Paying money for things

Sometimes it’s hard to make money from software. How do you make money from something that can be copied infinitely?

Right now there are 3 software tools that I pay for. Each one is supplied by a small company, and each one charges a monthly or annual fee. I prefer software with this business model because it creates an incentive for careful, ongoing maintenance and improvement. The alternative (pay a large fee, once) encourages a model that is more like “add many new features, sell the new version and then move onto something else”.

The 3 tools are:

  1. Feedbin, which is a tool that collects new content from many different blogs and shows them all in a single interface. This is done with a standard called RSS. The tool is a pleasure to use, and best of all, it’s “>Free Software released under a permissive license.
  2. Pinboard, a bookmarking and archival tool. The interface doesn’t spark joy and the search tool leaves a lot to be desired too. However, Pinboard carefully archives a copy of every single website that I bookmark, just at the time that I bookmark it. Since the Web is changing all the time and interesting content comes and goes, I find this very valuable. I don’t know if I’ll actually use this archive of content for much as I don’t actually enjoy writing articles particularly, but I use the existance of the archive as a way to convince myself to close browser tabs.
  3. Checkvist, a “to do list” tool that supports nesting items, filtering by tags, styling with Markdown, and keyboard-only operation. I use this not as a to-do list but as a way of categorising activities and resources that I use when teaching. To be honest, the “free” tier of this tool is generous enough that I don’t really need to pay, but I like to support the project.

Music can also be copied infinitely, and historically I’ve not been keen to buy it because I didn’t like the very shady operations of many record companies. Now I use Bandcamp, which has an incredible library of music with rich, manually curated recommendations, and a clear, sustainable business model.

What digital goods do you pay for on a regular basis?


4 thoughts on “Paying money for things

  1. Hey Sam,

    Interesting article, i actually used an app called Feedly for keeping a nice sync across websites/rss, but Feedbin seems like a much better option!

    Once piece of software i pay for is Bitwarden(, which is a fully open source password management solution, it took me a while to find oddly, as does all this software.

    Hope you are well!


  2. I use Flattr and Liberapay to make small recurring donations to various open-source projects that I use and I also pay for a Protonmail subscription, even though the free tier is enough for me.

    I think what’s really hurting open-source at the moment, though, is that these microdonations are just not user-friendly. With proprietary mobile apps, I can buy them with a click of a button as I discover them. With FOSS apps, I have to go out of my way to search for specific projects, hunt for a donation option on their website, and see what payment options are available.

    I’d love it if Gnome Software could bake in one-click donations, ideally recurring donations. Or no-click donations, like Flattr does. (You would set a monthly budget and that would be equally distributed among all the apps you use that month.)

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