Marco Arment on the acquisition of a couple software companies, and his own ability to keep Instapaper independent:
If you want to keep the software and services around that you enjoy, do what you can to make their businesses successful enough that it’s more attractive to keep running them than to be hired by a big tech company.
The companies he mentions both sold paid Mac and iOS apps (Pulp, Wallet and Sparrow). The problem users face in this space strikes me as similar to the another point Arment made about advertisers outbidding users for their own attention.
I don’t know what Sparrow’s expected, but they knew they were competing with free when they built a paid Gmail client. Users bought the software. Development was still killed. How can users compete with that?
Rian van der Merwe writes a similar thing, more eloquently than I:
But… that’s what I did. I paid full price for every version of the Sparrow app I could find. I told everyone who would listen to buy it. I couldn’t have given them more money even if I wanted to. So, as a customer, what more could I have done to keep them running independently?
This is the core of the disappointment that many of us feel with the Sparrow acquisition. It’s not about the $15 or less we spent on the apps. It’s not about the team’s well-deserved payout. It’s about the loss of faith in a philosophy that we thought was a sustainable way to ensure a healthy future for independent software development, where most innovation happens.