The Geary crowdfunding campaign has been a wild three days so far! We’ve even been featured in a TechCrunch article, “Crowdfunding, Micro-patronage, And The Free Desktop”. Scott Merrill had some tough questions for me about how the money we raised would be used. Others have also commented elsewhere about our target of US$100,000. Are we asking for too much? Why do we need that kind of money?
Plainly put, software development is expensive. You can do it in your spare time, but it’s exactly that — your spare time, the odd moments in your life when you choose to put other obligations aside and devote yourself to the intricacies of code. The success stories are out there. Many are the stuff of computing lore, but you never hear of the multitude of abandoned weekend projects. Coding in fits and bursts is a strategy of mixed results.
Yorba has three full-time engineers working on Geary. We’re not going to use the raised money for sparkling new development systems or personalized catering. Yorba’s major equipment and infrastructure purchases have already been made with past income. The crowdfunding contributions we take in go toward people hacking on Geary code.
“An email client isn’t worth $100K,” one commenter complained. I doubt there’s a widely-used desktop application out there developed for less than US$100,000 — it’s just that the price tag might be hidden from its users. The person coding in their spare time is working for free, but that doesn’t mean their spare time is worthless. Perhaps your favorite app was developed thanks to corporate sponsorship and is distributed freely. But with that subsidy comes a price tag in terms of priorites, direction, maintenance, and, as the Google Reader announcement last week reminds us, potential abandonment. “Great software is worth paying for.”
Yorba has no corporate sponsorship. That strategy has worked for some open-source projects, and I’m not knocking it out-of-hand. But direct contributions from our users means we can place their priorities — your priorities — first.
Other software crowdfunding campaigns have asked for less than US$100,000, so why is Yorba asking for so much? Games are a good example of “cheap” crowdfunding. They raise money by selling pre-release copies as part of their perks or incentives (“For $50, you’ll get a signed copy of the game”) and then selling full-price copies when the game is completed. Other software campaigns develop online subscription services and offer perks of free subscriptions — again, a model of pre-selling the software in order to raise money to develop it.
This is all fine, but that’s not the position we’re in. Geary is free software: you will forever be able to download and build Geary on your own. Heck, you can download and run it today. We’re not pre-selling software nor are we building an email service. In fact, we want Geary to work with all kinds of email systems, not lock you into ours. We want to take what we’ve started and make it better — no, we want to make it great.
Finally, remember that we’re not asking you for US$100,000. Rather, we’re asking for everyone to contribute a little toward that amount. What’s a program like Geary worth to you? Most people leave their email open all day long. They’re constantly working with it: reading a conversation, marking an email as a “to-do” for later, replying to one request, then sending off a note to someone else. We want Geary to make all those tasks a snap, so easy you’re not even thinking about Geary, but rather the email in front of you.
What’s that worth to you? $10, $25, $100? That’s the question we’re posing with our crowdfunding campaign. Please considering contributing today.