NetSnips changed business model

Johannes Erschbamer · December 30, 2021

My app NetSnips will soon be 10 years in the App Store - that’s quite an age for an app these days. Time to take a step back and re-evaluate its business model.

I’ve started developing NetSnips, my visual web page tracking app, as a student and used it primarily to check my university web page for new exam results. Soon, I understood that the concept can be used for many other use cases and that’s why I cleaned it up and published my first app on the App Store. Long time macOS users will remeber the dashboard and the “Web Clips” widget. NetSnips is similar to this old idea, but optimized for mobile and more customizable.

In 2012 the App Store, and iOS development in general, was very different than these days (a NetSnips review from 2012). Swift, the programming language, was unknown and small indie apps could generate a considerable amount of revenue with paid upfront or in-app feature unlocks.

Except from the very first year, NetSnips was always a so-called freemium app. You could (and can) use the app with two web snippets for free, but if you wanted more, you had to buy the Unlimited Snippets upgrade. This worked reasonably well in the first years of NetSnips lifetime, especially because there were considerably less apps on the App Store and I could make enough revenue from new customers to work on maintenance and feature updates for all users.

However, let’s face it: NetSnips is a niche app for a small audience that care about visual web page tracking. You either have a specific use case for it or you won’t find it useful at all. I still find it fascinating, that I have users that use the app every day since the initial realease year and send me emails how the use it and for what purpose. It’s an amazing feeling to create something that people find so useful, that they keep coming back to it for years. However, from a business perspective, paying a small fee once for 10 years of usage and free updates cannot be sustainable.

Many developers (myself included) have learned this the hard way in the last years. That’s why I designed my second app Thirstic, a smart water tracker app, from the beginning on as subscription app.

I know, for many, subscription apps feel like “renting software”. But in reality, also pay-once software is “rented” and has a limited lifespan. The hard truth is that, sooner or later the developer will have to charge for a new version (and abandon the old one) or will go out of business (and the app will be sunset).

Subscription allow developers to charge users that use the app over many years more and charge others, that might need it just for a couple of months, less. I think this is a pretty good solution, as long as Apple does not allow paid app upgrades.

Because of all this, starting from today, NetSnips will now offer a yearly subscription option for all new users. I do not think that restricting features for existing users is fair and therefore nothing will change for anyone that bought Unlimited Snippets before today: you can keep using the app without any limitation.

I’m grateful for everyone that is using NetSnips since many years. I’ve also learned a lot from all of you that shared their personal NetSnips use case with me over email. Some awesome examples include tracking cherry blossom in Japan and keeping an eye on competing weather forecasts from worldwide meteorologists.

If this works out, I more than happy to bring NetSnips to the next level - my idea list is long and ambitious. Fingers crossed! 🤞

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