1. 17

To me this seems relevant to lobste.rs, but I couldn’t find any good tags. Feel free to suggest some if you think they apply.


  2. 16

    I’ve now seen so many of these “incredible journeys” that I seriously consider whether I shouldn’t install any free apps if they either

    • generate and/or store data of some lasting value for me (because it will inevitably be lost or will have to be somehow exported and dealt with)
    • require changes to my workflow (because I will inevitably have to re-learn with another app down the line).

    At least paid apps have more of a chance of being a sustainable business that lasts more than 1-2 years.

    1. 15

      I’ve been thinking much the same thing, but taking it even further. In just the last few weeks two of my favorite apps, Rdio and Mailbox, announced they were shutting down. Those are two products that I have to transition away from, transferring (in Rdio’s case) all my music over to another service (I’ve chosen Spotify for now, but I’m not happy with it).

      Why should I trust an app made by any company that hasn’t made clear their intent to be a sustainable business? Why should I give them my investment in time and attention, and tie my content to their platform, if I can’t trust that they will be around in a couple years?

      Compare all of this to Pinboard, whose creator has repeatedly stated his intention for Pinboard to be around for a long time. Using Pinboard, you can feel reasonably certain that you won’t be seeing a post like this.

      People like to laud the advantages of the venture-capital-backed world of startups, but it’s hard as a consumer to trust companies that are born in that world, because the economics of the system incentivize them to ignore how to make their startup sustainable, encouraging either a big IPO or a big purchase by a larger entity. It may be good for the founders, the early employees, and the VC’s, but I don’t know how good it is for the consumers when they can’t place trust in these sorts of companies. (There’s also the side issue of the VC model and the incentives it creates for the creation of secure software, but that’s a topic for another day.)

      Maybe I am out of the mainstream, and maybe most people don’t care if things like this stop working and disappear, but I’m a little sick of watching the apps I like disappear into the acquisition-ether.

      1. 12

        As someone that makes a living from an app/service, this is one of the biggest challenges I face in gaining more users. I can’t take risks that a VC-backed competitor can that has no worries about revenue generation. I can’t hire a ton of people and pay them competitive wages, or scale out a huge infrastructure to support tons of users that aren’t paying anything, like a company can that has a seemingly endless supply of free money.

        Trying to explain that to potential users means nothing to most of them, and even when you try to point out that the bigger company over there might not even be around in 6 to 12 months, they shrug it off. They just see that as another 6 to 12 months that they can get more cool stuff for free.

        A company in the same space as me has been operating for a few years with no revenue and growing like crazy. They get VC backing, hire a ton of people, but eventually realize they have to start charging users for the service. Of course their users hate it, they burn a lot of the goodwill they built up while operating in their VC-backed fantasy, and the users jump ship. But not to any competitors that are charging money, they seek out the next free thing because they feel like the service they’re relying on isn’t worth paying money for.

        I think as a whole, users have been conditioned with enough free services that they know what to expect for free and what things they are expected to pay for. Once the bar gets lowered to free, it can’t raise back up again. If a company with a ton of money created a comparable Netflix competitor and gave it away for free, would anyone still use Netflix? In a year from now when that company runs out of money, are those users going to go back to Netflix? No, because during that year, a handful of other companies probably started up to try the same thing that will just pick up the pieces of the first startup that failed.

        1. 7

          VC-backed “companies” (although given that one of the defining features is having little to no plan for actually making money sustainably, so I hesitate to call them that) definitely push out those organizations that legitimately provide a quality product at a sustainable price. It’s easy to ignore the cost of repeatedly hopping from app to app when it may take a year or two for things to fall apart. I don’t know what the answer is here, but it’s a bad situation for people trying to make a living actually selling a product, and for users who are left with shaky services often held together which duct tape just long enough for the acquisition to come.

          Edit: I should add that I really like Pushover, and I am happy to have paid for it.

          1. 2

            Paid services shut down often enough that I feel like my options are

            A) Jump from free service to free service, losing stuff each time one shuts down

            B) Jump from paid service to paid service, losing stuff each time one shuts down

            I’m trying to go with C) Refuse to use anything that isn’t fully portable, but that’s neither easy nor popular.

          2. 5

            Consumer software is a wasteland. Oftentimes, software in that sector is barely even meant for end users. Instead, it’s pitched to consumers as leverage in other capital-generating activities, such as ad revenue or acquisitions.

            Perhaps software is too cheap to make.

            1. 1

              What are you classifying as consumer software? I know plenty of consumer software that’s of good quality. Not all of it, but there’s also a ton of bad software that’s VC funded, just like there’s plenty of bad software that’s open source.

          3. 8

            If you want a list of every “incredible journey”, there’s a blog for it: http://ourincrediblejourney.tumblr.com/

          4. 4

            I love Mailbox!

            Does anyone have any recommendations for a replacement?

            1. 10

              Outlook, maybe? It has some pretty heavy feature overlap, and a pretty nice UI. (Note that Outlook on iOS/Android has nothing in common with the desktop Outlook other than its ultimate purpose. I wish they’d picked a different name.)

              1. 4

                Note that mobile “Outlook” will store credentials on Microsoft-owned server.

                1. 3

                  I like Outlook on iOS a great deal. It really is a well thought out and well behaved IMAP client.

                2. 6

                  Google Inbox is carbon copy of Mailbox.

                  1. 2

                    On iOS, Dispatch seems nice. It offers a lot of way to automate your email, although it doesn’t have the “save for later” feature of Mailbox.

                    1. 1

                      If you use gmail https://inbox.google.com is at feature-parity with Mailbox.

                    2. 3

                      OP, you can also add software tag