Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Dreaming of an Eclipse Plugin-Store...

or how to sell little tools for little money...

A while ago, I wrote a little tool for exporting UML-like diagrams for Java classes and packages to OmniGraffle. I blogged about that tool and, from my statistics, it got downloaded over 100 times. I also announced that the tool will stop working in 2012, which it actually did. As I wrote in the announcement of the tool, based on the feedback I wanted to decide whether to continue developing the tool or not.

So, what is the feedback after almost six months? There were a few comments, and about 150 downloads according to my logs. Although I installed a donate and Flatter button on my blog, I received no money at all. The natural consequence would be to stop developing (and providing) the tool.

Today, someone posted a comment as the tool has stopped working (just as announced). The commenter also wrote that he needs the tool to create some diagrams for him. Hmm... As I'm trying to be a good guy, I published an update of the tool working until June 2012.

I won't complain about people not giving any feedback or money voluntary. Instead I'm wondering how to make the tool available for a small amount of money. Actually, I don't know about any Eclipse tools to be sold for a couple of dollars/euros, except Log4E. Most tools are either freely available, or they are really expensive. Log4E comes in two versions: A free community edition and a so called "Pro" version for only €7,50. I have purchased that tool a long time ago, rather to support the author than urgently needing the additional features of the Pro version. However, due to the lack of Eclipse supporting this kind of "business model", it is rather complicated to install the license key (and keep it up to date with new Eclipse installations), and I figure managing licenses and payments to be time-consuming for the author as well.

Apple, and also Google, have successfully created systems enabling authors of software to make (little) money by selling there products very easily. Although I don't like the Apple way of approving software, I'm wondering if some kind of "Eclipse PluginStore" would be a good idea. People spend a lot of money on "apps", including a lot of small games. If buying a commercial Eclipse plugin would be as simple as purchasing an iPhone/Android app, would people do that? And how many programmers would publish their tools then? Maybe combining that kind of store with a BugStore (see "Should We Pay for Eclipse Bug Fixes?" for a summary of a discussion taken place in April 2010) would be a good idea as well...

As long as there is no Eclipse PluginStore available: How do you sell your tools?

12 comments:

Bartek GadzaƂa said...

Great idea

Mickael Istria said...

I had the same idea once, but I was too lazy to share it in a blog post.
I really think pluggable software such as Eclipse can be a great opportunity te create a "Store"-based business for small extensions, but what I fear would be difficult is to "protect" extensions against multiple installation: once someone bought your extension, what prevents him to install it on the 2000 Eclipse instances of his company?

That's really a technical issue. I worked on such stuff for a previous work, and it is not easy to do something good. This requires security experience.
IMHO, this would require an Eclipse.org project dedicated to set up a framework for security.

Ralf Ebert said...

May I suggest to try to sell this to Omni, or selling licenses yourself (f.e. via PayPal button, purchase gets you a personalized link to the update site, just trusting the buyers)? I frequently use OmniGraffle and Eclipse and I would have no problem purchasing such a tool for 5-25 EUR - time saved would justify purchasing quickly. I guess it will not make a fortune, but it might be enough to sustain further development :)

Cole said...

I had hopes for this when the Eclipse Marketplace was opened, but to my knowledge there is no way to charge for plugins there. That seems to be the most logical solution. The Eclipse Foundation could even take a small percentage of sales to help with expenses.

aviral said...

Who would be the guys to own the market place..its actually a workable idea and should be promoted.

Andrey Loskutov said...

I've developed few successful and well known Eclipse plugins (with over hundred thousands of downloads), but in more then 5 years I've got only three donations from users, overall sum around 30$.

See also bug https://bugs.eclipse.org/bugs/show_bug.cgi?id=322848

I don't see Eclipse is interested to support it and I honestly can't understand why.

I would give 50% back to Eclipse.org from the money, if I had any money vfrom users...

Regards,
Andrey Loskutov

sarobenalt said...

Seems like there is at least some interest in this idea. For myself, I've been working on a related problem - designing a viable OSGi platform for which an app specification (and thus an app store) could be created.

Seems like it wouldn't take a lot of effort to create an app store that could be commercialized and accept small payments, particularly since the Eclipse Marketplace provides much of the groundwork.

Anybody interested in collaborating on this? It doesn't need to be a full official Eclipse project.

Barani said...

I think its a nice idea. This will encourage the developers to to develop more plugins that improves the competency. But I don't know why this is not happening in the Eclipse Marketplace.

Lars Vogel said...

Isn't it possible to extend the Eclipse Marketplace for this? The base infrastructure should be in place.

sarobenalt said...

Hi Lars,

Yes, I was thinking that if something could be built upon the base of the Eclipse Marketplace code, but with the added ability to track sales, compute payments, and payout royalties, it would not be a major effort. The latter part could be done on an AWS or PayPal commerce platform, or something similar.

Ken said...

After posting on the original blog today I went to this latest blog post and tried to pay something via paypal.

I got a Paypal site in German that wouldn't accept my US login!

Anyway, it would certainly be worth something to get a copy that doesn't expire.

Jens v.P. said...

Seems as if I'm not the only one who likes the idea ;-) Yeah, "extending" the Eclipse marketplace would be an obvious thing. But of course it would need some work on the platform as well, in order to handle licenses. Let's see what others have to say about that...

And thanks to all supporters of my little tool. I'm looking forward improving the tool and finding a solution how to make it available. Actually I have to correct my feedback statistics: I've received more encouraging comments and -- for the first time ever -- I even got a donation! Thank you very much!