The Sparrow Backlash: My Take

English / Uncategorized / Writing

The real issue is the sudden vulnerability we feel now that one of our theories about independent app development has failed

Rian van der Merwe’s made a thoughtful response to Sparrow acquisition by Google. I agree with the sentiment, and the whole article is a must read. But i have another take on this whole kerfuffle.

For me personally the reason why Sparrow acquisition is so annoyingly saddening, is the fact that the company is so honest about the nature of the acquisition. This is different to most recent big acquisitions of reputable companies that we’ve seen. When we see instagram got acquired by Facebook, for example, they promised they will still run and maintain the apps even though the whole company now works for facebook.

At that time i knew that this statement does not make sense since logically the pressure and priorities being put to the instagram team would be so different after they got acquired. They’d need to put Facebook first. And to maintain, promote and add features to instagram, hypothetically fueling its growth, just doesn’t play well to Facebook interest. So at the end the app will die a slow painful death anyway.

But they said they will, so while some people will definetely leave, most users don’t have problems using Instagram with the features that it has right now. That is until a better, much hungrier companies arrived with a new app in this area.

For Sparrow, they are being so upfront and say there will be no feature updates. I’d imagine if they go with the usual marketing speak and instead say they will keep maintaining Sparrow, without any specific details about what “maintaining” means, some users will leave, but the majority will still use the app. After all it’s normal to see an app go dormant. Some (power) users will complaint, of course, but there will be no huge backlash such as people asking for their money back like what happened now, i’d assume.

On the other hand, it is true that Instagram and Sparrow are not the same kind of apps. They have two completely different business model. If Instagram slowly march onto its death, we pay nothing for it. But Sparrow is a paid app, so the argument that this is a philosophical surprise to believer of paid apps is true. But for me this is not enough of an explanation. There’s a bigger question about the value of feature updates that needs to be adressed here.

In the past, when we pay for an application, we pay for the features currently baked on the application, with an entitlement for bug fix and security updates. We must pay for new features and innovation in a whole new update to the software. We call this, upgrade.

But in this day of App Store, suddenly we feel entitled for feature updates after we pay $10 for an app that we bought a long time ago. This is not only illogical in my amateurish blogger business mind, but also change the hypothetical role that developers play. From the scientist that churned out invention after invention, to a slave worker whose work is to maintain his old invention. I don’t know. I have more thoughts on this but i don’t think placing them here would be right. It’s for another day. I just want to say that putting huge pressure on Sparrow because they would not add new features after we pay a one time fee does not make sense. What we ought to demand is security updates & that’s it.

The Author

I write stuff, A recovering RSS feed addicts.