Three Little Words that Trigger Disappointment

Piled TechThree little words tell me so much about someone’s attitude about their software values.

The conversation usally happens after I mention an app or web service provider. Perhaps I mention how much I like Instacast. Or maybe I show how I love the Instapaper iPad app. Possibly I’m blabbing about how SmugMug is a great way to show off and sell photos.

And then it happens. The first words out of their mouth. Or maybe not the first words, but it’s usually not far behind.

Is it free?

I sigh. Sometimes audibly, sometimes internally. I’m disappointed. I’m disappointed that we’ve reached a situation where free has become the standard by which comparisons are made. Software is hard. Applications and web services represent the results of dozens, hundreds, or thousands of hours of work. And the response when I suggest a great $2 application often begins with “is it free?” This response comes from someone usually carrying a $200 smartphone for which they’re paying $40-100 each month.

The software or services in my examples will help you keep up with news and entertainment, improve your reading experience, or allow you to archive and present your creative works in a beautiful way. And you sit and hem and haw about whether or not it’s worth the price of a coffee.

The Oatmeal said it well.

Get the Most Interesting Stuff

Leave your email address here and get occasional updates with the most interesting things I find online, created by others or me.


  1. says

    I agree its difficult as a software developer to make products when ‘free’ is the standard for many services.

    Growing up in tech like you and I have, its easy to forget the amazing reality of products made of bits that cost nothing to copy. Compounded by services that I use every day – gmail and facebook – that are …. completely free. Add on that its hard to judge an app’s quality or usefulness until its experienced directly. I believe the average cell phone app is best being a free offering with in-app-purchase for the enthusiastic to show their support.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *