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.