Back in 2003, I postulated that micropayments might be a better monetization strategy for free/open source software than traditional donationware . In particular, I liked the idea of asking for $1 per download. I’m certainly not going to put up a paywall barrier to the stuff I make available here, but I thought it would be interesting to try bringing this idea to the forefront when folks are downloading from my site1 and see how it goes.
I’ve added a little effect to some of the download links on this site (for example on my WordPress Plugins page) that will show a little donation form when someone clicks to download. It doesn’t stop, delay or in any way inhibit the download itself.
For those of you currently reading this on my web site, here is an example (click the link):
For those of you reading this in a feed reader or other, here is a screenshot of the form expanded under the Download link:
I don’t know how folks will react to this, or if it will result in any additional donations. I do think it will be interesting to find out.
UPDATE, PLEASE READ BEFORE COMMENTING: I tried to make this clear above, but by some of the comments below it seems it was not clear enough. The change described here is not requiring any sort of payment for downloads. Downloads are still free, are completely unencumbered, and no payment of any kind is required.
What I am doing is making the donation form more prominent, to put the idea in people’s minds that “hey, someone spent time to build this, maybe I can kick over a buck as a thank-you.”
The point that “when someone downloads may not be the perfect time to ask for a donation” is certainly valid, however the other options aren’t great either and the real point is to build a little awareness, etc. so I’m trying it out this way.
- Partially inspired by Mark Jaquith’s donation box. [back]
This is an interesting idea. One thing I did notice though is that if you click the download this link more than once it keeps adding the download notice so that you have many of them. Maybe you should add some sort of check so that it only adds it once?
Yes, this is a very interesting idea. However, my feeling is that it will catch on, the “micro-monetization” concept when everyone will 1) Understand it, 2.) embrace the concept and 3.) utilize the concept virally. The question is, do you have a plug-in that others can use. That way, people are more willing I think. I definitely see a need for this as a plug-in on a site that I’m developing. It would be great for “Specific Content” or a “Specific Post”, or maybe even for someone to download an E-Book that I just created. Yes, your monetization theory can work. Can we get a plug-in for it?
This is a great idea that could be put to work on websites for nonprofits that I work with. I would happily pay you a dollar or more if a plugin that handled this was released!
I’ve been trying this at my site for a while now – http://www.SampsonResume.com. It doesn’t seem to be catching on…yet 🙂 Hopefully it will.
It seems like before someone has actually used your plugin is one of the worst times to ask for a donation, because they have no idea whether it’s going to work or not and if they like it or not.
As I’m for myself are an open source programmer who doesn’t even creates donationware, this sounds nice. But as you already said it will for sure lower your download rate and will kick your software out of the freeware status.
But my biggest load is to know my software is widely used, not the money. And to be honest is every widget or plugin really $1 worth?
And after I payed the money I recognize that the software isn’t the right for me?
Yeah for sure $1 isn’t much especially not if you would offer something like a full load CMS or Blog software. Anyway if you tested twenty OS boards and paid for every $1 and none was the right you had lost $20… It’s only a question of how often you choose the wrong software.
And what about bugs…shall I pay again for a bug which makes it unuseable because the programmer was too dumb to make it right?
For sure not…
From my point of view an open source programmer should offer just freeware or donationware. If he wants to make money he should start a business.
Philipp, I highly recommend improving your reading comprehension before you make future comments. Try re-reading the post, particularly the description of what this does:
This is an interesting idea, Alex. That folks may not be eager to donate before they’ve tried the plug-in is a valid point, but when they come back for an update (or to try your next one) it’ll jog the memory…
I don’t think it’s such agreat idea. I personally don’t buying software, and even paying good mney for it. But as a consumer I know that alot of it just isn’t what it says it is.
Also when you require a paymment of even a penny all kinds of laws kick in. Credit card and other payment companies get involved too.
Do you really want to argue and fight w/ Visa and Paypal and/or pay v=cahrgeback fees over a dollar?
Not to mention customers saying your xxxxx broke my xxxxxxxxx install. etc.
Texxs– that would be a valid point if I were indeed charging for the download. As explained in the post and quoted in the comment 2 above yours, I am not charging for the download, I am merely showing a little donation form when someone chooses to download.
As a marketing guy let me add a little voice of experience. the nicest people I know will priase the things they use but, if they’re free, the idea of voluntarily paying for anything will never catch on.
The majority only ever pay if there’s no other easy way. Donations are a beautiful idea but requiring a payment will generate a far greater response than donations ever can. Ask all the millionaire shareware publishers you know…
I would pay $1 a download but will I choose to? Probably not…
PS. Alex, your code is good enough to require payment in my opinion. Of course there’d be some piracy but those people were never going to pay you anyway…
I think that it is a good idea and I wish that more people did it. I would much rather pay someone a small token amount to say “Thanks” than have that person wall off their wares behind a purchase. Of course, I think that there is a difference between a small token donation (which I’m for) and locking stuff up behind micro-payments (which I’m not for if it means that I can’t read it, see it, use it, until I pay up).
FYI, two suggestions on the implementation:
– In IE (I know, don’t get me started on why I have to use IE from work), after I click the download link, the PayPal icon is over the text instead of to the left of the text.
– I agree with others that it seems odd to ask for the donation right then when they are downloading it for the first time. Is it possible to put a small blurb somewhere in the plug-in so that as they interact with it in WP that they see the message?
So, have I donated? Not yet. I’ve followed Alex for a while but have only recently taken advantage of his WP add-ons.
While I agree with some of the things said here such as not wanting to donate to someone before you’ve tried the plugin or theme to see if it works well, there are applications for this donation scheme outside of open-source software circles.
I do a lot of website development and consulting for non-profits. Any donation opportunity that can be inserted into the communication stream between the non-profit and the interested party can generate much needed revenue. I could very easily see this being included in the download link to a .pdf file of a report or a video or .mp3.
Actually, I’m quite excited at the prospect of a plugin like this and as I said before, I’ll donate a dollar for it…
A whole dollar? Wow, I bet he can hardly wait to spend a few hours building a plugin for you now that he has such a huge payday waiting for him!
Bill, the dollar thing was meant as a joke.
Interesting idea. The thing is, people generally won’t donate ‘before’ trying anything (based on personal experience).
I get the idea of micro payments and the way the ‘suggestion’ kicks down on-click is pretty cool – but it’s very much a solution looking for a problem.
There are some fields using the idea already – such as online music stores, although the model perhaps is a little different.
If one is going to request a micro payment (and I do understand this is a ‘proof of concept’ post) for a download – then one either needs to have it as a requirement to download, or as part of the resultant download once it’s installed.
Reason? People by nature will only really reward effort where it’s due in their opinion – even if it’s only a few cents. Those people do exist, but are quite rare, I have found. 🙂
Making something ‘optional’ means most folks will not option it. 🙂
Part of the reason micro payments (again, this is imho) never took off, is that the methodology used to drive it (usually in place of a regular donation model) means that it just doesn’t interest people.
And the problem really isn’t with the payment scheme used either – it’s the still prevalent mentality that asks “..why should I pay $1 (or even 50c) for something that is gratis?”.
Until that mind-set changes, imho micro payments are only really an option for an ongoing service, or subscription model.
To pay or not to pay, I guess would be the question you want answered. WordPress and its plugins certainly are good enough to be potentially bought on a cd, but at what point do you stop and ask yourself this one simple question: why did you make it free to begin with?
Certainly you didn’t go into this type of project thinking you were going to make a living off of it? Why does anybody go into any sort of project that is open source?
I get the idea behind the donation. And yes, it would certainly be a good social project to see who is actually willing to pay for something that truly works, and who isn’t. It is often a good goal to shoot for when making a product such as this: recognition.
But there is something far greater to be said about the person who creates something that is worthwhile and gives it away than somebody who creates something worthwhile and sells it.
Micropayments certainly would be a good instrument to use to receive some sort of monetary reimbursement for the time put into the product itself, but I don’t see it as the wave of the future.
I mean, certainly the great money machine will march forward, with or without that 1$ tip jar option.
Asking for donations isn’t wrong; micropayments aren’t wrong. In fact, I applaud your effort.
I’m sure you have day job, so your true concern shouldn’t be with donations. If they like it, they will donate. Your concern should be how is this product going to make the users end experience any better. All the stuff that comes after that is merely an added bonus.
Keep up the good work.
I like the sound of it, this has been done with the View Source Graph extension for Firefox except features are removed from the free release.
What you’re doing though is great and many businesses will happily donate to support you as you’ve saved them R&D investment. 😀
Just hit me. How about you keep all your downloads public and free but stagger public updates to WP plugins once every quarter. All the paying supporters get the updates while the public can wait for the quarter to roll over…
> Can you clear up the error message when you type “notspam”! It throws a mean error at me. 🙁
matt – how do you define “day job”?
Michael Visser – I’m sorry, I don’t know what error you’re referring to – perhaps you can e-mail me details.
Noticed a bug, the first click will open the donation box, but subsequent clicks will open the donation box again and again all under the first one.
Great idea, if I ever have a plugin or some-such of my own I might try it out.
Sounds like a good idea.
Open source software are really saving users like me dimes here and there. Yeah, software may be free, but the effort that programmers put into shouldn’t be.
Ben & Gareth– thanks, fixed.
Alex interesting idea..
Also when viewing the blog page it seems to just back to the top of the page. just an fyi.
have a happy new yaar.
Some plugin developers build a Paypal donation link into the options screen for their plugins, allowing users to use and test the plugin for a while and then donate if they like it. Perhaps this could be a reasonable compromise for your plugin.
My first download from you, and first donation made. Felt kind of cheap paying you a buck, but that’s what you asked for and I was more than happy to oblige given
1) the quality of the plug in,
2) the obvious effort put into the README file and the q&A
So you know, here’s basically how it worked for me.
I saw the implementation of the Share It plug-in on your blog first. I wanted it.
Then I read the README.
Then I clicked to download the plug in and got your little nudge to donate. I thought, “let me get this installed and we’ll see.”
I got the thing installed, changed the defaults easily thanks to your clear instructions. I was impressed and felt motivated to thank you.
I then made a conscious effort to come back here to pay for the download.
Only I somehow ended up on your donate page with a default $25 donation showing (confusing and probably leads to dropped transactions), which I changed to $1 and then proceeded to PayPal to seal the deal.
Other than the confusing payment process on your site, it worked. But then I was motivated to give you that dollar, so I’m not sure it works for everyone.
There’s got to be a way to make the process easier for people.
How about something where people are prompted to “ask me to donate $1 if I still like it after a one week.” They enter an email address and a week later receive an email money request from paypal asking for a $1 donation?
Nicer if PayPal would add this to their merchant tools.
Matt makes an interesting point. What about not showing the notice for first-time users who come in un-referred [that is, on their own or from Google], but showing it to repeat users or people who’ve been directly recommended to you by a non-search engine? That’s going to remove people who have no idea who the hell you are, but should support input from “repeat customers” and the viral marketing of your stuff.
[Note: posted long before the first coffee of the day.]
DJ– thanks for the detailed account, that information is very useful.
Geof– I’m going to leave it like this for a little while so that the sample size is large enough to be meaningful. Then I will make a few changes and we can check out the results.
Certainly worth checking the sample size.
I’ve been thinking about how to do this as a part of the plugin activation process itself: after activating a plugin for the first time [or after upgrading], you get some sort of notice for donating to the plugin writer [or maybe a charity of their choice]. That way, people get a shot at using your plugin and determining if it really has utility for them. Not sure how this would work, though…