It was really cool to see NetNewsWire in British GQ’s list of top iOS apps — and awesome to be in the company of Fantastical (cousin Michael’s app), Widgetsmith, Linea Sketch, Halide, Overcast, and other great apps.
One part stood out to me, though: the blurb ends with “The lack of a price tag seems almost criminal” — and this isn’t the first time price has been brought up. Often the sentiment is something like “I’m surprised how good this app is, given that it’s free.”
I should explain: the app is better — much better — than it would be if it were a for-pay app. If it were a for-pay app, it would be just me working on it instead of this great team of volunteers. There probably wouldn’t be an iOS version at all: it would be Mac-only. The kind of features I don’t enjoy doing, such as the Twitter and Reddit integration (and others), wouldn’t even exist.
And it would be slow going. NetNewsWire 5 would have shipped much later than it did, and NetNewsWire 6 would not have shipped until next year, probably.
Instead, because it’s open source, we have this amazing team of people willing to work on it in their spare time. During a pandemic and everything. They’re bringing you something great out of love, with the goal of writing an app of the highest quality.
We don’t have to rush and Ship Right Now in order to make our revenue numbers. We don’t have to pick feature X over feature Y because we think it will bring in more conversions. We can care about performance and efficiency; we can say no to things that might have made money but that are outside our vision.
There’s nothing wrong with commercial software — NetNewsWire was commercial software for many, many years — but it’s also a great freedom to us that it’s not. And it allows us to make something much greater than I would have made all on my own.
(Why all on my own? Because, these days, a Mac and iOS RSS reader is not going to bring in enough revenue to pay for a team greater than one. And even paying one full salary plus health insurance would have been a hell of a longshot.)
PS Here’s how to support NetNewsWire. (Don’t send money!)