Sunday, 29 August 2010

Monetizing and Open Source

I would love to be able to go part time at my (currently full time) work and spend more time doing Android dev, but to do that I'll need to be making something out of it. Long term, I'm thinking about the monetization of Wake Me At and other Android development that I do.
There seem to be three options:
  1. Charge for the app
  2. Put ads on the app
  3. Ask for donations
The problem is, I'm a bit of an open source advocate. If we assume that everyone in the world is bad, and they are going to do their very best to get something without paying for it, then 1 and 2 are a problem. I can charge for the app, but then someone could just download the source code and get it for free. Likewise, they can download the source code, and remove the ads. Asking for donations is the only evil-proof source, but then the evil people just won't pay.

But I think people are both lazy and not evil. I think, I hope, that if I were to charge 99p for an app, it's not worth their while to go and download the source, compile, etc. Hopefully at least some of them will do it purely to support my work. Likewise, and possibly even more so, with ads (though I hate ads, as a general rule): hacking into the code to remove the ads won't be easy for non-programmers. I wonder if the source of the ad hooks will even be open-sourcable... it might have private information in it (though I would think that's unlikely).
Anyway, this is just me thinking out loud. All thoughts gratefully received.


  1. The BBC had an article on monetizing apps which suggested that it is possibly to make decent sums from ads. Are ads pay per click?

    I'd be tempted to hack ads out of an open source ad supported app if I really liked it (depending on how annoying the ads were, and assuming they were pay-per-click, so I wouldn't effect the developers revenue).

    I like the charging option best, and I think that 99% of people would pay even if they knew the source code was available.

    The only problem with 2 or 3 is that if it's popular someone will probably download your source, rename the app and upload it to the marketplace. What do you do then?

    What license would you use for your code?

  2. For some reason your comment got marked as spam...

    All very good points. My current thinking is to have two versions: one free one with ads, and one charged app without. It's a method that a lot of app developers go for.
    If the app is popular, and people download the source and re-upload... there's not much I can do. That is the danger. But that is also the wonder of open source. At any point, if my app is not serving people as well as it could, someone else can take over. Not good for me, but good for the community in general.
    As for the license, I'm going for GPLv2: purely, and I'm slightly embarrassed by this, because that's the one that ScummVM uses, and it's served them well. I've read the basics of several, and GPLv2 seemed best.