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Inquisitor 2.0 for Safari – an experiment

Inquisitor 2.0 for Safari is on track and looking great. While the AJAX-powered web version is great for reaching a new audience, I still believe that a toolbar-based instant search delivers a superior user experience, and I would very much like to deliver this enhanced user experience to Safari users.

That said, not everything is rosy. The entirely free, no-strings-attached release of Inquisitor 1.0 was an experiment. I wanted to see if donation-ware could work in the Mac world. The unforunate conclusion has been that it does not. I do not want to make the same mistake with Inquisitor 2.0. Absent any other alternatives, I have decided that Inquisitor 2.0 will experimentally released under a pay-per-download model. That is, users will have to pay a trivial $1 or $2 levy to download the software, in an attempt to recover the development expenses and time that have gone into this.

Why am I considering pay-per-download? Well, one advantage is that it’s far easier to do than a full-blown registration system. While the levy is very small, if everyone gives a little then everyone benefits. It seems more equitable that way. Alas, it is true that there’s no solid way to enforce the levy. The software could be traded easily between friends or posted on an unauthorized website. The former I view as a form of viral marketing and the latter is traceable and can be dealt with as a clear-cut breach of license.

Ultimately, this will be as much an experiment as anything, and that’s why I’m talking about this before the software’s release. If it succeeds, more projects of mine may move to this model. If it fails, then there won’t be an Inquisitor 3.0 (for the Mac, anyways).

UPDATE: I am rethinking the fixed $1 or $2 download levy and considering an open-value ‘mandatory’ donation. Users would be free to donate as little or as much as they desire, but they would be required to make some donation to download.

  • October 13th, 2005 2:41 am

38 comments...

Jon...

Are these figures too small to set up shop with Kagi or esellerate?

Anyway, at the cost you’re suggesting, I hope that people would just buy it. I certainly would.


Peter...

I’m always interested in micro-payment systems like these; to my mind, there’s a point at which the consumer’s brain stops distinguishing between ‘free’ and ‘not free’, and so I think a charge of a couple of dollars would be pretty negligible to most people.

The knowledge that they’re supporting an independent developer, along with the added ease of being able to download it from the official source without having to hunt for a pirated version, would surely be worth the price.

From the developer’s point of view, though, the revenue potential is probably fairly great – so long as people treat the payment as negligible. It would be interesting to compare revenue per download under this system to that for, say, NewsFire or Acquisition.


Mike...

I totally agree, donationware on os x just doesn’t work. Barely anybody donates, and although you would like to offer your software for free so everybody can use it; its not possible with the small amount of donations people give.


Luka...

I’d be willing to pay… but for a Firefox version, I have no use for a Safari version…


arthur...

I have to say that as an Inquisitor 1.0 user, I’l be more than happy to pay for the download. $2 is more than fair. I hope this scheme works well. good luck
arthur


Jack...

.

Good Morning,

I do not mind the idea of paying a small fee per download, it is not unreasonable, and it makes people keep the software in a protected place, instead of just downloading a second copy. So that saves your bandwidth.

I also want to say, “Thank you.” Inquisitor, in Safari, is a very interesting and extremely helpful tool. Searching has taken a new turn, and I like it!

Jack


Alex...

Interesting concept. How often do you plan on putting revisions out or bug fixes and so on? Will someone have to pay for a bug fix? $1 of $2 per download is okay per official release. I can’t see paying $1 or $2 per beta or bug fix download. What if a user pays for a download and has a problem downloading his or her file?


Bruno...

You know, that sounds like a great idea. I’d not mind to pay $2 to download Inquisitor 2.0, I’ve been drooling over the first screenshot you posted. People will definetely be more likely to plop down a small sum… just ask the iTunes store… :)


Dan...

Interesting model. The only drawback is that it prevents “try before you buy”. One options is that you could have two versions: a crippled, free download, say, that only finds things beginning with the first 5 letters of the alphabet; and a pay per download.

In any case, count me as first in line to get 2.0. I just discovered (and blogged about) 1.0 a few days ago. Great stuff, with some amazing Mac polish — your table rearrangement puts my animated table sorting sample code to shame!


Sören...

I follow a “pay once satisfied” model. I think this is very fair: If I like a piece of software and am satisfied with its offered features, I buy it. If, on the other hand, I find features lacking, I decide whether it’s worth it to let the developer know about what I’d like to have. Finally, I evaluate the competition. Then, with the next upgrade, the cycle starts over. :-)

Naturally, if something that’s free (as in beer, I couldn’t care less about Richard Stallman’s software communism) or cheaper is just as good for me, offering everything I need, I opt for that instead.

Inquisitor was offered for free. Donationware means: people can opt to donate if they like the software. It’s an option; a strongly encouraged one, but still an option. And I would have donated, yes I would, except when I started using it, I already saw you talking about Inquisitor 2.0, so I figured I would wait for that.

One thing I’d like to see implemented is OpenSearch support. You can read about this on A9’s OpenSearch website. It would give people a lot more flexibility in adding search engines. Instead of giving a URL and a parameter to change, they would give an OpenSearch description file, which already takes care of this.


Sören...

(Merge these posts together if you prefer.)

I just wanted to add: reading through this post of yours again, I would just like to say that I would definitely pay $5-10 (US) for this piece of software.


Regarding OpenSearch – isn’t it essentially a private API? Search providers give their data to A9 via OpenSearch, but to no one else. There are no *public* OpenSearch providers, as far as I know. Correct me if I’m wrong.


Michael...

you’re wrong :-)

OpenSearch is an open format; A9 just happens to be one aggregator for it.

The new OpenSearch format will have autodiscovery. In the meantime, there are websites that list them on their website somewhere, and the list of OpenSearches available from A9, in both HTML, and in OpenSearch itself: http://blog.a9.com/blog/2005/08/06/search-for-opensearch-description-documents/


Zach...

i dont think this is terribly excessive. I really love Inquisitor, and i thik it works very, very nicely. If, however, you want more money, consider this: Apple gets a kickback from Google everytime someone uses the default search bar in Safari. Why should you not be able to partake some of that action? Have you tried contacting Google about this? Keeping it donation ware means no one will have any reservations about using the program, however, if you charge for it, no matter how small, there will be a significant number of people who won’t even bother, particularly if they are unsure as to what the product does exactly.
Anyways, thats my two cents. Keep up the great work, really.

(On a sidenote, I’m looking for a developer to build a simple financial aid application I’ve designed. If you are interested, or know anyone who might be, let me know)

Great work, again!


I said “essentially”. I realize it’s a public spec, but there is essentially no public support of this. Where’s Google’s OpenSearch feed? Where’s Flickr’s OpenSearch feed. This is hidden, private information, useless to anyone.


Michael...

Well, I’d say public support is increasing. OpenSearch is relatively new, after all. Internet Explorer 7 will support it, and a number of pieces of software already do ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/OpenSearch lists some).

As to Google, well they’re fairly closed with their web search at this point. They only provide their results through a restricted API or if you pay them. Except for their news search, which doesn’t have OpenSearch support, but certainly should.

As to Flickr, their OpenSearch Description document isn’t displayed on A9, which I believe means they’ve set their SyndicationRight to something other than ‘open.’ That’s their choice, but they’re quite free to let others know about it.

Aside from Google and Flickr though, there are plenty of more public ones.


Bryan...

I wouldn’t hesitate a second to buy it


The web-based Inquisitor is the “try before you buy”. Obviously there are subtle differences, but the underlying idea is the same.


Jason...

i would snap it up in an instant for $10, yet alone $2


Sören...

Not sure if I see the difference between “mandatory donation” software and shareware. Why not just release Inquisitor as $5 (or more) shareware then, perhaps encouraging the person to pay more?


As I stated originally, a shareware model would require an elaborate registration system that is inappropriate for this simple type of software.


Tijs...

Still i’d prefer a license key for the major release versions. Why not set up a paypal payment at 5-10 dollars and set up a very simple license generator. No registration required except with paypal which most people would already have set up. a payment of 1 or 2 dollars would still require registration with some sort of payment service so i don’t see the problem.


Tijs...

p.s. you could still offer 1.0 as a demo of the solution and tell people what they will get extra in 2.0 without having to offer a crippled version of the 2.0 version…


Ben...

I’d pay too. I love using Inquisitor 1 and I’d love to have the web version features in my toolbar. But I hope you come up with some elegant way to provide paying downloaders with 2.x.x upgrades for free. I’m sure you will.
Ben


jonathan...

What about people who donated for version 1 would they have to redonate?


Zach...

Actually, in all honesty Dave, I’m really, really happy with Inquisitor as it is right now, and, without sounding too much like a jerk, I dont think I’d mind all that much if you did stop developing it and focused on other projects.
Now, wait a minute, hear me out. My rationale is that what makes Inquisitor great is that its fast, simple and does exactly what it needs to do, staight out of the box. Of course there are more robust and featured search bar replacement programs out there, but I, personally, find them to be bloated and slow, providing me with more information and control then I really need. See what I’m saying? So, unless you’ve got something revolutionary up your sleeve (which you usually do) I’m tempted to say that this is as good as Inquisitor will get, reduce active development, continue to distribute, and let the donations pay for the bandwith costs or whatever.


Dan...

There are mass distribution methods that *aren’t* as easy to trace as Web posting. (Usenet and eDonkey come to mind.)

If I were you, I might look into an advertising model. Google text ads could be incorporated into a free, unregistered version of Inquisitor, and you could potentially sell placement or priority in the “search elsewhere…” block.


Google specifically forbids inclusion of their ads in anything besides a web page.


Jon...

Thats a relief, I’d much rather pay for this than see ads in the drop down.


Zach...

you shouldnt need ads…. i m pretty sure google provides a kickback if you ask them for it


Dan...

Opera managed it, but I don’t know the details of their arrangement.


Oh, I’m quite certain I lack the clout of Opera or Apple.


taavi@mac.com...

I’d like to say that a license system is the way to go. I don’t mind paying $15 or $20 dollars to use Inquisitor, but I feel that if I have to dontate everytime I want to download the program that it would make it more of a pain in the *** than is worth it.

It doesn’t have to be licensed based though, just not related to repeated mandatory downloading. Being forced to donating once, and then having an easy option to donate when it’s download after that would work fine for me.

Having to donate each time I do download it, especially for something like a small bug fix, would not work well. That is of course based on my personal views.

On the other hand, maybe you could bundle it as a freebie with another one of your apps, although I’m not sure how your registration system works, or if it would allow that. Perhaps it can just look for the same reg. info that newsfire or acquisition look for (someplace on your hard drive), and if someone has purchased either of those, give it to them free.


David...

I would happily pay.

I’m sure you can use Paypal and put PayPal payment before the download page.


Tim...

Great to hear you are making this for Safari. I will def. be donating for version 2 when it’s released. Thanks for a great program!


Sebastien...

I’d have to agree to the “pay once satisfied? model discussed above. Yes, I’ll admin I’m cheap, but if there’s no real way to evaluate the software first then it’s a sure way of me not buying/donating to it.

I’ve spent far too much on crappy software and services to do it any other way now.


Erick...

I did donate for version 1 and will gladly pay for the new upgrade. Try before one buys is always nice, but perhaps a demo movie of it in action would be enough or keep version 1 as the try before you buy version, and if you pay you get the latest version that does what 1 does but much improved.

Not sure, I just get so tired of hearing people threaten to stop developing software versions for the Mac. Are we Mac users to cheap to buy software? Come on. We will plunk down the money for a Mac, so we surely can give to people developing such cool apps as this one.

But, I will gladly give to the cause.


Thomas...

Very pretty design! Keep up the good work. Thanks.