Death by Subscribing to a Thousand Paper Cuts.

TextExpander goes Subscription

When I first read the news this morning that TextExpander was going to be moving to a subscription model, I was disappointed. Maybe even a little pissed off. I had an angry tweet locked and loaded, but I thought better and put the phone down.

Having thought about it some more, there are some pros to apps going subscription. First, developers will have to work to keep customers happy in an ongoing relationship. Not updating for new devices or operating systems is grounds for being cut off. Ignoring complaints or requests in user forums might carry real financial penalty. Competitors with new and exciting features can present a real threat to companies that aren’t paying attention.

Squarespace wasn’t going in a direction that I liked, so I cancelled my service with them. I wish I could get a partial refund from Cultured Code for not giving a fig about their users. If they were on a subscription model, they wouldn’t be around.

Also, assuming that fringe groups of users wouldn’t ruin everything, I have to assume that the model is more sustainable for developers. They should be able to better predict cash flow, staffing needs and maybe even plan for their future. They’ll have to rely less on discounts to move users to new versions and can spend less time supporting outdated software (maybe?).

Better developers will be able to continue making better software and maybe even sleep more soundly at night.


All of that being said, I’m not a fan of subscription software.

Buying an app gives me anxiety. But once I’ve taken the plunge, what’s done is done and I have use of the app for all time or at least until the next update roles around in a year or two. Eat that frog and then move on.

Now it becomes a bigger decision. 

The commitment to sign up for something that’s going to be on the credit card statement every month, forever, is a big one. Financially it might work out to parity, but when you’re married and your wife doesn’t share your enthusiasm for text expansion software, seeing that charge every month can become problematic.

There will come a point when subscriptions on a computer will start to necessitate prioritization. Once you’re talking about 5 or 10 inexpensive subscriptions, it starts to become real money. Software like Omnifocus and Ulysses, apps that I rely on every day, are going to take precendence over nice-to-have utilities.

And as the number of subscription models increase, the pain will ratchet up as well. By moving into a subscription model, software enters into a larger conversation about subscriptions in general. Apple Music, Dropbox, Evernote, iCloud, Netflix, HBO, NYTimes, Xbox Live, Microsoft Office, website hosting, and now TextExpander.

I don’t want to have a discussion about whether or not we should be stopping TextExpander for the summer because school is out and “can’t you just type out the date like a regular person?”.

I’m not an animal. But here we are.