I asked the author of a once very popular desktop app about this. He had open sourced his app a few years ago and told users that they still needed to pay. Revenue dropped by 90% over night. Now he gets a few code contributions here and there, but the majority of development is still performed by him. He can no longer afford to work on the project full-time.
This has to be talking about TextMate, right? Has any other “once popular desktop app” become open source and asked users to still pay?
I’ve been curious about the open source and paid model for awhile, because it seems to be the best of both worlds:
- Funding full-time developers is the only proven way make best-in-class GUI applications.
- If the developers fail to make adequate progress, or decide to take the application in the wrong direction, both of which can sometimes happen, then the community can fork the app and maintain it themselves.
Unfortunately it doesn’t seem like a viable option, both because going open source seems to impact sales, and community maintenance of GUI applications doesn’t seem to work out that well (at least for macOS GUI applications, see TextMate and Quicksilver, while both are still around, they’ve both lost their prominence).