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?


About Sam Thursfield

Who's that kid in the back of the room? He's setting all his papers on fire! Where did he get that crazy smile? We all think he's really weird.
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4 Responses to Paying money for things

  1. madbob says:

    Apart my paid account on Kolab ( ), once a year I devolve 1% of my incoming to opensource projects which I use in my freelance developer job ( ). One-time donations, but many are reiterated every year.

  2. Adam says:

    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!


  3. Pingback: “Sometimes it’s hard to make money from software. How do you make m… | Dr. Roy Schestowitz (罗伊)

  4. Mirek says:

    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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