iPodder approaches 1 year, million

I guess in a way you might think it’s odd for a principal author of iPodder Lemon to link to a competing product. I don’t mind, for a number of reasons. First, if you’re following what we’re doing you might like to know. Second, Ray is a nice guy, I like him. Third, iPodderX is commercial software while iPodder is Free, and to the extent that we make money, we do so on different value propositions.

On a related note I get a fair amount of flack from friends and even family when I tell them that we don’t charge a license fee. Especially as we approach the 1 million downloads milestone. I’m ambivalent about it.

Like a lot of open source projects we started as a group of guys fooling around building cool stuff in our spare time. We like money, sure enough, but that wasn’t the point. The point was to innovate, and at that time in podcasting, money wasn’t a prerequisite for innovation. It might have even been a barrier.

At one point, I think it was last Christmas, when we got a sense for the growth, the team had an intense discussion about charging per-copy. Though the code is GPL licensed, we could charge a fee for the binary installers that make iPodder accessible to ordinary humans. I was against it at the time, arguing that if we could innovate on features, surely we could innovate on making money. And further that there’s nothing to get people hating you like discontinuing a free product in favor of a for-pay product (if you’re going to charge per copy, do it from day 1).

To some extent we’ve achieved our goals with red-carpet branded iPodders and the cheaper automated builds on offer at the store. It’s fun, but it isn’t a living, not by a long stretch.

As we approach the 1 year anniversary of the iPodder 1.0 release, I wonder, can we go on doing this as a hobby project for another year? another two years? another five?

Podcasting is attracting ever greater investments. As it does our ability to keep up with the rest of the market will be seriously challenged if we don’t grow. Should we keep it strictly non-commercial but try to grow the base of volunteer programmers? Or build a company around it? I think we’ve got a tremendous asset on our hands with iPodder, so it ought to provide a strong starting point for whatever paths we choose.

One final thought for now. It doesn’t bother me that we’ve given our work away so far. This could be my pride speaking, but it’s not clear to me that podcasting would have grown as quickly as it did without our contributions. I’m sure our software has been downloaded and installed by high-level people at big companies, startups, investment firms, and that it made them think, “hey, this podcasting stuff is for real, we’d better pay attention to it.” Perhaps iTunes is filling that role now, but remember iTunes is a relative newcomer, and goes to great extents to hide the underlying open formats and protocols that make podcasting viable for all entrants. Anyway, I hope folks will recognize all of the free R and D they’ve benefitted from, and do right by us should the opportunity to do so arise.