What's Really Behind a Subscription Fee?

This video from birchtree@mastodon.social resonated greatly with me today. Here’s why.

First, someone is finally calling out something about software subscriptions that I always wanted to call out myself. Every developer seems entitled to charge a subscription for whatever reason. Matt brilliantly illustrates that some subscriptions are ok, some are borderline ok, but others are not.

For applications like Notion or Craft, developers must pay costs for hosting the backend. For example, Craft’s backend seems to be on the AWS cloud. In that specific case, it’s clear that a subscription makes sense. So we must help the developers pay their bills, right?

Things get more controversial when the developers charge for a subscription, even though no backend services are required. Why would the developers go with a subscription model, then, you might ask? Well, this is where I want to chime in. The developers may not have to pay hosting costs, but what about their development time? It is as if we value infrastructure costs more than craftmanship time. It should not be this way.

I’m willing to pay for software or service using a subscription if the product comes with updates regularly. Matt has shown Tweetbot as an example. Well, this isn’t the best example because Tweetbot rarely gets any updates; it doesn’t fit my criteria for using a subscription. CleanShot X, absolutely yes. I recognize, through my subscription, not only the value of the service but the time it took to put it together and keep it running fine. I’m willing to support the developer for that through a subscription.

We pay 5$ for a drink that takes less than a minute to prepare at Starbucks. Why is it so hard to pay for developers' time, spending weeks or months writing great software? Also, we must try to consider not only backend bills when deciding that a subscription is ok; craftmanship is something to pay for too.

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