You see, for a long time we’ve chanted this refrain wherever we could: If you’re not paying for it, you’re not the customer; you’re the product being sold. We point to Facebook and Delicious and ad-supported sites and lament the fact that we’re all just a set of eyeballs being sold to advertisers. So we came up with a solution. We decided that we don’t want to be free users any more. We decided that we want to pay independent developers directly so that they can have sustainable businesses and happy lives.
But with Sparrow’s acquisition the cracks in the philosophy starts to appear. Marco Arment (creator of Instapaper) posted his response to the deal in Talent acquisitions:
"If you want to keep the software and services around that you enjoy, do what you can to make their businesses successful enough that it’s more attractive to keep running them than to be hired by a big tech company."
But… that’s what I did. I paid full price for every version of the Sparrow app I could find. I told everyone who would listen to buy it. I couldn’t have given them more money even if I wanted to. So, as a customer, what more could I have done to keep them running independently?
This is the core of the disappointment that many of us feel with the Sparrow acquisition. It’s not about the $15 or less we spent on the apps. It’s not about the team’s well-deserved payout. It’s about the loss of faith in a philosophy that we thought was a sustainable way to ensure a healthy future for independent software development, where most innovation happens.