There is a common misunderstanding of value in software development. For the developer, the product is always worth more than its price and for the buyer, the product is always worth less than its price. When the former happens, you get a disgruntled developer; when the latter happens: buyer’s remorse.
Twitter clients were, initially free to use, with some basic and good looking ads (e.g. “Deck”, “Fusion”, etc…). Actually, Twitter clients were how I found some of those new ad networks. First Twitterrific, than Tweetie for Mac, they all followed the same model: tasteful ads or a fee to hide them. When the App Store launched in 2008, the first few clients that showed up on iOS were free or ad supported. When paid clients became more popular, prices ranged from $0.99 to $2.99 for the most popular clients. Tweetie, at $2.99, was considered expensive and many people refused to pay for a Twitter client.
Fast forward to 2011 and Tweetbot is launched for iPhone, priced at $1.99. It’s a refreshing approach to Twitter, particularly after the consumer favorite Tweetie had been bought and defaced by Twitter. Shortly thereafter, Tweetbot for iPad launches, priced at $4.99 and people raged at the lack of a Universal binary. The perceptual value Twitter has is, at this point, high. Tweetbot takes advantage of the pro/premium market that Tweetie left behind and, I for one, bought it as soon as it was out (both versions).
Twee–Netbot & App.Net
No one can deny that by the time Tweetbot launched, Twitter’s perceptual value was very high. People who bought Tweetbot were those of us who felt disenfranchised by Twitter’s new clients and 3rd-party policies.
Today, Tapbots just launched Twee–err–Netbot, an iOS client for App.net (which I’ll dub “The Grey Tweetbot”). It is still not a Universal app and, this time, it costs $4.99 for the iPhone version and another $4.99 for the iPad version. It has some really neat features and the old familiar Tapbots design (which, no matter how much I love Mark and his design, is getting a bit old and heavy). The issue that I’m raising, though, is that App.net (ADN) does not have the same perceptual value as Twitter, not even for the majority of people who already paid for a fee for the service! Thinking that a client value is determined by people’s willingness to pay for the service is flawed. People paid for access to ADN not because they felt it offered more value than Twitter (again, at this point) but because they wanted to support an alternative to Twitter, an oasis in the midst of the scary world that are social networks today, constantly selling us (consumers) in exchange for a free service. That is the perceptual value of ADN: ownership of data; and that’s why geeks like me paid for a year of service. Assuming that ADN users will inevitably pay more for client applications is a flawed logic which, unfortunately, is pretty widespread.
While I tend to prefer paid over free when it comes to software, I can’t help but feel a bit disappointed by Netbot’s pricing model. $1.99/$2.99 (iPhone/iPad) or $4.99 (Universal) would seem like a more appropriate price for a repiped Tweetbot. Charging more Netbot than for the original Tweetbot, something that took months of design & development, seems a bit opportunistic. It’s even the same icon with a different hue!
Value & Consumers
Not sure developers understand the value of a client product is determined by the perception of its service’s value… ADN is not worth the same as Twitter, at the moment, no matter how much I want it to succeed… and I do!
PS: Netbot will sell handsomely. In other news, people will still vote for politicians they don’t believe in because. 1
NOTE: Feel free to add your own thoughts on Hacker News.
Yes, that was the end. ↩