desktop manager?
To me the main problem is that there are way too many minor pieces instead of a whole.
How about - and this is wishful thinking since it would require several big companies to work together, individually it would not help much - if there was ONE big service subscription, let's say $199 annually, and I can use everything (apart from enterprise stuff, that's more). Every piece of software - and also media! - out there. The system checks what I use and how much and distributes the money to the people who made the software and the media.
What those people who think "capitalism!" forget is that the whole process of purchasing is heavily loaded, psychologically. The more individual purchasing decisions, the more you cut it into pieces, the less people buy. The paradox of choice. Decisions decisions! So many more options to make the wrong one! You cannot make the decisions more and more numerous and expect humans to follow into the "perfect market society". "Buying" has a price in addition to the money.
The current system favors those who can offer larger packages. If we had a system and organization who could organize for everyone getting paid from a lump sum and remove the psychological obstacle), this would greatly reduce the disadvantages of smaller players and lead to a much more even playing field. So having a "government" and a "tax" would actually be good market capitalism. The decision would not be "do I buy this" but "do I use this" (but with payment!).
This is especially for things that are not essential, when having to make the decision may (and does) prevent a sale. Since we do have a lot of free alternatives this is what most people turn to.
When it comes to news there's an additional problem: Who reads just one news source? I read very few articles per newspaper, but a lot across many very different sources. There is no payment model for that even if I wanted to.
I first came up with the idea while thinking about how open source projects could be paid. An additional thought is that this increases "market activity" by lowering the entry requirements: No need for a full business organisation, pure developers don't need to become (as) business savvy. If they can assure there stuff gets used that automatically leads to income. Also an opportunity to ensure successful projects don't stop, because there is a stream of income associated with heavily used projects - and that without a sales and marketing department. Now this is really just a very rough thought, I saw no use in refining it since I can't make it happen anyway.
Imagine github had a payment model. In this case it wouldn't be so much for "use" as for "support". Imagine people pay a lump sum for library support, and money gets distributed to people creating code and patches and answering support questions. Something that won't ever happen except on a tiny scale driven by very few people when people have to give voluntary contributions to individual projects, the threshold is just too high. This includes merely knowing that the threshold is high, it's self-reinforcing: You know that library doesn't make the developer any money, so you know unless it's a really big package picked up by industry and supported by thousands of people it will probably die within a year even if it looks good and is good quality.
Now going wild (me and my ideas):
I think if we want more capitalism we need to make the entrance easier. Selling something is HARD these days. I say "these days" because I don't think it was so hard 50 years ago when there was less stuff (and more optimism among the populace too?). If basic income is too controversial, how about starting small with such a project? It has the advantage that following this proposal you know that people receiving money actually did something useful, and it would get people paid who today go without, and it would benefit individuals much more than corporations.
I think we need something big, keeping capitalism but tweaking some of the basics for the changed environment we live in. We need to keep incentives to "do something". I see more chances for this to both be accepted and to actually succeed compared to universal basic income.
This is an intriguing idea. Contributor  by Google is an implementation of this concept for content websites. Netflix is an implementation of this for television syndication. Amazon Prime is an implementation of this within its own diverse consumer-facing ecosystem. The MPEG-LA licensing pool or the HDMI licensing pool and various trade associations are implementations within their respective fields. In their respective circles, these work well. So well, in fact, that everyone wants their own slice to control.
I believe that's where the idea of an overarching meta-subscription breaks down: the incentives don't align. When a BigCorp can (theoretically) establish a horizontal and a vertical, and offer a smattering of products for every need while at the same time producing a family-tree of highly integrated offerings (see: Google, Apple, Microsoft, Amazon, AT&T+DirectTV, Comcast+NBCUniversal, Verizon+AOL+Yahoo), the remaining players are fighting over pennies of the pie. It's not worth it for them, and it's not worth it for the big players, because they already have the presence, the lock-in, or the content worth paying for.
I'm not necessarily disagreeing with your point, but there is some irony in suggesting bundling app services together when the HN crowd (me included) is so vehemently opposed to bundling in other media, e.g - cable television.
Bundling is more top-down, this is more bottom-up. Bundling is decided by "politics", and this is what you get. In my scenario everything ("the whole world") is included, it is not just a bundle made by someone. And there is raw competition below that layer: People's actual usage determines who gets paid. This also avoids the issue of market distortion (and therefore wrong signaling) of software and/or content that is paid for but not actually used (recent headline: 37% of Steam games that were purchased were never played).
Traditional bundling takes away control, my suggestion is supposed to actually give us more market, at least in my obviously limited and individual mind.
One thing that needs heavy thought and tweaking is the level of granularity. Looking at the two extreme ends:
- World government, all income goes to it and underneath is that proposal. (It would not be "communism" though - money is still there and distributed depending on use.)
- The other extreme: You buy everything piecemeal, even more decisions as today, see care example. Both are obviously extreme.
The optimum is not "somewhere in the middle", it's n-dimensional space, not a linear one.
Suffice to say, whether you're suggesting bundling (a la cable), or now something that seems more like Spotify (revenue share depending on usage), be aware that a market, by definition, will be driven by market forces, and every player will act in their own best interests. You can try very hard to make it very egalitarian with regulations, but the power players will always come out on top.
> Now going wild (me and my ideas):
> now something that seems more like Spotify
As for your second paragraph, I have no idea what possible connection those trite generalities have with anything I wrote. It seems to me you just like being argumentative, or you like reading into other people's ideas. I don't have the feeling that your response is a response to me - but to what happened in your own head when you read my comments.
- Mobile OSs are already intrusive enough, but your system requires that everyone be spied to record how much they use each app, and can't allow the user to disable or tamper with that.
- Many people I know are struggle to pay for Internet access; they certainly can't afford to spend $200/yr on "apps". Should they be cut off altogether?
- Right now, if I make a more complex app for a niche market, or one that requires expensive backend support, I can charge more to compensate. Under the bundling model, my app will get the same per minute as a flashlight app (and probably less overall, since complex apps are usually used less time, despite often saving more time). How can you convince these app developers to continue to develop them?
> A fixed price means that light users subsidize heavy users.
The monitoring argument is valid, but it is no different from what we already have, nor do I see the difficulty - just add an opt-out and let individuals choose to go with the "pay for each item separately" model. No big deal, choice is good. I have no desire to establish "the one system (to replace them all)". Competition between ideas and systems is IMHO essential, I would not want a system that is imposed on everyone, but one that can be chosen.
> Many people I know are struggle to pay for Internet access;
You talked about having "ONE big service subscription, let's say $199 annually" which gave full access. How can such a fixed-price bundle not lead to light users subsidizing heavy users?
This is exactly how it works nowadays. You're sold the basic version of a car for a price and everything you want on top costs. A lot. Better headlights? Electrical trunk opener? Auto-adjusting curve lights? You can basically spend twice as much on every car if you get it in its luxury version.
> The system checks what I use and how much
So, how would you solve this: I have a small utility app. It provides value that is not tied to the usage time. On the contrary: It is designed to be used only a few minutes per day. I'd make much less money than, say, the Netflix app, which you'd consume hours upon hours every day.
The only solution I see is: Value based pricing. And this is exactly what's happening right now, since value is a highly emotional and subjective thing.
That is kind of what http://www.solu.co/ has been trying to introduce.
Console games sell just fine
It's only web and mobile where this becomes a problem, so why is that? The web I understand because it started out free, the App Store certainly didn't though.
Ditto for console gamers. It's a more informed audience that's concentrated in a small group of people with far more disposable income than a regular smartphone user.
Apps are a victim of regular people's expectations. They aren't used to paying hundreds for Photoshop. They're used to everything being free. Apple certainly hasn't helped developers in this regard, as it's encouraged commoditization of apps through its inaction against the proliferation of free-to-play and the race to the bottom.
We're talking about games that regularly sell 20+ million copies (65 million for GTA5) at $60 a pop. It's really not that small.
Most people probably only buy one or two full-price games a year, but that's still way more than others spend on apps in the same time period.
I'm not sure if you actually read Gruber, but he's been critical of Apple when it comes to the app store on a number of fronts over the years.
I'm totally unclear how you made the leap from a difficult market for productivity apps on iOS to this being a app store problem.
Search does not work and Apple doesn't curate apps.
It doesn't help that you make an app people want to use and pay for if they can't find it.
In the current app store, with the methods that consumers are used to spending money on their phones, for whatever reasons, it's not.
It's like when you'll easily spend $30 on drinks on a Friday night, but suffer a shitty note-taking system for years when you could have many of your problems fixed for $5 one time just because you don't know the possible transaction exists.
It's not so much discoverability as in 'stumbling upon an arbitrary app', but more of learning about what that app does, and why it's something you want.
Once you learn about a solution to a problem you may not even realize you had, you'll be a lot more likely to make a purchase. This is why app makers jump to be featured in compilations like 'top 5 note taking apps for iOS'; other options are word-of-mouth, bundling, or being promoted somehow out-of-band.
I've completely given up on using the app store app for finding apps, I just google and then hopefully there is a direct link to the app I'm looking for in the app store.
* Auto-refunds if you delete the app within 15 mins (this de-risks the app purchase)
* Suggestions for apps that your friends have used
* Better search
Other non-play store often-requested ideas:
* Don't disincentivise upgrades by zeroing out your reviews when you upgrade.
* More reasonable app reviews.
* App subscriptions instead of up-front fees (eg pay $1/month for each month where you use my app more than N times).
* Better curation of the app store (eg don't only feature games).
* Allow users an option to either post a review or submit a public question.
I, personally, like the business model as long as the app is very clear about what is offered with and without the IAP, but I have rarely seen a review mention this practice favorably.
Is it better to have the revenue for one $30 purchase after a trial or 10 people who impulse purchased it for $3?
Trials might be important for apps that need to cost $100 or $500, but for more reasonably priced apps it is not totally obvious that they would make a huge difference. Maybe for some categories of apps like those targeted at kids who would need to convince a parent to approve the purchase, and in fact games tend to be free with IAP.
Easy paid upgrades seem like a bigger deal.
There isn't anything that Vesper is doing that can't be done on the web. You could even write Vesper as a single-page app, and use a ServiceWorker with Firebase or PouchDB or whatever to run the sync. The infrastructure to do all this is very, very easy to do on the web.
This is not rocket science-- this is how far the web has come in a very short time. The UI could absolutely be the same as the iOS native app and while you might have a bit of scrolling hesitation on the interface, it would be perfectly accessible.
Suddenly you're on every mobile device, Android, iOS, iPad, desktop, whatever. The absolute hardest and most time-consuming endeavor would be to get the Stripe account set up for the one-time "in-app" payment to get sync working.
John and Brent and Dave made a fine app in 2012, but I would certainly hope that the next Vesper starts out life as a web app.
You say "a bit of scrolling hesitation". I say that... and janky button taps... and broken back/forward navigation... and browser chrome always getting in the way... and random divs constantly getting selected along with text... and mistakenly-tapped links taking me who-knows-where... etc. Plus: if the developer decides to shut down their web app, it's actually done, forever, with no recourse.
Every single performance issue that you're talking about can be seen in native apps; check Twitter, for example, or Facebook. There is a definite lag there caused by the network sync being front-and-center. That's unavoidable, but for an app like Vesper where you're not looking at a huge data transfer, running the sync in the background is absolutely viable.
I currently work on a web app written with AngularJS and PouchDB. We're constantly facing issues that would have been easy to deal with in a native app.
I'd argue it's just as hard writing a good web app as writing a good native app. It's just a different set of challenges.
Ultimately the only people who can differentiate between "Generic Notes App #138" and Vesper, are people who have been trained to care about details that most people don't care about, and that's a very small market. Most people care far more about the fact that an app syncs to Dropbox, or lets you set a background picture, than one that animates screen transitions in exactly the right way.
I'm sad to see another indie Apple-ecosystem developer close down, but I saw this coming as soon as Vesper was announced, and I'm not in the least bit surprised. Unfortunately too many of the Mac/iOS old-school community go for the "I know best" + waterfall development approach, rather than trying to figure out the product-market fit. I say this as someone who has worked in both an old-school Mac OS company, and startups who have been far more agile.
That's what you get when your app design/development philosophy is based on Steve Jobs.
I don't think the myth was true for Jobs and I definitely don't think it's true for Random Apple Fanboy #2,764,241 (and yes, John Gruber is included in this, though his number may be slightly lower).
It's really irritating when developers approach their audience as sheep to be led rather than customers to be pleased.
But... an app that has monthly expenses but only charges a one time fee can't really be sustainable. It's completely misaligned, and that's why it failed.
I blogged about it here https://arielmichaeli.com/my-thoughts-on-vespers-unfortunate...
I think Apple Notes is fine for the majority of uses, Simplenote is great otherwise, Evernote is popular... I'm not sure there's a need for another, unless you're the kind of person who cares about the particular class of UX problems that John Gruber cares about.
It made most of its money through app purchases as the app was never free, and a small amount through subscriptions for a full text search feature that sold to a small group of the most active users.
I may be wrong on this, happy to be corrected. I'm going mostly off what Marco has said on his podcasts "Build & Analyze" and now "The Accidental Tech Podcast", which I have listened to on and off for a number of years.
However the things I've learnt during building and maintaining it have been invaluable and helped me in so many other projects.
I don't get how running a sync server or adapting the product with in-app purchases would require too much time. When it is a labour of love and you still use it every day - why shut it down? Is he going to reverse his decision once it gets all the attention with the news of it shutting down? How can it cost so much when all it does is sync text? Why not hook into CloudKit for sync?
These are questions I would much rather prefer that he addressed
With all the effort going to export - he could have added CloudKit.
I have now downloaded your app.
And how about the opportunity costs of working on your project?
One of the big selling points of Vesper was the design aesthetics. There's a very real cost to that in the form of license fees for fonts.
So sure, they could replace the fonts with free fonts, turn off sync, and keep distributing the app. At that point it's a different product, one that they aren't proud of.
Okay, what's the cost/benefit for buying a custom font for an app? I'd never even have considered it as something I should do.
I feel like this is a statement about iOS development in general; that perceived design is more important than the continued functionality of an app.
Or, maybe I'm just reading it wrong and the custom font was a one-time purchase.
I don't think that's strange at all. The look and feel of an app -- especially a simple tool like a notes app -- is a large part of what makes it valuable. There are many people who don't care, but they were never going to pay for an app in a category that has so many free alternatives. Those who are willing to pay are exactly the sort of customers who are delighted by the attention to detail that is exemplified by using a custom typeface.
I reckon that even if they removed the font and somehow reduced the syncing costs, it still wouldn't be worth it to keep the service running.
If so, kind of surprising that's of an order of magnitude to be an issue.
I'm not that familiar with the features of the app, but the reason I question the former is that the Day One journaling app has had a great sync model that uses Dropbox from the get-go. No custom server needed. For simple notes, it seems trivial to be able to piggyback on an existing file service like that. (I do note that their comments mention wanting to use iCloud but it not having everything they needed.) For fun, I'm writing my own task management app and I made sure to avoid my own cloud service just because I know I didn't want to pay or maintain it.
The custom font decision is also interesting. They must've been fairly certain of their profitability level to go down that route.
Agreed. Unfortunately, they're not the best example as they then withdrew the "Classic" app from all stores, and released a new app that forces to use their custom sync servers.
They also include really misleading text about the nature of the encryption being used, and whether or not they can read your data.
> In its currently available form, Day One Sync encrypts the data “at rest” on our servers and securely transfers the data from our servers to the Day One app (the same level of security that Dropbox and iCloud provide). Following our 2.0 release, our 2.1 update will provide full end-to-end encryption. Our encryption features will utilize the user’s private key to encrypt all entries before they reach the server. In short, the server will have no access to the user’s unencrypted data. Neither iCloud nor Dropbox currently provide this level of security (see: https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT202303 and https://www.dropbox.com/help/28, respectively), thus making Day One Sync even more secure than these other sync/backup methods.
Translation: We currently encrypt your data after you send it to us, so we can read it. We may offer pre-transmission local encryption in future, and only for our own service, and this makes our service superior to the alternatives that we could (but have chosen not to) offer this level of encryption for too.
So yeah, they're a terrible example to use, unfortunately. Their original app was beautiful too. I didn't get around to buying the Mac app before they withdrew it, so my options are either manually extract my data, or risk giving them a copy (and pay them for the privilege).
Massively disappointed in Day One.
So many iOS developers jumped on Dropbox that when iCloud Drive finally appeared it had a lukewarm response. Dropbox has been in startup mode since 2007, with plans to IPO, but what if Amazon/Microsoft/Google were to have killed it?
This is all under the assumption that your app doesn't require something beyond basic file sync, of course.
John mentions having to redesign for iOS 7, but the reality that there are many of these events that mean that you have to keep developing. New iOS versions, new screen sizes, WatchOS, (tvOS), new input methods, updating UI, all add up to quite a bit of work just to stand still feature wise.
I think the days of making money on the App Store are gone.
While I'm reading this I can't help thinking that this is a great example of a bunch of developers who are more interested in building an iPhone app and are using a product idea as as excuse to do so.
But hey, if you don't try you certainly fail. I have been there too. Live and learn.
And provide an inferior experience on both. I'm just one user, but I would have been reluctant to buy it.
Think it's time for even die hard Apple fans to accept that the App Store is now the same low quality garbage dump of low income crapware that for many years they claimed the Android ecosystem was.
We have an iOS productivity app (at the same pricepoint) of which Gruber was very, very complimentary. We elected to advertise it on Daring Fireball (not cheap) and saw a reasonable return. It's a focused audience for someone with an iOS app.
Personally, I think they should've swapped out the font and maybe sold the app to someone who thought they could get it on track.
You know, it's funny Gruber was bitten on the arse by this when he was amongst the people who flung poo at Android on tablets for not forcing people to rewrite applications for the tablet form factor.
Also, fixed cost sales vs unbounded maintenance costs is just a doomed business model from the start.
Expenses didn't drive them out of business, the lack of revenue did. Sure, they could have switched to a free/built-in font and saved $300 and maybe switched to a cheaper hosting provider and maybe saved $1-2k... then what? At best they're now keeping an additional $1-2k per year (split 3 ways), for now, from an app that they need to keep running on the platform and backend services to keep going 24x7... there's better ROI to be had working the drive through window at a local fast food restaurant.
Your point about one-time revenue vs. ongoing expenses is valid, but that can be fixed via new products / subscription pricing down the line. However, before that happened it sounds like they determined that they lacked the customer critical mass that would make it worth putting any more effort into it.
This is probably not a good thing. Video by Louis Rossmann: "Believing in luck compromises the influence we have over our own life."
That sounds quite difficult to market and sell, when there are many alternatives, like Evernote, or OneNote that are close to free.
I'd say a $20 desktop note taking app is an easier sell than a $10 iOS note taking app.
I ran into this with todo.txt on Android. The flagship app (https://github.com/ginatrapani/todo.txt-android) was basically abandoned, but it is open source and some time ago was forked into what became an active--and better--alternative (https://github.com/mpcjanssen/simpletask-android).
The costs of running the server I can understand, but if the app had value then surely changing the font to a similar but free alternative would not have made customers stop using it?
Didn't they know, before the launch, the look-and-feel of iOS 7? I don't believe Apple would have launched iOS 7 without telling developers beforehand the changes required to make their apps compatible with the look-and-feel of iOS 7.
Disclaimer: I'm not an App developer (either iOS or Android). Please correct me if I'm wrong.
It generally isn't released to the public until september-october ish.
Rather than shipping then starting a rewrite just days later.
Entrepreneurship is hard, and the big success stories everyone likes to focus on are always the exception.
Added bonus of the notes I write are in my mailbox so no worries about a company shutting down and losing my data.
(a) free iOS app (b) paid sync service _with open API_ (c) let other people build web+MacOS+Linux+Android+whatever apps (d) free artisinal, handcrafted MacOS app
Also, could have skipped the complexity of building sync infrastructure by using Firebase.
Also, I know using an inferior font would pretty much invalidate everything that made Vesper Vesper, but it's painful to see a recurring cost there…
Ideal Sans, $199 (currently on sale): http://www.typography.com/fonts/ideal-sans/characters/
Lato, Free: https://fonts.google.com/specimen/Lato
Daring Fireball in a nutshell.
That was sad and beautiful. I shed a tear after reading this. Man, this guy can write!
If you want your App to be more then just another lottery ticket, it needs to be additive. It needs to augment a pre-existing product.
If you look at your phone now, how many third party apps are app first products (besides games and camera apps)?
Here's my list:
Instagram, Waze, HeartRateFree, Uber. 4 out of 72 apps.
All the clients will be very sad that their (paid) application stop working.
During many Azure ad spots on The Talk Show, it had also been mentioned that Vesper used it.
On that note, however, Mac Apps do seem disproprotionally more expensive for similar functionality but that is a different topic.
Same can't be said for iOS apps. It's just a much better investment.
And there's something about committing to a Mac app when you're not sure if, in a week, one you like more will be available as opposed to iOS apps, which are basically disposable.
Of course all of this is tempered by my desire to support the products I use and the people who develop them.
Don't you want to target the largest demographics first? I would imagine there's a ton of Linux and windows and Android users?
And even if they were not, you will get about five times as many users on Android than you will on iOS, there are many ways to monetize these users once you reach such a volume.
Part of the failure of Vesper was due to Gruber's infatuation with Apple (on top of the fact that a note taking app is just not that compelling enough in 2016).
This is really only true for games, i.e. Candy Crush is not terribly different on iOS vs Android so it makes sense that the revenues are similar. But if you consider paid productivity apps, iOS sales still dwarf Android sales.
I'm not saying that their app would have succeeded, just that you're pretty much doomed from the start if you don't develop for both markets these days.
Besides, making a whole business on a note taking app in 2016... seriously.
This is what happens when you let emotions drive business decisions: failure.