Simon's Crypta

Owning Software

What are your expectations when you own something? Let’s take a board game, for example. You don’t truly own the game but rather a copy of it. It’s yours for personal use, but you can’t legally make another copy and sell it. You don’t expect any new updates, maintenance, or further work from the company that sold you the game. You do expect to maintain the same functionality over time, but, like any physical good, it may wear out and become unusable depending on the material and usage. Not only that, but you also expect the possibility of it breaking, but you have the option to repair it. Furthermore, though unexpected, nothing stops you from upgrading or extending the game on your own. This concept holds for most non-tech products you own, where you bear the responsibility and cost of maintenance for as long as you desire.

Now, consider when you purchase a software. You don’t actually own the software, like it’s with others material stuff, someone else needs to maintain it for you. Most people are unaware that software gets old quickly. Due to rapid advancements, much software requires extensive maintenance just to preserve its functionality from month to month. So, if you purchased software five years ago for $50, how can you expect someone to actively work on it year after year to ensure everything still functions?

The answer is that you never truly own a copy of the software, unless it’s confined to a machine without updates and an internet connection, or if the company provides you with the code, and you are responsible for its maintenance1.

So, how long do you rent the software when you paid $50 for it? Nobody knows; that’s the issue. Even the company that sells you the software doesn’t know, as it depends on various factors, and they could decide at any time to stop maintaining it.

This is precisely why I don’t like to “own a software”, even the ones I build, they always belong to a group of people, whether private or open-source. One-time fee software is akin to renting an apartment for a one-time fee of $10,000, with uncertainty about when essential components will break, and without the ability to fix it when it does. In such a situation, you are left with no choice but to find a new place or pay another $11,000 for the upgraded version, and the question always lingers: when will it happen?

This is why the subscription model makes more sense; ultimately, you are renting the software. At least, with monthly or yearly payments, you understand the mutual commitment: you pay $5 this month, and the company ensures the software works for the month, with the added bonus of upgrades or new features.

Oh, and please bear in mind, if you don’t pay, you are the product2.

  1. A good example is (↩︎

  2. Or maybe someone else has paid for you, that apply to open-source software ↩︎

#economy #software #thoughts