This is getting extremely frustrating. Sparrow is a fabulous email client both for iOS and Mac. I love and use both daily and this is fairly devastating. I was really looking forward to the products development, growth, and future releases. To read this announcement and hear that they won't be working on their apps but on Google projects is sad.
To bigger companies: chill out with the "acquihires." If anything, do what Facebook did with Instagram and keep them working on their product. It would be awesome to see the guts of Sparrow used in a Google branded Gmail client or similar (hopefully that happens, but I'm reluctant based on this statement).
> This is getting extremely frustrating. Sparrow is a fabulous email client both for iOS and Mac. I love and use both daily and this is fairly devastating. I was really looking forward to the products development, growth, and future releases. To read this announcement and hear that they won't be working on their apps but on Google projects is sad.
I think it's a matter of perspective. As someone who doesn't use and has no intention of ever using OS X or iOS, this is great news for me! I've been hearing a lot about Sparrow's revolutionary UI, but haven't benefited at all because they don't support Linux, Android, or Windows. Now, there's a very good chance that some of Sparrow's UI features will be incorporated into the Gmail web UI and into the Gmail apps for Android phones and tablets.
A great point. But still no excuse to have their existing customers left behind. All of their customers (myself included) invested in the product because it was good, because it worked extremely well, and because it solved problems. I didn't invest in their work at Google. Where does that leave me?
The biggest concern I have with this is the same thing that happened to Tweetie: the one company that should have scooped it up did and then completely changed it into something that barely represented the existing app (and more or less dropped an interest in the desktop client).
And now you've gotten lesson #1 on why F/OSS solutions have one huge advantage over their proprietary counterparts: If the original developers of a F/OSS app decide to drop it, you have choices. In the best case, another group of devs may simply fork the project and keep it going, or you ('you' in the general sense here) may choose to bring development in-house, or contract with a 3rd party to maintain and upgrade the app.
Now you might argue that some of those choices aren't that appealing, or that it's not guaranteed that someone else will pick up the app and run with it... but look at the scenarios with a closed-source, proprietary app: If the devs drop it, you're f%!#d, end of story.
Yes, F/OSS has that huge advantage... but even though I'm an F/OSS advocate, I think it's naive to ignore the economics of such projects. They have a much harder time getting off the ground, especially those aimed at a mass market to which you'll have trouble selling a support plan. There are business models, but they're more complicated and don't provide as much income.
I do wish companies that abandon projects would OSS them more often though.
Yet more wild-eyed, open source zealotry. No GUI-based F/OSS product has ever achieved the level of polish and usability of things like Sparrow because the people working on open source projects only want to do coding, they don't care about design, bug detection, documentation or, God forbid, user interfaces. If the developers of Sparrow had not been paid for their work, which they ensured by keeping it under their control, it would likely not have happened at all.
No it isn't. I didn't say that F/OSS is universally better than closed source, or anything crazy. I said that F/OSS has one specific advantage over closed-source, proprietary software, and that relates to the ability for a different group to continue development of a project that would otherwise be abandonware. Are you going to argue that this isn't the case?
No GUI-based F/OSS product has ever achieved the level of polish and usability of things like Sparrow because the people working on open source projects only want to do coding, they don't care about design, bug detection, documentation or, God forbid, user interfaces.
That's debatable, but it also has nothing to do with what I said. Yes, F/OSS has a reputation for being weaker on the UI/UX/design front, no one is contesting that, so far as I can see.
But Thunderbird proves mindcrime's point - even though Mozilla-the-company has decided that developing Thunderbird is no longer aligned with their interests, community-driven development will continue, because it's open source. Yes, development will be diminished, but it won't die outright like Sparrow or other closed-source software would.
For most consumers it's the same. I'd rather pay someone a few dollars than maintain Thunderbird myself (for example) and most people realistically do not have the option of maintaining it themselves.
On the other hand I use a lot of OSS on servers and in the past on my workstations, and have modified them and fixed bugs and such. There are definite advantages but this particular one is not that useful on a large scale.
That said, yes, I agree that some projects would be difficult (maybe even impossible) to monetize as F/OSS. We know the enterprise stuff works, consumer apps may or may not be a different story. I think that book still remains to be written.
Do you really need to see gmail ads, or does it suffice if they can associate your client IP address with your email content and show you suitable ads the next time you visit a site with AdSense / doubleclick?
Because you really don't get all the benefits of a native app with a web app. It's getting better, the gap is closing, but it will be a while before web apps are an enjoyable an experience as a native app. I think Sparrow was actually a good proof point of that.
More than that - apps like Sparrow move the goalposts actually. It was such a superior to experience to even the best native clients of the day that it widened the gap between web and native once again.
Version 1.0 came out in February of 2011. However, there were 7 Public Betas before that. The first one came out on October 4, 2010 . By the time version 1.0 was released, Sparrow already had hundreds of thousands of users .
(Granted, October of 2010 still isn't ‘a few years’ a go.)
I see your point, but the difference is that you had no expectations. As someone who purchased Sparrow (both on iPhone and Mac) I had high hopes for it continuing to grow, add new features, etc. Sure, as a Google user, you will gain something - but it's more of a happy surprise for you and a disappointment for us Sparrow users.
Sparrow is no rocket science and its UI was invented before. The app simply defined a modern workflow which is more comparable to instant messaging. What I mean is: you need not to destroy Sparrow to get similar features on other systems. Google's latest acquisitions is - without any reason - destructive.
To answer both of your questions: I'm not asking companies to "outbid" me for people's work and I'm not demanding a ceiling for their compensation.
Rather, I'm asking the developer's why drop their work on the application entirely? Why not continue the development at Google a la Instagram?
Moreover, the real discontent is more so with seeing a talented group being bought out and not encouraged to grow on their own. I've found that some of the most unique and useful work has come out of small dev shops. I'd rather see the company continue and see where they would have taken sparrow or any other ideas they might have.
I'm extremely happy for and congratulatory to the Sparrow team. Their work is most definitely worth any offer they've been given.
Who is arguing otherwise? We're not allowed to gripe without implying it was unfair?
I think it sucks, and as a user that bought the app strictly to support future progress I feel abandoned. I don't really give a shit if I have a "say" or not in their decisions. I don't like how it went down. Assuming they leave Google and launch another startup (which we all know they will) I certainly won't be supporting them in the future.
Just as I have no say in their progress, they have no say on how I choose to characterize their departure. I say, they took the money and ran. I prefer devs I can trust to stick around.
You think that another person should turn down (what was likely) enough money to support their families for the rest of their lives because you invested $10 in their email application? This is what you believe?
Not at all. Did you even read my comment? I said they burned their goodwill.
If it really was enough for them to live on and comfortably leave development, then kudos to them. They don't need that goodwill anymore from us. Assuming they come back with another startup a couple years down the line, which we all know they will, then we'll see if it was a smart decision.
Who was demanding a ceiling on the compensation? By expanding into a Windows userbase(size and subset of customers willing to pay presumed to be larger than the Apple userbase), the ceiling potentially could have been of cathedral proportions. If Sparrow lacked the desire or skill to expand to Windows, nothing limited them from creating other Appleland products. They already had a great reputation which would have lowered the hurdle for the potential success of product number two.
If my paying $9 for a widget is not good enough isn't it ok to tell me things are not going as well as expected and you're looking for solutions? If you leave me in the dust and come back next week as Parentco Widget Version 2 then at the very least you'll cause me to raise my eyebrows.
Can you point to me where I said that? My posts have been to the effect of "hey little companies, if you're open to being waved to by big companies then let me know before I buy into your company's offerings."
What's the difference between $9.99 and $99.99(or feel free to shift the decimal depending upon whatever economic demesne you fall under)? Several of the leading karma members here regularly chime in about raising prices. If small company A makes the absolute best widget X for market Y with market Y x2 prices that it is well-received but the revenue did not match expectations and they end up being acquired by a large company or investor then how is this any different? I never would have guessed Fisker cars would have trouble.
That is ridiculous. Plenty of apps have existed for decades on those prices. Small, dedicated devs are the lifeblood of OS X and iOS contrary to what those who don't use the platforms believe.
I have had no reason to expect this to be the norm in the past and I have no reason to expect it now. You don't just get to abandon your users without repercussions, as easy as that would make things for you. You can comfort yourself with whatever free market BS makes you feel better, you still screwed over the userbase that gave you prominence.
You don't? You don't get to abandon your users? Not without repercussions? What repercussions would those be, angry anonymous message board guy? Are you never ever nerver nenver neva-neva-nen going to hire them or buy their products again?
"Free market BS". Because I think a $9.99 mail client sale doesn't make a developer your indentured servant.
> You don't? You don't get to abandon your users? Not without repercussions?
No, you don't. Was there any purpose to asking that three times besides to emphasize that it should be read in the most condescending way possible?
> What repercussions would those be, angry anonymous message board guy?
My name is Ross Woodruff, I live in Toronto, Ontario. I use my shinratdr name everywhere. I don't try to be anonymous, I'm not, and I don't see what that has to do with anything.
> Are you never ever nerver nenver neva-neva-nen going to hire them or buy their products again?
Basically. You can characterize me as a stubborn child all you want (really solid argument tactic there BTW), I think abandoning users is a crappy thing to do. I also don't think I'm the only one who supported them with this opinion.
> Because I think a $9.99 mail client sale doesn't make a developer your indentured servant.
No because it has no bearing in reality. Your users don't care and aren't going to be understanding that you abandoned them. The theories you espouse are just things devs can tell themselves to make themselves feel better about doing what is, in essence, a really crappy thing to their users.
They don't change the reality. Likewise, users being mad at you doesn't equal indentured servitude. The only thing that defines indentured servitude is your ability to leave. They left. Is anyone demanding they return and continue the app? No. We're just making it known we support devs that support us.
> I think they'll be fine.
So long as they stay in the corporate world from now on. Should they switch back to a startup, plenty of users will hear "from the Sparrow team" in the future and avoid the product because they can't trust it will be available & useful for them in them when they need it.
They sold out their reputation in the iOS & OS X software world for jobs at Google. I hope that you're right and it was worth it. From what we've seen in the past, that won't be the case. Most startup types abandon those jobs within a couple years and are back to independent development right away. They might not find the user community so welcoming the second time around.
> So long as they stay in the corporate world from now on. Should they switch back to a startup, plenty of users will hear "from the Sparrow team" in the future and avoid the product because they can't trust it will be available & useful for them in them when they need it.
> They sold out their reputation in the iOS & OS X software world for jobs at Google. I hope that you're right and it was worth it. From what we've seen in the past, that won't be the case. Most startup types abandon those jobs within a couple years and are back to independent development right away. They might not find the user community so welcoming the second time around.
Oh please. If they quit their Google jobs and come out with more software that is better than anything currently doing the same task it will sell like hot cakes. No one will care that a couple years ago the same people sold awesome software for really cheap and lots of people used it.
> No one will care that a couple years ago the same people sold awesome software for really cheap and lots of people used it.
People remember when you screw up their workflow. Devs love to ignore that but it's true. The price, at least after the purchase is complete, is near irrelevant. I paid $10 for a Better Finder Rename and they've been around for decades. I paid $10 for HyperDock, I paid $15 for SoundStudio. $10 for Printopia. None of them have abandoned their app.
You disagree and think it's an over the top reaction. That's fine. It also makes it blindingly obvious that you're a dev first and a user second. As a user first, especially an OS X user, I only support devs that support me. Not worth getting used to a new program otherwise.
> You bought the app in its current state for $10.
I bought many apps on my system for around $10-$20. Some of them have been around for decades. The cost is near irrelevant. If you altered your workflow to incorporate the app, you invested in it.
They abandoned the product, and as such abandoned their users. Devs are welcome to write out long lists of excuses as to why this is incorrect. Doesn't change how their abandoned customers feel about what they did. If anything it just makes it worse.
> new features is nice but not something you are entitled to.
Who is talking about entitlement? I don't think I deserve it innately. I just want it because other companies can provide it. If this group considers an app lifespan of over a year and a half to be "entitlement" then I won't be supporting them anymore. I'll take that money to a dev that just considers supporting their customers part of the deal instead of a fringe benefit.
I'm also not looking for free new features, I just want the app to have a future. If that involves a price increase or paid upgrades I'm on board. The $10 is negligible. The time spent unlearning that app and relearning a new one isn't.
Yeah we got screwed. They just dropped the app. They are promising "big fixes" but that's about it. Lovely.
This is the bad side of "trusting" startups and their apps. Pisses me off. I mean (to all you startup guys out there), if you have no intention of continuing your work, AT LEAST OPEN SOURCE THE CODE so some of us can jump in and maintain it!
If the current version basically does the job that it's supposed to, then how did you get screwed? It's not like you spent hundreds of dollars on the app. The Mac version is only $10 for crying out loud.
I would argue that just open sourcing the code could have even worse effects on the app/brand than a simple end of life. Clearly if the app in question had a good following, it was a decent product created by folks who knew what they were doing. By open sourcing it, anyone could jump in and that anyone may not be qualified to make the best product decisions. Maybe I'm just being too sentimental here, but I'd rather the product go out in a nice light rather than watching it slowly creep downhill to death.
From what I recall Sparrow was essentially a spin-off from R&D work done at Apple that Apple did not want to incorporate into their mail app... the dev went off and partnered with a designer to build a polished product from that work. An acquisition by Apple would be an interesting turnabout.
Our sources also noted that Google isn't ruling out native Gmail clients for platforms beyond iOS and Android, and emphasized that Google wants to bring polish, "beauty," and ease of use to all of its Gmail experiences across platforms (a suggestion that a native client for Mac and PC might be in the offing). Sparrow, apparently, is a way to get there.
That's exactly what I'm talking about. Especially in the case of a product that had revenue/customers, I can't see why you'd want to quit just to go get a job. Sure you'll make some money and your work may have a larger scope to impact, but why not be known as that awesome company that makes awesome things?
If my memory serves me right, a startup that builds apps to improve the experience of a pre-existing service doesn't stay for long as an awesome company that makes awesome things. It usually either plateaus out or gets gobbled up eventually.
I disagree with this romanticism that a company should always be built for sustainment. A small company has only two ways of being successful - either disrupt and be radically different or fill in a piece of the puzzle that a bigger company has not achieved. If you look at the nature of the product the Sparrow team developed - an iOS/Mac client - it wasn't radical. So being gobbled up by an appropriate bigger company is natural course for that startup.
So I should read this as all of the small business owners in the world should either just give up or strive to be acquired by ACME corp? I think we have a very different understanding of the word "successful."
Camera and mail apps don't need to be platform-neutral simply because the content and output of those apps are platform-neutral themselves. Mail apps push and pull apps from servers which can be accessed from other outlets/apps. As for camera apps, as long as they are saving a local copy (like Camera roll), other apps will still be able to access those photos. So yes, convenient form of sharing like direct export-from-app may be lost but the real output would still be platform-neutral.
I think it might be a good destination for the Sparrow creators, but this is not the best outcome for those of us who are Sparrow users.
I agree iCloud mail is garbage, but frankly so is Gmail.
The sentiment that it would be better if Apple had bought it, I think, is more of a wish that some of Sparrow's awesome would rub off on the standard iOS mail client, since it is a similar app for the same platform.
You're right, I don't. But at this point, it seems like gluttony. Eating for the sake of eating. Sure they'll gain some value out of the team and their insights into email, but is their contribution going to be more so within Google than outside of it?
Sounds to me like there is still a market for non-shitty client mail apps. The Sparrow guys obviously eyed Google as an acquisition strategy, and I wouldn't be surprised if that was their plan all along.
That said, if someone fills the gap Sparrow leaves, assuming they don't fully deliver in the Google Apps experience, there is still a market to be served. At least for the time being.
All these aquisitions are more insidious, they are being done by the big players to stifle diversity in the market and continue to solidify their leads on online services under the guise of talent acquisition to better their companies - rather its an effort to prevent that talent from building something that would be a detriment to their positions.
It baffles my mind that anyone would fall for all these companies being altruistic.
This isn't as simple and one dimensional as calling a company "evil" - this is about the long term.
Startups in the valley are getting acquired earlier and earlier in their existence as google and Facebook and eventually overlap in their services and audience appeal.
The acquiring of the teams is defensive in that they take that team and their IP etc off the market from their competition. It is offensive in that it squashes any possibility that whatever service it was the startup had would compete for their similar service.
In cases like instagram, it was an obvious choice for Facebook as Facebook is the largest picture sharing service which also wraps all sorts of meta data around the users who are viewing those pics.
Thus, with instagrams reach it fractures attention from facebooks services/user. By acquiring them and ultimately layering the instagram features into facebooks pic offering the attention is not diverted from Facebook.
Attention is the resource that social services are harvesting from their users and monetizing.
If you're not looking at it from this perspective, then I don't believe your critically thinking about what it is that the Internet is, or how to build something that will last.
Companies that provide features, utility and services that keep the attention of users (especially when providing no physical product) are those that will have longevity.
So, capturing those that would build things that direct user attention away from your product is critical to these huge companies.
Clearly Sparrow was created for Gmail - so it's in Google's best interest to use those guts to enhance the Gmail app and dump the Sparrow app itself eventually. I thought that statement about not adding features is a clear indicator of that. I don't see why one would get frustrated with that or ... feel devastated about it.
A good app has been EOL'd so the developer(s) can go work on a known crappy app. We've gone from "known good" to "hopefully this will work out and the gmail iOS app will be good"... how is that not frustrating if you're a fan of the iOS apps?
As for the Sparrow desktop app, well, obviously Google isn't going to be developing a native desktop app for Gmail...
Sorry, but Gmail isn't a crappy app in my way of thinking. It was the best webmail in 2004, and it still is. You may not like it, but that doesn't extrapolate to crappiness. Although I'm sorry that Sparrow is being end-of-lifed, Gmail is a best of breed web app.
well, obviously Google isn't going to be developing a native desktop app for Gmail.
Sounds like a feature to me, not a bug. Desktop software is going out. Why do you think Mozilla recently canned Thunderbird? I haven't used a desktop mail client since 2005.
I'm inclined to disagree. I use no web apps that I don't have to. We use google apps at work, and I use Mac Mail, Calendar, and Contacts. The web app is a good option if I'm nowhere near my phone or laptop, but it's my absolute last choice.
Ever since the days of Yahoo Mail and Hotmail, I've preferred local desktop clients. I've never enjoyed web apps, and I can't imagine I ever will. It's always a lowest-common-denominator option, and on OS X and iOS, there are too many good desktop clients for the web services I use.
I didn't care for Sparrow, but if Google is going to throw all their work away and put them to work on something else, it's a shame. They did the same thing with the author of Quicksilver, canning that in favour of their own, dramatically inferior, clone. Instead of people switching to Google's version, they generally stayed on Quicksilver until they discovered Alfred, and now his talent and the work he put into it is wasted.
First, I'm pretty sure you can use a keyboard with gmail.
As far as doing work offline, <a href="http://www.whatwg.org/specs/web-apps/current-work/multipage/... Cache</a> has you covered, assuming that by "answer," you mean "compose responses to," because if your software actually lets you respond in those situations then hot damn, I'm totally sold on it, hook us up with a link.
Been there, done that, got bored with playing that game. Why do I want something that only works half the time and shakily (seriously, look up some of the talks on the weirdness of AppCache) when I can have a nice looking, fast and reliable desktop app for whatever it was, $5 or something?
I've been using the AppCache'd Gmail app on iOS and... it's distinctly average compared to the Gmail app on Android. There's a lot web apps can do well, but for Mail I'd much rather have an actual desktop app.
And it's not just composing responses, it's tagging, archiving, deleting and so on with decent, working and reliable sync. The native app on Android rocks, and Sparrow is pretty damn awesome on the Mac.
Desktop software is not going out. See Dropbox. It syncs desktop AND cloud. Does not require constant connectivity. Sparrow enables offline usage of cloud services like gmail, which is huge, as connectivity to the cloud is not a constant.
I don't understand this assertion that desktop software is going out. My desktop mail client is almost completely superior as a single unified place to read all my mail over various different services to log into.
> As for the Sparrow desktop app, well, obviously Google isn't going to be developing a native desktop app for Gmail...
Why not? Why would they acqui-hire a team who have already built an amazing desktop mail app and not release one of their own? Is the idea that Google may simply rebrand Sparrow to "GMail Desktop" so completely out of the realm of possibility?
Sure, maybe they want the developers to work on other projects, but when their specialty is creating OS X desktop software (it's a lot different than webapp developement), it seems counterintuitive to completely nix this idea as feasible.
The entire 'mission' of the company was supposed to be providing a decent Mac/iOS client for Gmail. Now they're cancelling the product and working within Google? I don't see any reason to believe Google will find religion and release a decent Mac/iOS client when as a company they're obsessed with pushing web apps over native apps. If they wanted a decent Gmail client on iOS they should have cancelled their own app and just rebranded Sparrow.
To add value and broaden the appeal. The first version of Sparrow for Mac only supported Gmail. Even after adding IMAP, there was no reason anyone who didn't use Gmail would buy Sparrow, because everything it did differently from the standard Mac Mail app was oriented around Gmail.
Nonsense. I've been using Sparrow as my primary email client and I don't use GMail. I like the GMail-esque concept of archiving items out of your inbox and ultimately aiming for inbox zero. It works on third-party IMAP just as it does on GMail.
Well devastated is (hopefully) overstating the matter, but it certainly is frustrating to see an app you use every day -- one not yet perfect, but already the best email client on iOS (or any phone OS) -- get discontinued.
Sparrow was indeed originally created for gmail, but what it is today is the very best standard IMAP mail client you can get on a phone.
Unfortunately, it won't be getting any better, though.
If you're arguing that $4.99 is a small enough amount that users should be happy at getting a product that would be abandoned a week later, then they should have disclosed that at the time of the sale and let the customers decide.
It's very unrealistic to expect a company to suspend normal operations because of the possibility, however likely, of a merger closing in a short time. With mergers, the deal is not done until it closes, and there are tons of things that can derail that or at least delay it. Imagine if Sparrow completely stopped doing business as usual, and the merger fell through. How much revenue might they have lost due to skipping a sale, etc? All the work necessarily involved in a merger is hard enough on a company, and it would be much worse if they flat out stopped running the company in the meantime.
"I didn't buy Sparrow thinking I was paying for a piece of software that was feature-complete. I bought Sparrow mail as a piece of innovative software along with the promise of lots of great future updates to come."
I agree with this. I bought Sparrow when it had a pretty big bug with folder management on my IMAP account. I emailed them and they fixed it in an update, but there was still lots of room for Sparrow to grow (If Apple allows them to do push, other integration with the OS like Siri, etc).
It looks like Sparrow will turn into the Gmail client for iOS, which is a shit sandwich for everyone who doesn't use Gmail.
If you're buying something based on potential future improvements, and promises for those improvements are not part of the deal, then you have only yourself to blame if it doesn't work out. They have no obligation to conform to your expectations. If you don't want to have problems like this, then only buy software that actually does what you need right now.
Yes, but it needs security updates and possibly bug fixes. That's the very least you'd expect when purchasing software. I bought Sparrow for the iPhone and Mac directly after they were released and really never used them.
But imagine that you just bought either Sparrow a few days ago, or even worse, made it part of your workflow.
On the other hand, it's always an inherent danger with proprietary software. Open software gets maintained by Debian for like forever ;). I learnt that lesson after the demise of Be Inc.
Fraud? Scam? In any case, I suspect the victims could successfully get a refund from Apple.
I also suspect that the people who bought it are going to decide that the app is great, the Sparrow statement about "we will provide support and critical updates to our users" is at least something, and giving up the app for $5 is not worth it.
An alternate perspective is that they knew the product was going to be mothballed, or maybe even removed from the store entirely. For the late-adopters with bad timing they didn't want to charge full price for an app that wasn't going to see continued enhancements.
Either way, we're not talking about major dollars here. I'll bet most people purchased it with a credit card, and could file a claim for a refund with their card if they really felt so financially raped over the price of a beer.
The email Sparrow is sending out, looks like there won't be any future feature additions:
We're excited to let you know that Sparrow has been
acquired by Google! You can view our public announcement
here, but I wanted to reach out directly to make sure you
were aware of the news.
We will continue to make available our existing products,
and we will provide support and critical updates to our
users. However, as we’ll be busy with new projects at
Google, we do not plan to release new features for the
It’s been an honor and a pleasure to build products for all
of our wonderful users who have supported us over the
years. We can't thank you enough.
We look forward to working on some new and exciting
projects at Google!
As someone who bought Sparrow on the day it was released - and is in love with it - this feels like a big middle finger to the customers who have been supporting them.
The core of my disappointment is the expectation of future development that comes with buying into a relatively new piece of software. I didn't buy Sparrow thinking I was paying for a piece of software that was feature-complete. I bought Sparrow mail as a piece of innovative software along with the promise of lots of great future updates to come.
Now, those future updates are done, because Google killed them by acquihiring the Sparrow team.
It feels like more and more, when buying into a new exciting project, the risk is less that the project will fail on its own, and more that it'll be destroyed by an acquihire. Some day, I wouldn't be surprised if this becomes a barrier to startups acquiring dedicated new users.
It's never a good idea to buy a software product (or hardware product) for what it's "going to be." You have to buy or not buy it based on what it is today, because they may or may not go down the path you expect in the future.
What happened with Sparrow was unfortunate, but at the same time it was unlikely that an email client like this was ever going to turn into a great standalone business that would adequately compensate a dev team of that quality. One of the benefits of acquisitions like this is that they also encourage other great developers to try building terrific products and taking risks.
I'd also point out that we don't actually know what's going to happen with the codebase or design, just that this is the end of the road for the standalone email client "Sparrow". Obviously if any of that product is released by Google, it's not going to be called that anymore.
I agree that sucks, but there's lots of apps out there with bugs that should be fixed and won't ever be, even though their makers weren't bought by anyone. If someone sells you software with bugs that make it unusable, you should get your money back.
Well said. We're seeing a lot of "ship and dump" from startups these days. I'm to the point now where I don't recommend a startup to friends and family or use for business purposes unless their product is self-hostable(and release of source code upon an acquisition or corporate dissolution) or open-source. As you can imagine, the number of products I recommend has dwindled to almost nothing since I've been burned so much myself.
Unless the product or service meets the qualifications I mentioned then you can presume I'm not going to recommend it. Some companies that have been acquired have "done right" and released their product as open source afterwards. I would like to see more companies make this part of their agreement before purchase or use. While I'm comfortable with many things technical, many are not but open-sourcing a popular product will more likely than not allow those non-technical users to just pick up the use of that product with other providers.
A recent example is from Moxie's company Whispersystems and the open-sourcing of their Red Phone product. This came after their acquisition/sale by Twitter.
Does all of this greatly reduce my access to the latest and greatest? Yes it does but then often what is portrayed as the greatest by popularity is not necessarily a great product. And one further note of clarification, if this service is meant to be consumed in a disposable nature then obviously I've got no qualms about something like that as I enjoy actively participating in the world. There's a reason for pragmatism.
When you buy a product, you pay for what it is, not fir what it can be.
This whole idea of free features for ever, is not economially viable in the first place.
It only works as long as they can keep getting new customers at a high rate. But at some point, that will slow down. Then they can either build a whole new product, or try charging current customers again.
My point being: you cant pay a fixed one time price for a service, only for a product as is. If you want constant new features, you should constantly be paying for their constant work.
In a free market transactions needn't be limited to simple currency for product exchanges. They can come with whatever strings, of whatever enforcability, the parties place on them.
So here a buyer had an expectation of future development and upgrade, some of them perhaps to be paid for. They invested time and attention learning a new interface and functionality, thinking those upgrades would provide returns on that time invested. Investments like that are how communities are built.
I know squadoosh about the small app market or Sparrow's marketing. But if there are a lot of buyers with expectations like that, then I think you have to speak to those when you are selling or yeah, there is an implicit agreement there. If Sparrow disclosed future plans or roadmaps then the agreement moves toward explicit.
Such obligations aren't enforceable, and what's customary within a market is obviously fuzzy. But that doesn't mean those obligations don't exist or aren't ethical.
Again, I know nothing about this case -- but if there was some understanding that the company would this, that or the other, then it is worth wondering about the ethics of a large company doing an acquisition, to hire people, in the knowledge that the deal breaks some tacit deal with a community.
I agree that some kind of support should continue.
But in the case of an email app, focused on simplicity and ui design; not feature sets for power users, i dont think this expectation can reasonably consist of new features.
On the other hand: the value was in the ui design, not some dificult technological challenge. If there is actually a viable market here, chances are more than one player will follow in their footsteps. UI designs are easy to copy.
And until then, the kind of support one can reasonable expect, will continue: bug fixes.
>> this feels like a big middle finger to the customers who have been supporting them.
During the first bubble, Oracle told one of my customers that they should buy their license for $300K before prices went up. A week after they bought, the price dropped $100K. Now that's getting a big middle finger.
To make this claim about software that costs less than $10 and pays itself off in less than a week? Well that's just being dramatic.
The core of my disappointment is the expectation of future development that comes with buying into a relatively new piece of software.
I don't know. This doesn't seem like the most useful stance to take when buying new software. You are almost always going to be disappointed. Nothing lasts for an eternity, whether due to acquisitions, laziness, burnout, etc. I think it's always better going into software purchases with the mindset that you are paying for the current feature set, and anything in addition is just gravy.
How long should they have supported the product with new updates? 6 months, a year, two years, 10 years? Or just until you got sick of it, or found something better?
As someone who bought Sparrow on the day it was released - and is in love with it - this feels like a big middle finger to the customers who have been supporting them.
Oh, please. Unless you're sending these devs money on a regular basis then you're not supporting them, and it's completely foolish to think otherwise. Your continued use of their software does not put any food on their table.
You paid money one time for a piece of software and that's exactly what you got. You deserve nothing more.
This attitude that a one-time payment of a few dollars somehow entitles users to a lifetime of free software, free features, and free updates is utterly irrational; as of a few dollars would grant someone license to a lifetime of a developer's work.
You need to chill out. Nothing screams "hyperbole" than "a middle finger to the customers". Did you expect them to lay out their strategy to the public like "Hey, thanks for investing in us but keep in mind that one day we'll probably join one of the bigger players. You see our product effectively brings together the best email service and the best OS in the world and presents them in a sexy way. So you don't think we will be seeing enormous growth just on the shoulders of that, do ya?"
And I just purchased that app yesterday. I'll try and pursue getting a refund from Apple, although I'm not sure how successful I will be in the process. It's aggravating seeing potentially amazing start-up companies get purchased by a large company and then everything they've done seemingly ceases to exist.
Also, how many companies that Google acquires eventually just die off?
What a self serving piece of crap email. I'm happy he and his team are excited. But it's terrible news for their users.
They make it sound like we should be happy and excited about this. Please... I've lost all respect for this guy.
The right thing to do was spin it off to someone else; or make arrangements with Google to continuing development, or open source the whole app. The wrong thing to do was to screw the "user" by leaving us all hanging.
Its not to say that this acquisition is not a great thing for the Sparrow team, or that Gmail may someday improve (UI wise), but it is an unfortunate trend for users when a great small / niche product is absorbed and obliterated.
Google recently acquired QuickOffice too. So now Google owns native clients for GMail and Docs. In addition, they're continuing to build native apps for GDrive, Google Plus, and probably others.
This is similar to GitHub and Twitter. Both grew out of the web, but have increasingly acquired or built desktop clients, not to mention mobile ones. And Facebook has made an about-turn on HTML5 everywhere and focusing heavily on native mobile apps.
So I see a trend is that cloud-based services are realising they can't just rely on a website. It would be great to see the web catch up, or even close the gap, but right now, native is offering so much more capability, that both web and native apps are necessary for prominent cloud services. That's good for users, they get the best of both worlds, but also going to be a big challenge for resource-limited startups.
There's always the possibility that these app acquisitions are not to strengthen gmail and docs, but to strengthen Android. Google has just bought the maker of the best email client on iPhone, and announced that they're stopping development of it. To me, that sounds more like a direct attack on the iPhone than a vote of confidence for native apps.
This is one thing that I've thought about Web 2.0 (now that it is in full swing). Countless dollars seem to be going to trying to reinvent the desktop inside the browser, when really the internet should supplement it as an expansion to its capabilities. Dropbox is the best example of this: there is a web client, but Dropbox truly shines as a simple folder that is the same across your devices. It takes the folder system and improves on it, rather than doing away with it altogether.
Great to see Google investing in email UX. Sparrow is awesome and bringing the Sparrow UX ideals to Gmail will be a big boost forward.
The Sparrow co-founder and CEO Dom Leca discusses Gmail in some detail here...
Interviewer: Why can’t Google write a mail client for the iPhone that’s worth a crap?
Sparrow CEO: Because they don’t really care about it. I mean, they’re not in the native app business, and all that matters with them is to have an app that is identified as the Gmail app on the iOS App Store for mainstream to use, I think. I mean, they don’t believe at all in native things, which makes sense in relation to the whole company.
Interviewer: Right. So they just, they don’t believe in the native thing, or, they probably could deliver it, but they just don’t want to?
Sparrow CEO: Oh, yeah, of course. They could deliver something I think far better than Sparrow or the application they released, but they’re just not allocating any resources to this because they think it’s irrelevant.
I agree with him. You just have to use the Android Gmail app to notice that Google can do an awesome native e-mail app if they want. The phone client is so good that many times I prefer to use it than the web even when I am with my notebook.
I hope that this means that they're investing in email UX. That's my optimistic take on the acquisition. My pessimistic take on it is that they're just getting talented developers and product folks and they're going to have them working on something completely different.
Like everyone else I think the App Store lost a great app today. However, I also couldn't figure out how Sparrow would be able to grow on $10 one time purchases. Having been a big fan of Eudora back when it was sekrit hacker group at Qualcomm (well not so sekrit but certainly not part of Qualcomm's core business) I talked with their VP of product at some conference and he basically lamented that once you sold it to someone you were done. They didn't like selling bug fixes as 'upgrades' (that was just a paid support model) and once you had a working client there wasn't much reason to upgrade. The 'free' ad-supported version had a better revenue future than the purchased one.
By the same token these guys have to eat right? So its not like they can do the open source route. They really need to be part of a bigger stable of things in order to make it a business.
I did think it would be a good acquisition for Apple as the front end for their gmail killer.
As a reply to my own comment, amazingly on the last Hypercritical podcast (produced on the same day I made that comment, but I had not had a chance to listen to it yet), John Siracusa discussed this very topic. I finally got to listen to it on the way in to work today. I come to the same conclusions and thoughts on stuff as Siracusa so much it's uncanny.
I was not aware at all that Sparrow was inspired by idea of Letters.app, but I was never a Sparrow user and I'm not a Gmail user.
We're excited to announce that Sparrow has been acquired
We care a lot about how people communicate, and we did
our best to provide you with the most intuitive and
pleasurable mailing experience.
Now we're joining the Gmail team to accomplish a bigger
vision — one that we think we can better achieve with
We’d like to extend a special thanks to all of our users
who have supported us, advised us, given us priceless
feedback and allowed us to build a better mail
application. While we’ll be working on new things at
Google, we will continue to make Sparrow available and
provide support for our users.
We had an amazing ride and can't thank you enough.
Full speed ahead!
Sparrow and Tweetie's acquisition are kind of a slap in the face of the argument for making paid and self-sustaining products that don't rely on a exit event to be in the black. Both were widely-successful paid products, and yet they both managed to get acquired by a mega-company that manages to destroy the product.
I just recently purchased Sparrow for iPhone a few days ago, regardless of the lack of push, since I knew I'd be supporting a small team with developing an awesome app. I was particularly excited for the promise of push notifications coming in the future (I was going to be more than happy to pay for a subscription service). So now that this Google acquisition has occurred, you've said that you are no longer going to be working on features for Sparrow. Does this include previously promised features, such as push?
If so, it seems like you've slapped me in the face with a huge middle finger. I paid for both of your applications in hopes of a future of growth for what was already an awesome e-mail client, and now you're telling me that you're killing development? That's a really shitty way to treat your customers if you ask me.
> You were more than 16 000 helping us on our Apple quest to get the VoIP privilege. We can’t thank you enough for your support. Unfortunately, Apple has confirmed that they are not willing to do any exception to the rule and that Sparrow will NOT be granted with the privilege.
This means we’ll have to do Push on our side and that it will be integrated as a yearly subscription into Sparrow’s future update.
There are some companies that, when acquired in similar circumstances, you are not sad to see subsumed into a larger entity. Either their product wasn't that revolutionary, they didn't have a good strategy, whatever.
However, Sparrow does not fall into that category.
I think it is a massive mistake to sell like this. They clearly had the product and following (IMHO) to become something massive. Selling early when you are just getting started seems silly to me.
I'm sad that I won't have the continuing evolution of their fantastic product to look forward to.
Normally I would have agreed with you, but have you seen the latest Gmail native client for Android? It is hands-down the best mobile mail client I've ever used. Attractive and incredibly intuitive. Someone at Google has been taking their UX vitamins.
This is some pretty anti-Google flame baiting. What kind of design qualifications do you have? Have you even seen the Gmail app on Android? Gmail is also one of the easiest to use, nicest web apps ever created.
Anyone here noticed the 'API vs "Platform"' issue again? Sparrow is essentially for gmail which means it will become eternally linked to it. And depending on the owner of gmail, either blow (like in PUFF) or become a part of it (instagram is still alive because it has not been bought YET factually).
Looks like in this case Sparrow is going the way of the Dodo.
Happy for the Sparrow folks, not so happy for my fellow users and me. I am using it since the beta and they kept promising from that version on that they would add the one missing feature for me (and a dozen of other users): undo support.
I stopped using Sparrow for this only reason; then at 1.6 I started using it again; just to see where it was at; lovely UI but one CPU hogging little app. Sad to see these show-stoppers will now never be picked up in the future Sparrow.
Who will be the new kid on the block?
It sounds like the Sparrow guys ran out of money and were bailed out by Google. This is a sad outcome, but not unexpected: plenty of people make "good enough" mail clients and give them away for free. Just because you want a gold-plated email client doesn't mean many other people are willing to pay for it, and monetizing an email client is very difficult without massive scale, and advertising.
Wow. Hopefully this will give Gmail the kick in the pants it needs ... the interface really hasn't changed that much since the early days.
(Well, of course it's been prettified a bit, but besides a few things like Priority Inbox there have been scant few changes to the interaction. And I always liked that using Sparrow felt different to using the Gmail web interface.)
There isn't any room for improvement in Gmail? Really? It's still using the same basic design of every email client since forever (labels/mailboxes at the left, inbox shows a time-sorted list of messages, click through a message to read).
Meanwhile Sparrow showed what was possible if you sit down and at least tried to rethink the email interface -- with things like gestures, or by shifting towards streams rather than lists.
I wonder what would have happened if the Sparrow team would come out and say "guys we're going to close we don't have enough money". Would all the guys who are yelling "I feel betrayed" support Sparrow with a $10/month recurring plan?
I doubt it.
I personally think that Sparrow had a chance to sell their business and capitalize on all of the hard work they done so far, let's not forget that this is their business and not a hobby. They need a end game.
I won't try to go into details as this is probably all speculation, but monetizing a client in a saturated market with bigger competitors isn't easy. I can understand that many of you 'invested' $5-$10 in sparrow and think you're entitled to free support and lifetime slavery but let's chill a bit.
So you've lost $10, big deal. I'm sure you guys have invested more money into more lousy software and haven't say a god damn thing.
Sparrow team, good luck, great work, happy to hear that another indie developer made it. Hope to hear more success stories in the future.
Gee, people, let's chill out for a bit. There's so much anger here that I think my eyebrows were scorched by all the comments. If the previous comments are any indication, you might not want to read my comment if this email client means the world to you. I'm afraid to say that I really don't see the big deal.
Let me repeat that: it's an email client. People's days were ruined by this news? Google is stupid and evil and-I-don't-know-what-else because they acquired Sparrow? The developers of Sparrow are evil because they didn't do what you unreasonably expected them to do? You people need a serious reality check if these were your thoughts. Heck, the app didn't even stop working.
Now, with all that being said, I can understand a little frustration about knowing for certain that your apparently-favorite app will not be updated anymore. Fine. I get it. But can we cut out approximately 90% of the fury?
While I certainly understand the frustration being felt (I purchased the app and was hoping for push notifications), I'm sure most people here would've accepted the offer. With all that's been written on how little developers are making on the App and Mac Stores, I highly doubt they were making enough to sustain a team of 5. I'm assuming they're an ambitious group and selling an email app would just have not provided them with the capital and resources to achieve what they want. So they perfect their app and then what? You've pretty much hit the end of that road.
Sparrow was up against the native OSX/iOS mail clients, the GMail native and web apps, with the App/Mac Stores as their main distribution channels, which make it nigh impossible to get your app any visibility save the smash hits.
All that considered, it makes perfect sense, to me, why they'd accept a Google offer.
And thus, my dream of finally getting a Sparrow native client for iPad is crushed, like bug.
Who wants to build a really super good Gmail client for iPad? Both Google's web-based version as well as their native app are pretty feature-light, and slow, so it seems like there's definitely a market there.
Conflicted. I'm happy for the guys who worked hard and clearly got what they wanted out of this deal, but as a loyal Sparrow user, I feel some sense of betrayal that they're simply going to abandon their products beyond security updates.
"Sparrow doesn’t owe you anything. You paid, you got software. They can sell and/or kill it if they want. No right to complain. Sad, true."
The callousness of this argument annoys me. Hey there, smug twitterer! The universe doesn't owe you anything! If your mother dies of a sudden brain aneurysm tomorrow, you also have no right to complain! Would you welcome me telling you so?
Yes dear, I know. Dead mothers sounds a lot like Godwinism. Whatever. The point remains that the original comment lacks empathy, reason and relevance. It's just a dick being a dick, dickishly.
Lot of talk here about their lack of recurring revenue models; the interesting thing I think is that they were developing a recurring revenue facet.
If you missed it, the problem on iOS is that they couldn't get push email support working (they tried to use the VOIP exception but Apple caught it while review), so the talk was that they would offer a yearly subscription type thing that would somehow enable push email.
I'm not sure how much that would have been, but I would have almost certainly subscribed.
From their message
"We care a lot about how people communicate, and we did our best to provide you with the most intuitive and pleasurable mailing experience.
Now we're joining the Gmail team to accomplish a bigger vision — one that we think we can better achieve with Google."
I wonder if that means that they're going to work on plus. What else would Google think of as a bigger vision for how people communicate?
How lucrative is the email client market? Could the makers of Sparrow have survived for a while? I would think that a lot of people are already satisfied with Mail or a web client, and if someone bought a copy of Sparrow they wouldn't be buying another copy for a while. I'm surprised that there are multiple companies out there selling Mac email clients.
A shame. Sparrow was one of the few players still innovating in desktop email clients, especially now that Thunderbird has been similarly abandoned. They had already brought us custom smtp aliases, which I really came to rely on, and cloud app attachments. Who knows how far the boundaries could've been pushed with another year of independent operation.
I'd quite possibly have taken the offer, but I like to think I wouldn't have tried to gobble up as much final revenue as possible by offering it for half-off while I negotiated to turn it into abandonware.
For those looking for a replacement: http://postbox-inc. I actually just switched a week ago from Sparrow because I wasn't happy with the way it makes unread mail disappear all the time. I'm growing to love PostBox, and the experience is not hugely different.
In regards to the Sparrow going on sale before being sold:
Maybe with every app ever bought there is a risk that the company goes under, therefore no more updates, and you've lost your money... but in this case, it's simply leaving a sour taste for a lot of people. Add me to this list.
While it is a shame to the app effectively killed, calling it premium priced is just a reflection of how the app store has forced developers to push prices to the absolute bottom. Ad-in the fact that they had no recurring revenue model, getting a ton of new users could actually have been a false economy for them. They did not owe users an explanation of their future business plans, that's not how it works.
> While it is a shame to the app effectively killed, calling it premium priced is just a reflection of how the app store has forced developers to push prices to the absolute bottom.
It's an e-mail client. The major competitors are pretty much webmail (free), Outlook Express (free), Outlook (which you'd only use if you already paid for it as part of Office), Thunderbird (free), and Apple Mail (free). So, yes, it's a premium price for an e-mail client.
One thing I loved about sparrow is they charged for their product. I thought that by paying money I was supporting a business. There are loads of similar calibre apps out there they could have tackled with the same gusto they approached email.
Very well designed app, so congrats to them. My only gripe and what's prevented me from using it as my main email app on my phone has been the lack of push notifications. I'm really, really hoping they implement that in an upcoming release.
They had already implemented it, but were using a way of keeping the app running in the background that's reserved for apps that play music or track your GPS location. Apple rejected the app because Sparrow was neither.
There is another way, but you can't keep it open forever. Any app can request to stay open for a short time to do anything it wants after close. I use this for an app that saves data to the cloud. No reason to make the user wait around for the save. You can't stay open forever though which I suspect is what they were doing.
Just wanting to point out there is a third option, though not indefinitely.
So that was pull, not push. Push notifications was exactly the solution to the problem of apps constantly pulling in the background. Sparrow couldn't do push because they didn't want to have our emails on their server. Now that Google owns Sparrow, we can hope that they'll provide push. I wouldn't get my hopes up though :/
What I want to know is what's happening to LibEtPan, the open-source IMAP library that powers Sparrow. Dinh Viêt Hoà, the other Sparrow co-founder, maintains it, and I wonder if Google will continue to support development of it.
I was hoping for the same. But I think they are not going to do any more development on their Sparrow client according to the latest email they sent to the users.
Sucks for the current paid users, but hey who cares once they get a million more users and many more $$, right?
This comment will likely get down voted, but this is my authentic comment on the story. I am having a very negative emotional reaction to the news. Especially the part about not further developing new features (like the iPad app I have been anxiously awaiting).
I haven't used Sparrow, since I don't have an iOS device, but any particular reason why Google thought they needed to buy it? What could Sparrow bring to the Gmail mobile app that Google couldn't do themselves (or well enough)? Or maybe they just wanted it so the competition doesn't get it first, just like Facebook wanted Instagram?
I think you grossly missed the point of Sparrow—as a webapp, it's 100% useless, because the current Gmail interface exists.
At best, they can take some UI/UX elements from Sparrow and incorporate them into Gmail as is, but porting it as a webapp or porting it to ChromeOS are both defeating the point of the app and platform, respectively.