Media Browser / Video Browser has always been free as-in-beer and free as-in-speech.

Will it remain free?--

Media Browser has cost me a lot of time. According ohloh Media Browsers cost to date has been close to half a million dollars.

In the last few months Jas and I spent quite a lot of time working on Media Browser. My main selfish goal has been to make the source code resume-worthy. Media Browser is now on my resume. My secondary selfish goal was to add a few features/architecture I really wanted. I also achieved that goal.

Yesterday I posted a question to the Joel-on-Software "The Business of Software" forums asking them if there is any way I can make a business out of MB. I got tons of very thoughtful replies.

I would like to divide the replies into a few camps:

The "you are screwed" camp

They say:
- Transitioning open source software to a viable business model is REALLY hard, perhaps impossible.

The "software should not be free" camp

They say:
- You are producing something useful, charge for it! Stop giving it away for free.

The "create a pro version" camp

They say:
- Ship one "free" open source product and a second paid "professional" edition. With extra features. "Wine and Crossover":http://www.codeweavers.com/products/differences/ do this.

The "charge for other stuff" camp

They say:
- Charge for support.
- Charge for customisation.

Where do I stand?

I agree, I'm screwed, I like free-as-in-speech software I like the hackability, the community, the source contributions and the freedom. I wrote a lot of source code for lots companies, the vast majority of the software I wrote, I can no longer use. This really sucks, cause I spent lots of time writing reusable frameworks which I can no longer reuse or improve. I am not an open source zealot but I have a soft spot for open-source.

I am not going to close the source. Even if I could get this past the other devs, this would be stabbing the community in the back, something that I will not stand for. We get great value out of having our source open. We get better testing and users can figure out stuff by themselves. We get patch contributions. Besides, the source is open today, it can not be unopened, someone can take the code today and fork it and start their own MB clone. Something that is likely to happen if we closed the source.

I am not going to create a pro version. By creating a pro edition, we would become our biggest competitors. I am also struggling to think of anything compelling I could offer beyond what there is today that a pro version could offer. Having a pro edition would also encourage forking.

I would like to start charging for support, customisation and ads. I would like to add a donate button somewhere. But this leaves a big open question:

Who gets the benjamins?

Traditionally, in open source projects, the money goes to the projects running costs. Fortunately our running costs have been really low. Google hosts our downloads and a friend donated the slice MBs website is running on.

We are going to have to have some internal discussions about this. But the way I see it, only the BIG contributors are entitled to a slice of the cake.

Where does it leave me?

I will not work full-time for free. Forget about it. Once we are done stabilizing the current version of MB I am going to take some time off MB and look into other opportunities that have some chance of making money. If we can figure out some way in which MB donations, support fees, customisation and ads pay for my salary I will be happy to continue working on MB, even full-time.

What do YOU think I should do? Where do you see the future of Media Browser?

EDITI have made up my mind on what to do ... read about it here

Comments

Miked over 5 years ago
Miked

I cannot speak for the entire community, but I can speak for myself. There is no other program like mediabrowser on the market and IT WOULD BE AN ABSOLUTE SHAME if mediabrowser grew stagnant after 2.1 or the next release.


Yes, there is an open source community that would continue to support media browser, but there needs to be a leader and visionary to carry large complex changes through to fruition and be viable for all users not just those that wrote the code.


Every I week I look forward to news of the next greatest release and the wonderful features / fixes that it encompasses. I do not want to see this stop.


That said.. here are few of my ideas


1) I would be absolutely willing to donate via paypal, however I don't know if enough users would be also willing to do so. You could always try this approach to see if it works. However if you turn this into a pay for software model, some users may feel that their donations should go against the cost of the software.


2) I'm no traffic expert, but does the forums and mediabrowser.tv site generate enough visitors that some ads and banners would produce any significant revenue? I would easily sacrifice a few adds for the value of the service, support, and development you and the team bring. Maybe adds when you download the newest version or something (but remember adware or complicated sign ups would deter new users).


I really wish I had a magic answer for you, but I know that your involvement now and in the future in this project is crucial.


Guys… Let's all get behind this somehow … it really is worth it!

Miked over 5 years ago
Miked

Oh .. and Sam


I know you mentioned you dont want to.. but I really think you could have a PRO version for a $5 that a significant portion of the population would pay for (assuming upgrades are included for a reasonable amount of time like 12 months). $5 × 50% of users per year .. you do the math if that works.


This of course would drive innovation and fixes from your side, while preventing code duplicates (forking as you call it) mediabrowser.


I dont think customization fees will go over well as this would only apply to corporate users and I dont think mediabrowser plays well to that market and individual users cant afford development costs for each feature.

Goolong over 5 years ago
Goolong

Well, mediabrowser is becoming the center of my whole media experience and the updates and support has no equal. I love how the developers take suggestions from the community and make it the great piece of software that it is. May i suggest putting a reminder in the software for a donation/pay for the software for development cost on a yearly basis/timer. possibly for those that donate/pay, beta access to new and upcoming features including the ability to suggest/vote for changes. i'm sure a lot of the community would pay 10 dollars or so a year for continued development/updates.


Show me the paypal donate

John_Mason over 5 years ago
John_Mason

Sam,


I am a relatively new mediabrowser convert and must say it is the best plugin I have installed on my system.


As such I would gladly pay for the software. Open source is great but at the end of the day somebody pays, and we all know who that is.


What about an annual subscription including updates? Most people would be paying around $50-100pa for antivirus software without batting an eyelid, so why not pay at least that for something as good as mediabrowser? Hell, I pay that now for my icetv subscription.


At current community membership this could generate close to $230k pa, hopefully enough to entice the development team at least on a casual/part-time basis.


And who should get the benjamins, why the developers of course.


Thanks again,


John.

Tikuf over 5 years ago
Tikuf

Sam I would hate to see dev stopped. MB Has finally brought some much needed functinallity to media center

the ease in which my wife and daughters can now use

media center is priceless.

Personally i would be willing to donate for continued use of the program. The guys over at epg stream were in the same boat about 6 months ago. Maybe a chat with them may help you come to a decision.


Thank you so much for all your time thus far

regards

Simon

Htpconvert over 5 years ago
Htpconvert

I agree with what has been said. MB is well worth paying for. A subscription fee sounds reasonable considering the effort that goes into this product and the amazing results the end user recieves.


The idea about ad/banner support also sounds like another nice way to get some more income


Basically I would love to have you working full time on this. So I would also say add a donations button as well so that those who wish to give even more to the cause can do so. I think you will find many of us will be happy to contribute. And hey, why not try the the donation thing for a while. If it works, great! If not, proceed with the subscription idea (and as I said, you should do this any way)


Cheers

Christian over 5 years ago
Christian

Sam,


As much as i love open source projects I also understand that there are no free lunches. You have created an amazing app that by far outshines any competiton and in my mind that means that we should appreciate your work in the same way we appreciate your app. I have no problem paying an annual fee for future support and continuing updates and as I see it you have a unique chance of transitioning from a free open source app to a fee based open source app.


To make some sort of an analogy, when restaurants in London started feelig the credit crunch they sought new ways of attracting customers. One of the more inventive ideas was to take away all prices on the menu and let the customer decide what he/she thought the dinner was worth. Amazingly the result was that the average ticket actually increased as people could in a way reward the superior service/food. I don't say that this is the way to go, but I believe that there is a way to make this work with innovative charges. One of your strengths is that you are fantastic at thinking ‘outside the box' in developing Mediabrowser, I think it's equally important to do that here in regards to your renumeration. You are in a unique situation that requires an unique way of getting paid.


Cheers

User over 5 years ago
User

Hey there,


I am a new MB user, but since there are so few comments, I thought I would throw my two cents in, since it seems likely mine will also be read.


I love MB and think it's a great piece of software. That said, it's not my reason for using Media Center -if MB disappeared I would happily move to Plex, XMBC, boxee My Movies, or something else. So while I may pay for it, I think others may not, if you move totally to pay.


On the other hand, should development stagnate, I can see a lot of plugins taking over for where MB left off and that too, I think, would be a shame.


I would agree that perhaps you should look into ads on the site and solicit donations. Emu-center (the reason I am on Windows MC) doesn't have separate free/pay versions, but donations do allow you to unlock a few useful features and that perhaps is a viable option for MB?


The other option seems to be for bigger open source software, like xmbc, is having a team work on it. You yourself could move more to an advisor role and allow others to add code.


Just thoughts, to help you along on your path. Whatever you decide to do, you should know you have our support!

Macros over 5 years ago
Macros

Hi Sam,


so far your piece of software is the best thing I have ever used on my HTPC, in fact without MediaBrowser I wouldn't even call my PC HTPC. I'm spending almost all my Computer time using MediaBrowser, customizing, searching for enhancements…

I like the PayPal donate thing, but I'm not sure if it will create enough income for you guys. In the end, I would be more then willing to pay something like an annual subscription fee.

When I see that my annual Anti-Virus fee is around 30,- € I would be really happy to pay something and know that the best software I ever used doesn't get stuck on 2.1.


Good luck to you guys (and all of us ;) )

Restorer over 5 years ago
Restorer

So come on, Sam. Get that Donate button set up. Give us a chance to repay you and your key colleagues for all the hard work you've put in.


Personally, I wouldn't mind if it ended here at a stable 2.1. It does everything and more that I was looking for and is a very fine piece of software. There was a big gap in Media Center and you have filled it admirably.


There is always a danger in these projects that you become increasingly involved with time-consuming fringe features which in the end detracts from the core of the product.


It's been great watching the thing develop over the last year or so. If it ends, here well so be it. It would be fantastic if you guys could make some money out of it. At the very least give us a chance to buy you a drink!

Anh_Nguyen over 5 years ago
Anh_Nguyen

I have tried several other softwares before finally settle on MB. As many others have said, it outshines most if not all other competitors, both free and paid products. It makes VMC much more enjoyable. I do think setting up a donation is a good idea, or that every download requires a donation (set amount or up to users). IMO, an amout of $20-$30 should not be a problem for most. Once again, thank you for all the work you put in, and I would hate for the program to fade.

Salami over 5 years ago
Salami

Some ideas:


- Change the license to forbid binary distribution – Then you could charge for the service of packaging, automatic updates etc. Those who want an absolutely trouble-free media center experience will likely pay a few bucks for not having to compile the thing themselves.


- Talk to online video distributors – You are already showing trailers, why not get a few bucks back if someone decides to buy a movie after watching it's trailer through your software? Someone on the dev-mailing list also raised the idea of doing “last.fm for movies”, such a service might lead to more sales too. And you could charge for that service :)


- Do something for the iPhone… like a mobile movie collection, a specialized remote control for media center (like showing meta info on your phone while a movie is playing etc.). Sounds silly, but there's a shitload of money to be made in the appstore :)


I wouldn't expect too much though, the realist in me is leaning towards the “you are screwed” camp.


good luck :)

Evilslut_Webmaster over 5 years ago
Evilslut_Webmaster

Well I think a nice good start is a donate function :) a lot of people saying they would pay… well then i assume they would donate too.


Or build in a temporary key, which expires in a year or so and then forcing them to buy a license? That would be my bit more aggresive method :)

Jim_Lawless over 5 years ago
Jim_Lawless

I agree; try a “donate” button and put a “donate” message in the standard distribution. Maybe you could host a paid distribution that does not have the message?


Have you thought about writing and selling (via lulu.com or something ) an e-book describing the various parts of the source code? Then, put the link for the e-book purchase page into the source.

Terry_L over 5 years ago
Terry_L

Keep it open source, but charge for the precompiled binaries.


Anyone who can spend the time to get all the Visual Studio stuff set up can have it for free. Anyone who values their time at more than £0 p/h will pay.


Anyone else who makes pre-compiled binaries will fall behind as you move on with development.


Plenty of other open source projects do this.


Good luck, all is not lost.


Terry.

Jay_Vaughan over 5 years ago
Jay_Vaughan

Just make it easy to pay you, somehow. Put some PayPal buttons around, make the Help|About box contain details about how to send a payment, spread a few little hints through the app that payment == good and new features when $$$ happens. On the basis of your users good will, you will be rich in no time.

Mark_Essel over 5 years ago
Mark_Essel

How does Automattic make enough money to pay the developers? Their business model may aid you in moving forward.

Alex over 5 years ago
Alex

More comments on Hacker News

John_For_Dummies over 5 years ago
John_For_Dummies

The developer who maintains Damn Small Linux posted a story a few years ago about what he did to generate income that allowed him to go from “doing it as a hobby” to being able to do it as a job and even hire some help: http://www.damnsmalllinux.org/income-guide/ Some of it may apply, and may give you some ideas.


Your concerns about MB forking are valid, but even if you don't change a thing, because it is Open Source, there is always a chance that it could be forked at any time, no matter what. It reminds me of AutoIT (the scripting language), which started out Open Source, and I don't recall all the details of what happened, but at least one company began releasing their own version of AutoIT but totally disregarded the GPL. The AutoIT team changed the license, which prompted some people to fork the old Open Source code into AutoHotKey. With AutoIT, you can download and play with the source, even submit bug fixes, but you can no longer create your own work from it. In the end, some people went to AutoHotKey, and some people stayed with AutoIT—but both communities are still thriving and going strong—one is open source, one has a closed license.


People are willing to pay for what they see value in, but remember there are three types of people: 1) those who will ALWAYS pay for something, 2) Those who MIGHT pay for something, and 3) Those who WILL NEVER pay for anything. You cannot change group 3, focus on the first two groups and make it EASY for them to give you money.

Tom over 5 years ago
Tom

Dont worry about stabbing the community in the back, it's not like that. Sell it or charge for it, I think it's fair, i mean look at the marketplace for this the closest competitor is mymovies and that is old now.

Jim over 5 years ago
Jim

Sam and team, this product is worth $. People like me will pay to keep the product evolving. From a purely selfish perspective, I've seen too many great free apps due due to lack of at least some compensation, and that app dies. I'm asking you to please take my $. Please.


At minimum, and to get at least some $ your way, please put up PayPal on the MB site. I have donated to developers, even when the app didn't work out at the time, and I'm not alone in this. If you talk w/ other developers, voluntary donations via PayPal will not be enough, but it's at least a start.

  • Jim
Open_Source_Love_It_Hate_It_Leave_It over 5 years ago
Open_Source_Love_It_Hate_It_Leave_It

From someone who has been where you are (and who has iterated through all the failure), here are the options you have for monetizing an open-source/GPL type of project into a commercial entity…


#1. Ads and Donations; Mostly a dead end. Requires a significant user base and traffic and you'll still be making relative peanuts.


#2. Paid Support / Contracts; Another dead end. Will only work for a select few business types.


#3. Pro vs. Community Edition; Will only work if 1) The Pro Version has significant features that the user must have (and I mean must, not want, and that's also from their POV, not yours) and 2) The user is introduced to the Pro version before he/she has a chance to download the Community Edition… A.K.A… You display a page like MySQL does, or worse, you hide the Community Edition (make it difficult to find). #3 has maybe 5-50% potential of #4.


#4. Turn your project into a base or platform. Launch additional services and products from it, integrated to it.



  1. is the most difficult as you have to figure out what it actually is.


Good Luck.

Kiubbo over 5 years ago
Kiubbo

i dont understand why its not ok to have a pro version, even if you keep it open source, its just a way to make it very easy for people to say thanks and feel like they actually purchased something

Eddie over 5 years ago
Eddie

I contributed to My Movies and paid for myTV, both of which I no longer use because of Media Browser. So I'd be happy to pay or donate to the project to keep the development engine going. But I'm afraid that if you leave it up to voluntary donations, you won't bring in enough.


If you insist on keeping it open source and free, then I agree with others who've suggested that you add revenue-generating features into the product – i.e. partner up with media companies to give us the ability to buy/rent movies, music, etc.. I think you need to explore several options simultaneously, not just pick one revenue stream and hope that brings in enough money.


Also agree that only the BIG contributors should share in the revenues. Whatever you decide, it seems that you do have the support of the user community – we are all very grateful for this app and would happily pay a reasonable fee to support those who created it.

Tony over 5 years ago
Tony

I am suggesting the Pro version too.

1. If your product is good, people pay. And we all know MB is in a class by itself. In fact, MB makes the Media Center a true Media Center (yes MS did a good job – but MB helps complete it).

2. Do I like Free over paying – yes, everyone does, and when we pay, it has to be priced right. Everyone has their own number on this, but I would easily pay $25 a year to fund MB.

3. If you give enough though, you can figure out the Pro version, even if that means removing a couple of the new features you just put it. Even the simple things in life like the Weather could be part of the Pro version.


Other solution – hit up Microsoft. They have a huge push on Media Center – and we know they know and love Media Browswer too.

Casperinmd over 5 years ago
Casperinmd

Sam,


If all else fails, why not let the community drive the next version. What I mean is how about keeping tabs on teh money donated, and once a threshold is met, you and the heavy contributors of the development team can start to do the next release and get paid from those funds


This way you will get paid for your work, the community will either keep the free version where it is or have to donate something towards the next release to get the wheels rolling. Once it is released, reset the donation counter.


Just a thought, I will surely donate b/c without this, I was not going very far with my HTPC, it was just not appealing to me. Now I spend hours upon hours a week reading the forums and tweaking my setup.

Tony over 5 years ago
Tony

The problem with “donate” is the money is just not there. You would be lucky to get 10% to donate and good luck on the second year of donations. It has to be controlled income – which means a set amount of money – which means charge for extras. This works for most companies. The problem MB has is that it is now open source, but I also think MB users (us) are pretty intelligent as our hobbies are a media center (and PCs). Which hopeful translates into – we understand, your time is valuable, and we appreciate it. And will pay.

Many, many products have done well with a free version and a paid version (Pro). There would not be a “folk” it's the same product, just one with a few extras.


You can even go the most basic route, the free one has a banner saying “thank you for using the free open source MB” and if you pay, it goes away :)

Mike_Petersen over 5 years ago
Mike_Petersen

I've been using Media Browser for a while and it really is the center peice of my Home Theater. Hands down I would pay up to $50.00 for the software in the form of a donation or whatever.

Miked over 5 years ago
Miked

EXCELLENT IDEA TONY


Have the free version contain an ad in the application, and the pro version be ad free


Simple

Goolong over 5 years ago
Goolong

a little banner add inside the app itself wouldnt be a bad idea asking us to donate and thanking us for the free version. I still feel that yearly subscriptions for updates and the ability to vote what new addons improvements should be done first would be great. With you Sam as the lead and majority voter. With you track record in leading this development its a no brainer you are the most qualified.

Jakewill over 5 years ago
Jakewill

I like some of the ideas so far…


One other is to do what Andy did w/ DVRMSToolbox.. He set up an “Early Access” group for people who would start shaking the day after they saw the latest update. :) I think the minimum contribution was $5 for “Early Access”, and you could email and ask, but I think he at least made SOME income off of that.


Anyways, I second the idea for googleads or whatever along the sides of the website. Maybe shoot an email over to the likes of Gizmodo or Lifehacker to find out how they receive funding. They do giveaways and ALWAYS have advertising at the top, middle, and sides of the screen, and I still check that site multiple times a day (much like this one) for updates.


This is a beautiful product, and it takes guys like you to realize the potential in what you have and go with it. Guys like me just hold our breath and wait for the next update.


jakewill

Domoq over 5 years ago
Domoq

I think you should think to charge for customization, branding and pro features.

This peace of software have the dignity to be a professiona software and cover a clear gap in the MCE enviroment

I think that professional sistem integrator could pay for rebranding, moltiroom management and integration for domotica

Pierre_Lo over 5 years ago
Pierre_Lo

Hi Sam,


I think the “integrator route” is a good path to experiment. Free for single users, domestic use, and licenses on volumes for integrators distributing it with preinstalled machines. Downsize is that you will have to spend time amd energy going to potential distributors and convincing them they MUST include MB in their configurations…


Or, I also think an annual subscription that would cover full access to all downloads/upgrades and to the support community would be quite acceptable. This would enforce the community to a closed user group, which in fact it almost is already, if you look at the regular posters.


Or, leave the 2.0.11 ( a great version)as the last free version and start paypal fees from version 2.1.


I personnally wouldn't like the ad idea, as it quickly becomes a real showstopper and would probably not be worth it in terms of revenue.


Best of luck to find the best model, but I think I would speak for most MB addicts if I say “count me in, whatever it is” ;-)


PierreLo

Dak_Attack over 5 years ago
Dak_Attack

I'm not keen on adverts or donate

messages in the application and not keen on paying for updates, if you charge

for having updates you may end up getting more swamped by bug requests and may

have users ‘expect' you to resolve bugs in a short period of time causing you to

spend more time on the project.


A donate button does sound a

quick way but I'm not sure it would produce enough to be worth it, there is a

lot of tight people out there.


I do have an idea

though, A pro and free version system sounds good but rather than having

the Pro version come with extra plugins or updates why not have it include all

the current themes (and maybe new ones later) and have the free one come with a

rather plain theme (no snazzy backdrops, no coverflow, no user customization).


I'm sure once new free version

users see the eye candy of the themes they will vote with their pocket and

upgrade.

The look and style and ease of

use is why many users like me have moved from other products, simply limit the

free version to one simple theme and give the Pro version the complete theme

pack?


Diamond and Vanilla are two

simple reasons why people will buy. First try the ‘one-off' payment for the pro

and then review it later in the year? PS: I would buy the Pro and easily spend

around £50 for it!

Oelwurst over 5 years ago
Oelwurst

Hi Sam,


I think media browser is the only reason why I use the media center. And the new release has made the experience even more satisfying. So to me it is no question that I would gladly pay for it at least 20 to 30 Euros or – if possible donate for the project. Hopefully you'll find a way to stay on this project.


oelwurst

Slammers over 5 years ago
Slammers

Hi Sam,


I would also recommend a free and a “pro” version for which I would also pay. As far as I am concerned I would even buy the pro version if the only difference to the free one is a removed requester, banner, ad or whatever! (MB is far too cool to let any kind of banner-disturbance take place :-)


However, any of your thoughts should not led to do less work on MB, since it would result in a more buggy and less top-of-the-edge piece of software. There is too much of this crab around the plugin-world.


I also like the idea of free sources an precompiled binaries with costs.


You can also try Microsoft. I like the idea of kicking Apples #?* with a Mediacenter including MB ;→ duck


Keep on going! I have a lot more ideas for MB.


good luck an thank you for this great piece of software!


slammers

Dave over 5 years ago
Dave

I guess I do not understand your reluctance to close the code. While we all currently get the benefit of your generously donated time, and you indicate that you appreciate the benefits of open source for you, that should not preclude you from making a buck or two.


I concur with many of the comments. You are making a commercial grade project that easily could justify payment. I don't believe you have any obligation to keep the software free. I think $10 is a no-brainer, $50 is perhaps too much.


I think the best transition idea is to have a free version with a banner… but it seems that your philosophical argument re: open source will preclude this as it could be bypassed. Of course people like me do not have the time or skills to do this, so we would gladly apy anyway…


Keep up the good work – and don't feel bad about chargingme for the pleasure.

Jcalton88 over 5 years ago
Jcalton88

I can honestly say, I was about to give up hope for my HTPC because I couldn't find a program I liked…


Then I found Media Browser and you can't get me away from it now! I have played with settings and icons and everything else for days now. I would, without question, donate/pay/whatever you want to call it, as soon as I see that magical button.


I think you have a following now that wouldn't(atleast most of us) stab you in the back, and I honestly believe the ones you'd have to worry about forking it would be the ones willing to pay, because we know what work goes into it.


In short, how much do you want?


And on a side note, maybe you could have this version as free, and work on a version that is stand-alone, supporting the various file-types without use of external players. I know I for one would pay for that software, I don't mind VMC but a standalone without all the tweaking to get it to play all the right file-types, I'd take it over VMC anyday..as long as it had the MB frontend, :-). I believe you could make and sell that and still have the MB plug-in for VMC as open-source.

Hogues over 5 years ago
Hogues

I really have no experience with open source, binaries, etc…, so I have a hard time offering an opinion on what and how to charge. That being said, I will support you guys with whatever compensation path you choose.

Leo over 5 years ago
Leo

Hi Sam,


In my opinion MB is the only way to turn MCE Vista or 7 into a real great Media Center. I mean to can manage all my movies files and DVD in the way I want.


That said, I agree with the free and pro version and especially with the DAK ATTAK suggestion.


Leave in the free version the essentials, to manage a personal movies collection, but in the pro version integrate all the eye candy features that get MB so beautiful.


MB is the perfect product for skins it's clear and if you integrate in the pro version all the tools to build a theme this will motivate many people to buy it and then share the themes.


But this is not enough …


In my opinion the feature that will worth the creation of a pro version is the metadata management for the media files collection. I personally use meta browser and would love to see these features directly into MB.


The MB core could keep open source and the look and metadata management features could start into licensed project.


Keep up the good work and my best wishes for the MB's futur.

Jay over 5 years ago
Jay

Hello Sam,


I certainly understand your predicament. Few people indeed like to work for free and it does make it hard to pay the bills.


One thing to consider in this process…


If you sell this product, you will be setting an expectation of support. I don't just mean responding to bug lists/reports, etc. I mean that customers will expect that there will be someone on the other end to answer any/all questions about the product, from installing to bug lists, etc.


You may be doing this now, but I would venture to guess that most people realize you are doing this as a courtesy and because you are trying to make the product the best it can be. However, if you walk into a retail store and buy something off the shelf, you expect that the retail store is going to stand behind that product and likewise, the manufacturer is going to as well.


My point is that the moment you “charge” for something, customer expectations will change…that could lead to a support nightmare. I ran a support center for several years (more than 6), I know just how “vocal” end customers can be.


Furthermore, by trying to turn this into a retail product, the entire model changes. Now you need to examine marketing, product development, distribution models, packaging (what if someone wants a hard copy), illegal distribution, competitive positioning, follow on products, roadmaps, timeline/schedules. Think about returns/refunds, how would those be handled? What about site lic. or multiple users? As you mentioned, who gets funds?


It's not quite as simple and just removing a free download option and adding a CC processing tool. Your whole world would change overnight and you have to adapt to those changes if you want this to be succesful. You really need to think through all the business implications by moving this to a mandatory paid plan. I am not saying it can't be done, because there are clear examples of people that have taken a hobby project into a full fledge business. You might consider talking with some small business owners to see what advice they might give on moving this into a daily business.


I think some good ideas of surfaced (ads on website, donation buttons, free/pro versions, pairing up with content providers, etc.). I would suggest you take a look at several of these models and perhaps come up with some hybrid version. I think a donation button would be a great way to get started. I don't think people mind paying for things they find valuable and certainly MB has value.


By choosing a donation model, you can collect revenue while still choosing to respond to support requests as you deem appropriate, when you deem appropriate. Sure, not everyone will donate, but I think you would be surprised to see just how many would donate.


Your time is valuable and you need to be properly compensated for your efforts. Unfortunately, there is no easy way to calculate the ROI on your efforts.


I do wish you luck in what ever you decide. You clearly have a product that people appreciate…now you just need to figure out a fair plan that will allow you and the community to benefit from the work.


Regards,

Jay

Henney over 5 years ago
Henney

After thinking about it, I agree with those who say people are willing to pay for good software. Personally, I've paid for add-ons like StarDock, firewalls (ZoneAlarm), and anti-virus/malware. As long as the software is good (and MB is), I'm willing to pay $20 – $50 for a yearly subscription.


I just ask you not fall into the same trap as other companies have: they dream up unnecessary features just to grow the user base. This causes the end product to become bloated, buggy, and useless. After a year or two, the product became garbage. I have an anti-virus package that was great until they released the new version and it's become a horrible product. I'm currently evaluating MS Security Essentials.


The 2.1 update was a TREMENDOUS improvement (speed, etc.). I would rather see smaller, incremental improvements/fixes (like fixing the playback support of HD content) than a constant introduction of buggy features.


Another poster suggested you talk to Microsoft. As we all know, MS will let you innovate and then they assimilate in the next version. If you pursue this route, please be cautious. I'm not bashing MS because I use a lot of their software professionally and personally but the truth is the truth.


I really enjoy this product but I don't want to be nickeled and dimed to death (once you add up all the yearly maintenance costs for the various apps needed to support an HTPC). Maybe charge an $30 up-front fee and then $10 a year to renew. I hate yearly maintenance fees that equate to paying for a new copy of the product every year regardless of how little may have changed.


Thanks for a great product and I hope you find a way to continue it's development that benefits both the developers and the users.

User over 5 years ago
User

Leave the original source open and continue with a pay version..


donate works great too, try it out.


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