Yes, Another Post About App Licensing Management

Yes, I’ve read over the forum posts on this subject and have searched Google, but wanted some further input.

I’ve made an app for use with a 3rd party web site. Its for my own use, but I’ve considered releasing it as a commercial app for Mac and Windows. I am a Mac user and test Windows via VirtualBox using XP Pro.

I’ve shown a couple screen shots on the site’s forum and have received requests to buy it although it is not quite done - I’ve got to fix one Windows focus problem and add a preference file, plist, windows registry, etc.

Apple App Store:

I understand sandboxing and claims about quality control and gate keeper security issues; however, they want you too jump through way too many hoops like a trained animal and pay for the privilege to boot. This would almost entirely suck all the fun out making the program. I love using Apple computers, but this makes me feel ill.

I don’t really need exposure in the App store for the current product. The site it was made for has its own forum that would provide free publicity. This is really a niche product designed to save site user’s time and thus money so I see no benefit placing it among thousands of other apps.

Excel:

Way too expensive and complicated scheme with multiple products.

Monkeybread:

Too expensive and complicated. I’ve also read the interesting posts about MB users not properly using the plugin in regards to hiding things they should under the terms of MB’s user license.

Problems with Other Sites:

A. Some sites only offer payment processing without even the minimum licensing scheme for casual users. I really see no reason to use such services as I already can accept free ach payments via my bank and could simply offer the app as shareware. Unfortunately from what I read less than 1% of users will actually pay anything.

B. I’m really weary of sites that charge a monthly fee, especially ones that charge “X” amount more greater download bandwidth of the app when I can already host the app for free.

C. Many of the sites that have a pay-as-you go scheme charge an arm and a leg so they make most of the money from an app sale. Others may charge less, but their white papers on using their service seem way too complicated - certainly way more complicated than the actual app.

Preliminary Scenario:

I am considering compiling two versions.

  1. A “lite” version does everything but save and open files - the actual code, buttons, and menu commands are stripped out for these functions so it can’t be unlocked to the full version. Users can still export data from the app for use on the site. Users could technically save data it generates using a external app such as a text editor, but that makes it far less convenient than the full version.

  2. A full version that allows saving and opening files.

Ideally, I’d like users to be able to downloads the full version via a special link provided by the payment processor who also provides the customer with an unlock code based upon their computer. I’d be looking for something that is plug and play and does not require me to come up with my own (likely weak) encryption scheme or read a 200 page white paper on the subject.

Well, hopefully there are not too many wrong assumptions in that post :0)

Whats the question ? I don’t see you asking one.

I was looking for recommendations as to payment and license processors that I may have missed or whose features may actually be worth what they charge.

The two that I would recommend looking at are Paddle and Fastspring. Both are used in the Xojo community. Paddle is relatively new.

I would recommend eSellerate but they’ve been phasing out support for Xojo for years. However, their plugin still works for now.

I’d stay away from having the light version prevent saving.

Let’s say a user plays with your app for hours and decides it’s really cool based on everything they’ve done. Time to save, OH SNAP CANT DO THAT, and since it’s a separate build it’s not just a function they can unlock by paying. Everything is lost.

I also have a client that’s using LimeLM with their own payment processor. They’re happy with it but they’re a high dollar, low volume app so it makes sense for them. I’ve looked at it for our own apps a couple of times the monthly fees get pretty high for low volume apps.

Just a FYI, one of the ‘hurdles’ for the App Store is a question asking if your application can access third party sites. I don’t know what happens if you select YES!

I understand your issues regarding the App Store, in your case as you’re targeting a specific audience, you’d probably do just as well without it.

Bob’s listed the most prominent payment processors, Paddle has a framework and I intend to wrap it so that Xojo applications can use their framework (we use Paddle.com, but I’m using my own serial number system, which was written with Xojo).

I’ve seen some folks talk about PayPal.com and there is’s also Gumroad.com.

eSellerate was probably the easiest as they had a plugin for Xojo which made it simple to integrate in-app purchasing and unlocking, but since DR took over, it seems that they’re slowing winding eSellerate down. As Bob says, the plugin is unsupported.

Sorry, I should have been more clear. The app does not actually access a 3rd party site. It allows the user to construct customized information that they then enter into the site. Currently that must been done manually, but my app speeds that up considerably.

[quote]
I’d stay away from having the light version prevent saving.

Let’s say a user plays with your app for hours and decides it’s really cool based on everything they’ve done. Time to save, OH SNAP CANT DO THAT, and since it’s a separate build it’s not just a function they can unlock by paying. Everything is lost.[/quote]

One can still save data generated by the application with the light version - they could copy it to the clipboard and paste it an any text editor and save it. That may take several paste jobs depending upon what they want to save and is a lot less convenient than saving from the application, but still doable in a pinch.

I do see your point though that some customers may not be happy. My main concern was releasing something with features that could be easily unlocked without actually paying for it, which would not be possible if those features are not in the app to begin with.

Welcome to one of the most difficult things about software development, it’s not making the software it’s selling it! Especially when trying to offer a free/trial version and striking a balance between enough, but not too much without pissing off the user.

Get it wrong and you’ve just wasted your time, get it right and success ensures… Just don’t ask me where the balance is as I only know how to do it the wrong way!

Paypal is great, but requires you to program the actual license processing and software delivery. It is far from being difficult, though. I have been using Perl, then php for a decade, and as soon as Web Edition supports http 1.1, it will be possible to do so in Xojo.

[quote=149519:@art ouette]One can still save data generated by the application with the light version - they could copy it to the clipboard and paste it an any text editor and save it. That may take several paste jobs depending upon what they want to save and is a lot less convenient than saving from the application, but still doable in a pinch.

I do see your point though that some customers may not be happy. My main concern was releasing something with features that could be easily unlocked without actually paying for it, which would not be possible if those features are not in the app to begin with.[/quote]

Just put yourself in the shoes of a non tech savvy customer…

Either you provide a way to save, or you don’t. Your paste thing is a hack, really. It should never be advised to regular users unless you want piles of angry support requests.

If what you want to do is kind of a feature purchase, be advised that Apple will never let you use anything but their own in-app purchase system. Anything going through a third party payment processor asking for a credit card will get your app rejected.

That sort of sums of part of my problem.

I am really looking for a service to handle everything for me as opposed to being a mishmash of services:

  1. Plugin and play licensing scheme such as a plugin with a couple lines of code to add. I don’t want to learn and maintain various complicated parts of the licensing scheme using Perl, php, or anything else in addition to maintaining a Win and Mac build.

  2. No monthly fee, a % only.

  3. No large upfront costs.

  4. No chargeback fees; international payments at no additional fees.

  5. Store, product, and file hosting.

The app is a specialized editor to speed up the process of generating specialized content that is pasted into forms onto a e-commerce site. Most users, aside for myself, now use various manual processes to do this such as text editors, although my app offers additional features. Even without the ability to save files in a suggest “lite version”, a standard crippleware practice, the app can still generate content faster than any other method users on the site currently use. Whether or not I offer a lite version or not I am still have the problem of getting paid.

Seeing how difficult it is to actually get paid I am thinking I should stuck with a single Xojo Desktop license (or RS) and just keep the app for myself as I don’t don’t really have any use for Windows builds aside from possibly selling them.

I did find an interesting payment service that seems to offers reasonable fees, no chargebacks, and international payments, if one would offer their software via a secure link; however, that would likely lead to massive stealing of the program as they don’t appear to offer any licensing code schemes thus one would be back to square one.

http://www.nstarsolutions.com/E-Commerce-Features.html

I have practiced shareware for quite a long time. Lite (crippleware) usually does not sell as much as time-limited evaluation. If you are sure of your product, better do an x times use, or a 15 days or 30 days version with all the bells and whistle, so people get hooked, then provide an easy way to buy, and your conversion rate will be better.

If your app is on Mac, really consider going Mac App Store. It does sell quite a lot, and the exposure is impressive. How would you really sell worldwide with local stores in local languages otherwise ?

I doubt you will find a payment provider with no chargeback fee’s. This is an unfortunate cost of doing business but others can testify hopefully pretty rare.

Apparently the North Star Solutions people claim on their site they have no ChargeBack fee. In 16 years I have been taking credit cards I never saw that. But there is a first for everything. Even a payment processing company that gladly stomachs chargeback fees that credit cards companies place on them.

Based on past experience,I would be worried they tolerate an extremely low amount of chargebacks, which are unfortunately notoriously high for software download sales. That got me in trouble with three merchant services back in the days. All is rosy and peach when you sign up, until chargebacks happen, and before you know it, they hold hostage all your sales for three months and kick you out.

That is the reason I have been with Paypal for some over ten years, and never looked back. I do not mind a chargeback fee once in a while, as long as I know I can rely on my payment processor.

Unfortunately the process is way too complicated. They take way too much of a cut. They demand upfront costs. All the joy is immediately taken away when I am essentially expected to be an unpaid Apple employee who must jump through hoops like a trained animal to please them.

I really don’t need any exposure from Apple’s mac store as the site the app is geared for already has a forum in which I’ve already been asked to sell the app based upon some screen shots.

Isn’t the Apple store for Mac users only? Since most potential customers from the site the app is geared for are Windows users I’d have to maintain an entirely different scheme to sell it to them.

Although the site that the app is geared for involves international users the primary language of commerce on the site is English.

I am still in same boat though as I’ve not found any app protection scheme to offer limited versions or to handle the licenses. From what I’ve read in old forum posts disabling the 15 or 30 day limit can be as easy as deleting the plist file, preference file, reinstalling, etc, so users really have a fully functional app forever.

I think I probably would be better off sticking with RS and keeping the app for myself - especially after seeing the 50% increase in the cost of renewals.

That is why I personally withdrew some of my evaluation packages and went for upfront pay. But then I still have people asking for refunds, and since some will not hesitate the card was charged without their authorization and create a chargeback, I rather give in. So in effect they have a money back guarantee.

But if you think about it, every business, at least in the US, honors money back guarantees for most everything. Look at the lines after Christmas of people queuing to have their gifts taken back.

From what you say that people want to buy in that forum, seems they have cash in hand, so you better take it while it lasts. You just have to oblige. Pardon me, but instead of building a very complicated scheme for online delivery and stuff, all you need to do is to set up Paypal (minutes), and serve them by email when you got their payment. It does not see to require rocket science. Keep it simple. Then if you see too many sales, it will be time to improve your shop.

See what too much complication gets you : you are ready to give up. One thing is for sure. Keeping the app for yourself will spare you any risk of commercial success. But after all, material gain is not everything…

Not really. The app is designed to facilitate faster sales on the site it is intended for. I designed it for myself. During my own testing process for the app I’ve already enjoyed just over $871 in gross sales of which I receive a commission.

I now enjoy a competitive advantage over anyone else on the site, even long term pros because I’ve taken the time to analyze the situation and see that there are better ways to do things. What I really have to decide is if I want to give up that competitive advantage in exchange for obtaining additional funds for app sales. Those additional funds will have to generated in a way so as to not take time from my regular businesses or compromise the application in which case no one will pay because they can find it for free on any number of web sites.

If I have to personally take the time to service each new purchase then that takes time away from my regular businesses in which case I loose money. On the other hand I see that PayPal’s semi-automatic payment process for digital goods involves page after page of technical information regarding api, php, and other things I definitely have no intention of trying to learn or maintain - I expect them to take care of that if I pay them a commission.

Assuming I used PayPal or another service that offer a limited secure download link there is nothing to prevent the app from being shared and stolen. I can already do that for free and bypass PayPal and other payment service altogether and simply offer the app as shareware with donations given via ach without any risk of chargeback, but then we are right back to square one - the app will shared and no one will pay.

Making any sales or protecting the app is little more than an endless loop of catch-22 situations so why give up my app if I am not going to receive any reward for it?

Just curious : did you take check, cash ? You had to receive payment at some point. What I suggested is that if you have relatively few sales, it could be a convenient way of starting.

I use Instant Payment Notification with a slightly modified version of the php example at https://developer.paypal.com/webapps/developer/docs/classic/products/instant-payment-notification/ to deliver email instructions to my customers, and a Xojo Web Edition program to actually deliver the files. It is not terribly difficult to do. I never wanted to dive into the API mess. Just like you, I do not want to spend much time becoming a web engineer.

That said, nothing forces you to go DIY. The North Star Solution site looks like a nice way to start with a minimum of engineering involved.

Seems to me you are making things far too complex because instead of concentrating on selling, you seem obsessed by the idea that someone will copy the software and pass it around. I hate to tell you, but do you really think if Adobe, Microsoft and others could, they would have invented long ago the perfect mouse trap to prevent that ? Reality is piracy is part of the friction coefficient endured to do business. Like taxes, thieves are part of every commerce, from your corner street market to stock exchange high flyers.

Most successful people here who do use licensing serial numbers have built their license system the best way they can, eventually building a call back home into their apps. But foremost, they concentrated on selling.

The major goal should be to sell to honest users. Not to spend all your energy worrying about the dishonest people which, like roaches, will always show up.

I thank you for your input and your time spent!

I and other users license content to the site owners and then earn commissions on sales. Everything is handled by the site owner. I am not involved in any transactions between the site owner and customers. My app speeds up the process of placing content on the site and thus means quicker faster sales for site users.

They initially were of interest as they claim no chargeback fees unlike say PayPal. Whether that means no chargeback or a limited number I don’t know. In any case I don’t see them as a solution as all they do is provide a temporary secure download link, which does nothing really to protect the software. Since no software protection is provided I could obtain the same results by releasing it as shareware and depending upon the “honesty” of users to pay, taking out the middleman and chargebacks in the process as I’d use free ach.

True, but how many of those are there? From what I read less then 1% will actually pay for shareware for various reasons. I fail to see why anyone would actually pay at all when in a matter of weeks it will freely available via sharing.

I have been a member of Association of Shareware Professionals back in 1987 to this day. So I do know a thing or two about the process. The conversion rate is indeed between 1 per a thousand, and 1%. The later being considered a big success. On niche products, I have fonts that climbed to 2%. But the result is that today if you type Bujardet, you will find zillions of site offering the Bujardet Frères font as free download with no documentation, effectively become freeware junk.

Shareware is a risky business. It is a valid way to market only if you think you can make money in the numbers. If your software can be of use to thousands of user. If that is not the case, rather go for upfront sales, with an outright demo rather than a lite version.

Don’t overestimate the possibility that the registered version will end up as freeware immediately. Actually that only happens if you enjoy an overwhelming success and a prominent visibility. Most often that does not happen, and your app will not reach the dubious celebrity status of a torrent on kickass.to. That is the reason why shareware sells 1% or registrations on a steady enough base to feed shareware authors since 1982 when Jim Button released the first one (PC-File).

People do pay not only because they have a sense of honor, but also because they need software, find it readily available, and at the price they are willing to pay.

You may find some inspiration and valuable information at http://asp-software.com