(At least for the default downloads.)
Over at logview4net.com I have a piece of open sourced software that I’ve made public since 2004. Over the years I’ve probably made less than $10 by having Adsense ads on the page. I’ve gotten $110 in donations over the same period. ($60 last week)
Early last year I figured I should try to monetize it a little bit more so that it could pay for its hosting and a code signing certificate.
I did a poll on the site and investigated options other than ads on the download page. It finally came down to using InstallMonetizer (yes that’s an affiliate link) for the first experiment.
InstallMontizer works by inserting offers for (unrelated) software in your software installer. My conscience was a little bit tarnished from the start, but I thought my audience was the kind of users who read carefully before clicking next in the installer. I kept telling myself there might actually be some useful software among the crap.
I’m still $2 short of getting my initial payment of $100, but yesterday my conscience got the better of me. I found that both offers that were bundled with my installer obfuscates the cancel and decline buttons by making them look disabled. This probably struck harder for my computer savvy users since they thought the buttons were disabled and hence thought the unwanted software was mandatory. Less savvy users probably would have clicked decline even though it is grey. (If they didn’t just fast forward through the next buttons like everyone else.)
From now on the default downloads for logview4net and jsiBitBot will be a clean installer without the InstallMonetizer bundle. I’ll still publish the bundled installer, but I’m wording it so that any litterate downloader know what they get. If I get some guarantee that the offers will be less shady in the future, I might make it part of the default download some time in the future.
Monetizing software is hard, especially if you don’t really want to set up a company and really make a commercial application. Regarding logview4net I have no ambitions to make it into a viable part of a commercial organization, I just want it to pay for itself. Hey, I’m offering my time for free, the application isn’t totally useless and there seems to be several hundred active users. $100 a year shouldn’t be an unreasonable amount to strive for.
While writing this post I got an answer to my support ticket at InstallMonetizer; They will try to give me less sneaky decline buttons.
I really wish they had an option for everyone where you could set your accepted level of sneakyness. There are certainly a lot of developers who push out screensavers and remakes of games ‘en masse’ to trick people to install the bundled software. As far as I can tell by the little communication I’ve had with IM I guess they are the majority. That really sucks for the serious developer who wants to monetize their work.
If I get a less sneaky installer I might let it run as the default download just to pass the payment threshold, but I think I need a official statement of less suck from IM to continue using them in the long run.
Don’t forget that InstallMonetizer makes their money when people accept the offers. It is in their interest to trick users too.
I really hope that there will be a serious contender to InstallMonetizer that is in it for the long run. Some one who can stand low revenues for a long time to build credibility.
On the other hand; Since we’re moving to app stores on all platforms we might just have to charge a small amount for each install instead of making our software available for free.