I love a good piece of software. Something that fills a need, is well thought out, and works. Hell, if it’s good enough I’m more than happy to pay for it, That’s what happened with the Drafts app and Pocket for example.
Some apps, however, are good but not good enough to pay extra for. This includes apps like Feedly, for instance, where the free option gives me everything I need. Evernote is the same. I don’t need the added functionality that the paid tier gives me. I’m happy to use the free version.
That’s the work of well designed freemium software. You can use it for free at the base level but for additional functionality you pay a little more. That’s good business.
The problem comes when you think a piece of software is free but it turns out the creators are actually holding you to ransom. That’s IFTTT. (If This Then That)
IFTTT is a fantastic piece of software which allows you to set up a trigger in another app that can run an action in a third app
As an example, ‘whenever I post a photo to Twitter also post it to Facebook’. Or ‘whenever the New York Times posts a story to its media section save it to Pocket’. There are, literally, dozens and dozens of applications this works with and hundreds of different triggers that can invoke IFTTT to run. I’ve got ones set up to tweet a morning message every day. Ones to track whenever the ISS passes over my house and log it an a Google Sheet. Ones to send the XKCD comic to my email every morning. There’s even ones that can turn the lights on and off in your house according to sunrise and sunset times.
Each of these little pieces of logic and routine is called an applet. Like many other users I have been using this software for years and have accumulated lots of applets. Almost 60, in fact. I would imagine some users have created many more. It’s become a part of my day-to-day life.
Then IFTTT announced a ‘Pro’ version or their software. Added functionality. More logic. Better control. It was exactly what a Pro version of software should be.
But it had one caveat.
Unless you upgraded to Pro you would only be able to use 3 of your existing applets.
Overnight I found myself in a position where I had to hand over a chunk of money each month to use my stuff or I would lose almost all of it.
How is this not ransomware?
This wasn’t a case of the company adding new functionality and asking the user to pay for that if they wanted to use it. This was the company adding new functionality and asking the user to pay for ALL functionality if they wanted to use it (apart from three applets-worth).
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying a company shouldn’t be able to make money from its software. Far from it.
What I am saying is holding users to ransom is not the way to do this.
If they had started all these years back and said ‘Here’s our software. Learn how to use it and build 5 or 10 applets for free. Everything after that is an upgrade’ that would be fine.
But they didn’t. They let their user base gorge themselves on this logic-based crack then – when we’re all addicted – they told us they’re withdrawing most of the supply unless we pay for it in future. Just like drug dealers. Also – like drug dealers – what they’re doing is immoral and wrong.
IFTTT are trying to soften the blow by giving users the option to pay what they want for the Pro version for 12 months. After that it goes to $9.99 per month (unless the subscription price rises). But that’s not the point. They’ve fundamentally gone about this the wrong way. They’ve ruined a perfectly good piece of software for myself and – I have no doubt – for many other people.
For that reason IFTTT can say goodbye to my potential subscription.