27: Turn that Smile upside down

Yesterday morning there was a disturbance in the force in the Mac power user community.

Usually, a major new version of TextExpander would set power users and automation geeks jumping for joy. But the new TextExpander is a subscription only "service", not a piece of software for purchase. Reactions skipped right past confusion to anger and a sense of betrayal. In the moment, I said:

These are the same people who usually react just as emotionally by yelling "SHUT UP AND TAKE MY MONEY" into their Twitter timelines when new software from their favorite indie developers drops. They mean that in the sense of a transaction, quid pro quo. TextExpander 6 is big on the quid (leaving your wallet) and a big zero on the quo. Apart from a new first-party sync service, not one single-user feature has been added to the Mac app. (Later in the day, a direct email from Smile to its customers touted "new app icon" as a feature. Seriously.)

This is not a question of TextExpander's value to me. I reject cries of "Hey TextExpander, you're not Photoshop." I work with text for a living, so in many ways TextExpander is my Photoshop. I want it to thrive. But why would I sign up for a subscription today that buys me nothing more than what's already on my hard drive? Where is even the promise of great new features on the horizon? It feels like Kickstarting a project that's already shipped. I'm not angry, I'm just confused.

Those who've defended Smile today have stood on the line that in a tough software economy, developers need to try new business models. Yes, they need to try good new business models, like patronage for Overcast or optional subscriptions for 1Password. Any subscription dollars earned by Smile are bound to be offset by the fact that more research was done on their competitors today than perhaps any day ever before. (I, for one, found that Typinator, which I used for over a year, has features TextExpander lacks — and you can bet I'm going to try them out.) And that's my lament: that a company I've been loyal to, whose product I rely on daily, has done something so obviously boneheaded. I hope I don't have to pay for it.