The Sparrow Problem

“The entire software industry is changing. Computer users used to spend hundreds of dollars for great software and pay again every couple years for upgrades. But over the past couple decades people have grown accustomed to getting more and more value from software while paying less and less for it. The web has played a huge part in that, but the trend was accelerated by the App Store and Apple’s management of it.”

The Sparrow Problem, by David Barnard

Last Friday’s news about Google having acquired Sparrow still leaves a bad taste in my mouth. Especially as the Sparrow team right after the announcement made it clear that there will be no more updates to the app. Bummer.

(via @cindygallop)

5 Comments leave a comment below

  1. Sorry about that. Fixed.

  2. Hated to hear that, but David’s points are quite convincing.
    Love using Sparrow, both for iPhone and Mac, but at the end, it comes down to this http://kottke.org/12/07/buy-less-but-pay-more doesn’ it?
    It would be great to have more options to support favorite apps..

  3. This is not surprising to me.

    The future is an IP and Services economy. The Agricultural Economy used land/food as its economic basis, and had the Feudal Enclave as its ultimate expression of organization. Then followed the Industrial Economy, with goods as its economic basis, and the Corporation as its ultimate expression of organization.

    I’d argue to you that the IP&S economy will have still a third expression of organization, and it will be very, very different from the previous two — both of which are hierarchical in nature. The IP&S is based on the steady, reliable flow of information, and cannot tolerate the bottlenecks inherent in a hierarchical structure. Whatever the precise form it will take, I predict it will be networked in nature and design, with responsibilities and priorities but far less “boss of x” quality.

    Another factor is that copyright-as-control is, and has to be, dead. Anything which impedes the movement of information around the economy is a drag — a brake — on the economy, and copyright-as-control is a mother of a brake. So there needs to be another system, with rewards inherent in its design, which does not require or utilize control to apportion out the rewards society finds for the release of creative efforts.

    The reason I say all this is the latter has a lot of significance to the Sparrow problem, as I think the opportunity to get obscenely rich is likely to be much smaller. Instead, the wealth WILL get shared around much as the OWS types want. Any system for extracting the reward from the public is going to almost certainly be far more limited. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as it will represent, for the most part, a much wider user base far more effectively and efficiently. But the chances of creating something that appeals to millions is much smaller than ever before. Markets will fragment, and the chance to “hit it big” will become decidedly rarer.

  4. I’d also point that sparrow appears to use only one type of revenue. If you have advertising, that’s another source, and it can add up if you have a lot of free users.

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