The Problem with Software Registration

@ Rhywun: FileZilla’s open source and even if it weren’t… how does giving $40 make you a sucker…? And I’ll avoid your bloatware FTP clients in favor of the ones that just focus on the FTP itself, thanks. :slight_smile:

@ John Galloway: the advantage of using open source small utility programs (like FileZilla) is that even if the developers abandon it, it’s open source. Open source = immortality.

Yes the task of registering software is painful…I totally agree with that…
but i don’t agree on you weeping over having multiple versions to buy from…
Every feature requires money to be implemented…so instead of having everyone to buy an enormously expensive software with all the features that they’re never gonna use…why not make it a lil less expensive by giving only the required ones for us cheap bastards…and let the power users pay for full package…
of course its business…but its good for us…the cheap bastds…

I’ve found SmartFTP excellent and I had considered purchasing SmartFTP but if this is the difficulty you have to go through I might think twice :slight_smile:

@ James Galloway: Huh? Just because anyone can pick up the development of an abandoned open source program certainly doesn’t mean that anyone will.

Excuse me, that was @James Devlin.

Donation ware can work well. I started an anti-spam product years ago called MailWasher and released it as free. Of course if you wanted to donate $20 or more then I would give you some extras like support, some guides to avoid spam and notify you of updates. Plus I personalized it so people knew they were dealing with a real person.

Here’s the stats. Around 2% conversion for people who wanted to donate something, average dontation $17. Best month $142,000

So, I believe if you give something that makes people feel good about donating - ie. giving something of value back. then it can work well.

The nice thing about calling something free is that people are more likely to try it, and you can ask them for a donation later and offer them some extras if they do.

@steve:apt-get install ftp

$40 for SmartFtp. $40 for Winzip. Multiply by all the small tools you need…

$40 for SmartFtp. $40 for Winzip. Multiply by all the small tools you need.

Winzip you say? Try 7-zip instead. One tool for all compressed or archiving formats you’ve ever heard of, even tar gz and rpm files. Oh and its FREE. I am always amazed as to why so many people still install winzip or even winrar let alone pay for it.

For every shareware utility people have grown to depend on, there’s probably a free one out there just as good. It’s worth spending a few minutes trying to locate them.

Another popular utility is imgburn. Why pay for nero to burn a few discs when free alternatives are out there?

@Larry V: If people actually use the product, it usually does.

Part of the reason is that people like to work on popular projects. The feedback that popular projects provide for their makers is addictive.

@everyone: you don’t ‘own’ software. You own a license to use that software, within the terms of the EULA. The software and its IP are still owned by the person/company that created it (or matains the rights to it).

As someone who has never meaningfully contributed any code to an open source project, (perhaps just the odd bug report etc), but who cheerfully ponies-up donations for both open-source and payments for commercial products that he uses, I’m always intrigued by the ‘open source means the project will never die’ line.

How many people who use open source as part of their ‘stack’ are actually a) capable and b) prepared to seriously pick up their abandoned pet project, get their head around the codebase, find all the dependencies and libraries required to properly rebuild the software, and make a significant change to the code themselves? If I’m wrong here I’d love to know, but I just really doubt that the world is full of developers who will take someone else’s code and make a significant change it - most developers I’ve met seem to have an aversion to anyone else’s code!

I would think that, for many open-source users, if a projects dies (or becomes incompatible with their o/s, or lacks a feature that suddenly becomes essential to them) - they just find another, ‘more live’ project that suits.

If I’m being unfair I’d love to know - you never see any numbers on this kind of thing, I have no way of quantifying what happens but my own anecdotal evidence of software developers following almost 18 years in the industry is that most developers are very reluctant to take-on a huge chunk of someone else’s code - especially if it’s just a means to an end (ie a dev tool or utility) and particularly if it was developed by a group of people over a long period of time, as any significant o/s project is likely to be.

Anyone know how much of this goes on?

So, let me get this right. FTP client, for which there are free alternatives with nearly equivalent features, charges you nearly $40 as a “home” user, confuses you every step of the way, and the license is only for ONE computer, for ONE year?!?!?

That’s insane. That FTP software better code the pages you’re uploading too.

Try Transmit on the Mac. $30, period. For every computer you ever own. Forever. Period. Easy registration process. Oh, and it has every feature I’ve ever heard of in an FTP client.

For that matter, I find since I installed 1Password that I never worry about byzantine payment forms. It figures them out, decrypts my information from the keychain, and plops it all in the right slots on my command. Combined with a simple backed up encrypted folder containing all my registrations, and I have to say tracking registrations hasn’t caused me a moment of thought in the past four years.

1+ for WinSCP. Its simply the best and free.

Think thats bad? What about Comodo? They make some great free software, and they refuse to take any money for it because it is part of their corporate strategy. But guess what, you have to request an activation code and activate it just like any paid software! So you go to their website, download and install their firewall, and it asks you for an activation code to keep using it after 30 days. So you have to go to their website, put in your name and email address, and hit the request code button. Within a few minutes, you get an email in your inbox. But of course, there is no activation code, its just a welcome email. You have to wait for a second email, which can take longer than 30 mins in my experience, in order to get your software key to activate your software. WHAT THE HELL IS EVEN THE POINT WHEN THE SOFTWARE IS FREE ANYWAY!?!? Why create this signifcant hassle for the user when money isn’t even involved? They are a legit company is is involved in the software security + authentication business, so its not like they need to mine your email address or anything. What the hell is the point?

As I recall, the primary reason I started using Linux back in 1995 was the plethora of free tools it offered. Say you enjoy coding avocationally or you want to learn a new language via self-study. If you’re on a Windows platform, you pay. For everything. Circa 1995, that translated to at least $100 per language (Borland C++, Visual Basic, whatever.)

Have fun finding a cheap FORTRAN compiler in a store near you; don’t even ask about Ada. (hey, everyone has their perversions…)

Compare that with dropping $30 for a Slackware CD set which provided gcc, p2c, f2c, and a whole host of other stuff. Sure, you had to become your own Linux sysadmin, but at the time that was a small price to pay for a very capable development environment. That path worked well for me but I had very specific goals, one of which was not to steal software.

I’ve been a professional sysadmin for almost ten years now and while I make it a point to use as much open source software as is practical at home and at work, I have no problem paying for commercial code provided it’s substantially better than what I can find for free. Three programs that pop to mind are Servers Alive for small-scale monitoring and alerting in Windows environments, and OmniGraffle and SuperDuper on OS X. I bought SuperDuper shortly after getting my MacBook Pro at work and have been backing up regularly - last Friday the ribbon cable between the keyboard/trackpad and the USB controller flaked out. My ass has been saved by $30 and some foresight (h/t to jwz on that one.)

That said, one of the problems that shows up in a corporate environment is when a vendor keys software to an email address. This is great for individuals, but sucks if someone in the Purchasing Department buys software for an employee. It doubly sucks when the person buying the software leaves the company.

This is not a problem restricted to the Windows world, though their model of pay-for-every-little-last-thing really exacerbates it. Red Hat’s entitlement system for their Enterprise Linux products was baffling to the point of being byzantine. Registration was a huge hassle and it took an act of Customer Service to sort out entitlements if for some reason you changed the IP address or name of your server.

In the intervening years the process has improved, but in the meantime I just switched our servers to CentOS and never looked back. I have no problem paying Red Hat for support, etc., but I can’t afford to not have patches just because of some stupid, broken licensing setup that I’m paying for!

Licensing and registration schemes are a sort of friction so if you want your software to have wide adoption in a sea of equivalent products, you need to reduce that friction to the greatest extent possible.

@Rob Uttley: I think you hit it very close to the mark. OSS project do die, and they die all the time. If you want a good example, take a look at CVS. Most of it’s primary developers have shifted over to supporting and developing SVN. The change logs have become very sparse in the last few years. Bugs are still being fixed, but new features and future developments have long since been abandoned.

The thing is however, popular projects don’t usually die. CVS hit its stride long ago. It’s something like 15 years old and widely regarded to be the result of a very large kludge. Frankly, it’s about time it was replaced. There is also a very large mass of innactive projects on Sourceforge. But most of these were never very popular or useful to begin with. The thing is, the very best apps become popular, and popularity attracts hackers. It’s an empowering sense to work on something that thousands of people use and depend on every day and many folks are even willing to brave OSS politics (you know, fights about whose design is more asinine…) and (heaven forbid!) work on another hacker’s code to get a piece of the action.

So what really happens is more of an economy of effort. Useless crap dies. Useful stuff attracts ever more attention and gains in utility and completeness. It’s not a perfect system, new hotness drives out old an busted consistently so you’ll have to keep up with trends (though it is free ;)), but it works and if your particular OSS project is even moderately popular, it’s not likely that it will completely disappear and leave you stranded anytime soon.

“Try Transmit on the Mac. $30, period. For every computer you ever own. Forever. Period. Easy registration process. Oh, and it has every feature I’ve ever heard of in an FTP client.”

how do they know if you purchase one copy and give away to whoever you know?

registration is painful but it’s one way to keep people honest but there should be a easier way to do it.

Really, why would anyone need an ftp client in this day and age? I know that was just chosen for illustration, but after all the discussion I am bewildered that people aren’t using scp. Sure, there are those rare occasions when ftp is the only choice, but in those case, just use the command line – it’s free, and it works great!


tried typing ftp://sitename into the K file manager and seems to open up a nice drag and drop folder view with image thumbnails and everything… works just like any local folder.

@Bob: SuperDuper is “the dog’s”. I endured an inordinate amount of turmoil when I’d stupidly switched to Leopard before realising that my backup tool of choice wasn’t going to support it in the short term. That period between October and December was a bit mad - running diskutility to make backups and testing them out each time, instead of the peace of mind I had with SD. Great piece of software.

@Alcauce: Thanks for the comments back, I assumed that the popular projects (or most suitable/useful/well-thought-out) would ‘survive’ and the unpopular ones wither and die (probably rightfully so).
It would be interesting to examine the more popular oss projects to try to determine if there’s any pattern or commonality to them - I’m thinking about project/solution type, features, coding standards, language and libraries used, project documentation, attitude of the key instigators etc - maybe it’s possible to spot which projects will do ‘better’ in the long run by looking at the decisions made in the early days of the project?

Just a thought, no agenda. Perhaps someone has already looked into this kind of thing!