Fairly Priced

Tapbots released a Mac version of Tweetbot, their popular Twitter client.

I have been beta testing the application for months and have found it to be a suitable replacement for Twitter.app, the once neglected, now abandoned official application.

But folks are talking less about Tweetbot’s features and more about its price: $20. In today’s culture of low-priced apps, anything costing more than a Starbucks latte raises a eyebrows of the suddenly cash-poor masses who shelled out for expensive iPhones and Macs.

A healthy opposition to the price-whiners has risen to the task of preaching the merits of “fairly priced” software: $20 is a relatively small investment for something you use all the time, quality software takes a ton of time and effort, and unless your beloved software can sustain its creators comfortably, you’ll be disappointed when they abandon it or sell it to a multi-national corporation.

I agree with all this “fair pricing” rhetoric, but I can’t help but notice a key point missing within it: Tapbots doesn’t want to charge $20. From their announcement:

Because of Twitter’s recent enforcement of token limits, we only have a limited number of tokens available for Tweetbot for Mac … This limit and our desire to continue to support the app once we sell out is why we’ve priced Tweetbot for Mac a little higher than we’d like.

The culture of low-priced software is artificially pulling the prices of many apps downward, while in this case Twitter, with its API token-limitation policy, is artificially pulling the price upward.

Is $20 a reasonable amount to pay for Tweetbot? I think so. But if Tapbots would have preferred to charge even less, has it been fairly priced? Many folks are seizing on the coincidence of Tapbots needing to charge more as an opportunity to exalt “fair pricing,” when this was a result of coercion in two directions.

With price pulled downward by the expectation of free or ultra-cheap software, and upward by Twitter’s inconsiderate API policies, Tapbots have settled on a stasis point. It’s not as low as they wish it could be, and at the same time not as high as it’s “worth.” If Twitter’s API policies were not a factor, then staking out a bold $20 price would merit applause. But as the developers have settled on the price grudgingly, this is no victory for fair pricing. It’s an opportunity to acknowledge the discomfort of being pulled in two directions and to congratulate Tapbots on making a pragmatic choice. Well done.