Help us shape the future of MetroTwit

I’m reposting this from the official MetroTwit blog to facilitate a discussion.


As some of you may know, we begun a little experiment in the last update with the integration of an advertisement to hear what you, the users, thought of them. Since then, we’ve received an abundance of feedback through many mediums which we’re very grateful for.

Unfortunately, we may have mis-communicated our intentions when we released the update. Just to clear the air, it was never our intention to restrict your choice as a user which is why we’re making some changes, immediately.

Immediate changes

Many users told us that they would be happy to pay to support our application and its development but were displeased with the lack of immediate functionality to permanently remove the ads.

In response to this valid concern, we just released an update that removes the ad for all users until a practical solution to permanently hide the ad is implemented.

The future

To be perfectly frank, the net loss of developing MetroTwit is starting to catch up with us. Don’t get us wrong though, we have no intentions of giving up. We had and still receive a lot of intangible value out of developing and sharing what we believe to be a great software experience, only that we would love to deliver more features and improvements even faster, if the opportunity makes sense.

We hoped and still hope there are scenarios where we can strive towards our goal to deliver the best Twitter experience on Windows without any financial contribution from our users, but none have presented itself at this point in time.

The ads

With the context above, we begun exploring some more practical solutions. We stumbled across 140proof who, although offers an advertising solution which is all too common, stood out as an interesting option.

Their solution served ads which in theory should be much more relevant to a user’s interests. Based on feedback we’ve seen in the last 24 hours, this has proven to be true, for some at the least. We look forward to more feedback on this in the future.

The company also has a very clear and concise privacy policy related to the personalization feature of the ads which we’re very confident about.

We want your feedback on a few ideas

Last but not least, not only do we want to keep you in the loop but we sincerely do value your feedback. With that, we would like some feedback on two alternative monetization models we’re considering.

  • Freemium – a free ad-supported version with the option to purchase a once-off registration that permanently removes the ad and potentially enables various “professional” features
  • Microtransactions – a free ad-supported version with the option to purchase only the premium features you want, for example $2 to remove advertising or unlimited multi-account users

We look forward to your input,

Long Zheng, David Golden and Winston Pang.

55 insightful thoughts

  1. I don’t mind seeing ads if I can decide which column they show up in, I am also happy to pay a one off fair cost to support the app, it’s development, and it’s developers

    I am against micro-transactions as a rule, even more so when the app is a front-end for a free service, which in a short amount of time will be adding adverts and promoted tweets into everyone’s timelines.

    If it is possible to have both customisable adverts AND a donate mechanism, I will be happy to donate something, and if I can move the advert into my Direct Message column instead of the main timeline.

  2. IMO, a freemium model would be great for you as well as for users. You get money from ad-impressions as well as from premium users makes perfect sense.

    A microtransaction model won’t be that effective, and moreover paying to get rid of some non-needed features would also be chaotic for you as well ( having to roll out multiple updates for different versions and making sure the bug fixes won’t clash other versions)

    I just downloaded and been using it from the last few hours, and its impressive.
    Some suggestions :
    – Hashtag color preferences.
    – Multiple account support.
    – Horizontally Scrollable columns.

    I hope and not pushing too many things in one comment 😛

    Thanks.

    1. The microtransaction model doesn’t necessarily mean different versions. The app will still have a single download, but you would buy “codes” that unlock different premium features if you wanted them :)

      1. Right, but I imagine it would be easier for you, as the developers, to only have two feature sets to deal with (“Standard” or “Premium”) as opposed to several feature sets monetized independently. You’d probably end up paying less in processing fees too, as you would only have one “product” available for purchase.

        Regardless, I prefer Freemium as a user, but I’m also willing to accept microtransactions as long as the model is not abused (i.e. used excessively to charge for trivial features). I guess it boils down to whichever model gives you the most incentive to continue developing MetroTwit.

  3. Thank you guys.

    Is the purchase once and for all or is it like for a year of use?
    The microtransactions model seems really interesting from a user point of view but I’m not sure that it’s going to be the best for you :-)
    Let me think.

    1. We’re currently considering a once/lifetime registration. We would rather invest time on the software than some over-the-top complicated DRM system.

      1. Awesome. So I would go for the freemium model.

        Once again, thanks for listening and long life to the best Windows Twitter client!

  4. As long as you don’t release a downloadable MSI installer, we users can never “own” MetroTwit. Tommorrow if you make it a paid app, we cannot install the old version? That’s how it’s designed right? If not, eliminate ClickOnce and give us an MSI/standalone EXE installer.

  5. Freemium makes more sense to me as well. I don’t really care about getting more features over the free version, as Metrotwit already does everything I need. All I want is not to have ads, and to be able to pay for that privilege once and be rid of them forever.

    Microtransactions would just complicate things too much.

  6. I think a little tweaking to the ad model will help.

    The ads you had implemented were a little obtrusive and were too in your face. If you moved them to the bottom or in the corner (think Evernote) this would be much better the user.

    1. Certain restrictions by the terms of service from both Twitter and our ad provider limits us to how and where we can display the ad. For example they had to be distinguishably different to a tweet and be above a timeline.

  7. I agree with @mdtauk. The adds was not a bad idea, but the position on the top of the public timeline, shaped like a tweet; and the fact that reopens again from time to time, annoyed me.
    I was thinking if could be a bad idea to have them placed in the “what happening?” box (as a background or small box), and remove them when you click or start to type.

    1. See the problem I had is I would get a notification, click it to read the full tweet, only to see the add I had hidden has re-appeared. I receive far fewer DMs so it would not be as obtrusive. I wouldnt mind the adverts also being confined to a popup like with the tweets, maybe every 3-5 hours.

  8. Well… seeing and clicking ads is, in fact, a way to “pay”. So… both versions, ads and adsfree, should have “professional” features. Or, in any case, make a non free version, with those pro features, and the classic free version, with less options, both of them ads free.

    1. Agreed. I would rather not see independent feature sets for ad-supported and paid versions. Realistically, though, the ad removal may not be compelling enough for many users to purchase the paid version, and users may also train themselves to ignore the ads entirely, thus reducing ad revenue. It may become necessary to add “premium” features to the paid version to generate sufficient revenue to make further development worthwhile. I suspect that’s why they said “and *possibly*” additional features. It may eventually become necessary.

      1. Or you could leave MetroTwit with its current features, and start work on a new app which is MetroTwit + Facebook + whatever else with a new name. What I love about MetroTwit is its clean and Simple UI, lightweight memory usage compared to other twitter clients.

        I don’t want the app growing and bloating to the point it turns into something else.

    2. I don’t agree. Ads are a way to pay that is not as good as paying directly the developer. What is wrong with that? And why discrimination? It’s much better to offer the same set of features with ads/no-ads and if you don’t want ads, you pay. It’s simple and everybody’s happy. Making a limited free ad-supported version just pushes people away. and people will not buy Metrotwit just on promises. So first you get a full featured version with ads, you like/love it and don’t care about ads, good for you! You hate ads and you pay to remove them and the reminder that you should get the paid version every time you quit the app.

      It’s simple and everybody’s happy!

      There is a lot of free Twitter clients out there, starting with Twitter’s website.

      Also, I vote for a 15USD price.

  9. Hey look, it’s my tweet!
    Personally I don’t think either model is the correct one; one or the other will just be more correct depending on the person.
    Why not have both models where the app will be $xx for everything, or, if you just want a subset, just pay for what you need.
    I really don’t mind the ad’s, and would pay to support the developers, not remove the ad’s.

  10. If you make a paid version. I don’t want to pay for every new feature. How is this going to work out?
    For the free version. You should have the all the options there but make them disabled. When users click or over of them it tells them you should buy our paid version for $ for ever here.

  11. Freemium model seems like a good choice. However if more updates and better features could be implemented with Microtransactions model then I would go with that. Mind you in Microtransactions model if I am paying for features then you will have to differentiate from Seesmic and Tweetdeck. If you do come up with something really interesting then Microtransactions is good. I would advice that you provide all features whch we get from other free desktop client for free and charge for innovation on top of that.

  12. I submitted this using the feedback tool, but this will get more eyes looking at it. I didn’t mind the ads, I just didn’t like that they looked like unread tweets. I kept glancing at them, wanting to click on it. If they appeared at the bottom of the feed instead, it would be much less intrusive.

  13. The ads I have no objection to ads its the data they appear to be collecting:

    Following discussions with @JonAlb he is saying:

    http://twitter.com/#!/JonAlb/status/43325258404593664

    1. It polls their ad website WITH your user id
    2. Links contain your user id

    Therefore we can assume that they have data for even when your clicking close on an ad. For example they can then calculate an engagement percentage (using seen, closed and clicked data).

    They if they desired (and depending on polling speed) know if your logged into twitter using MetroTwit.

    No I currently don’t have my tin foil hat on 😉

    Another point is, the premium features would have to be better than any features offer for free by other twitter clients. Currently I think that MetroTwit doesn’t have all TweetDecks features and I wouldn’t pay for it. BUT I would donate, a key difference.

    @philjones88

  14. Why not package up the application UI controls and sell them to developers. Use the app as an advertisement to these developers. This and the zune application seem to be future of application look and feels.

  15. I would totally buy the paid version if it had a low price and it included a Single Column View Mode in a more compact mode than it now allows.

    Another nitpick would be cursor touch scrolling. I only have seen in done well in Blu and the now unreleased Blu2. But i liked it.

    (I know am repeating this, but i want MetroTwit to have that options)

  16. I know this is off topic but as a WPF developer I think you should take a look at the Microsoft Surface SDK. We’ve been using it our new system which is touch enabled, but a side-effect of that is I am now completely used to using the mouse to drag the entire listbox to scroll. Using a scrollbar just seems so un-natural now. Plus it will fit into the whole “Metro” inspired theme of the application.

  17. You know, I had and have no issues with the ads. I think with Twitter clients that is the best way to go. Heck I don’t even mind if you want to collect my data and target me, the idea of writing software is to make money in the end.

  18. I think Words With Friends did it best… Its free with ads… You want to remove the ads, its $1-$2… Same app for everyone, but one gets ads and the other is ad free…

    Im in for microtransaction if it just removes the ads.

  19. Personally, I like either model, but I tend to lean towards the Freemium version. WordPress.com does the whole, microtransaction thing but it felt as though they were “nickel and dime”-ing me to death.

    Either way, as soon as you have a paid something out there, I’ll get off my wallet. Keep it up guys!

  20. Flattr Flattr Flattr Flattr Flattr Flattr

    By implementing the Flattr API, you can ask each month the user to ‘flattr’ MetroTwit. If the user does so, he will have a ad-free app for the current month. At the end of each month you will receive micro-payments from all user that flattr’ed MetroTwit.

    I’m planning to do this for a few WP7 apps.

    Plus, this is a very interesting platform for any kind of software/website wanting to receive donations.

  21. Keeping the ad, but moving it off my friends column would ensure you have an ongoing revenue stream and I don’t have to immediately close the ads to be able to view my feed. With as good a job as you have done with the design I bet you could figure out how to provide value for your advertisers without impacting the user experience.

    If that’s not doable I’ll opt for the Freemium version… and gladly support you guys. it’s an awesome program.

  22. Definitely Freemium. Microtransactions doesn’t make sense if the main service (in this case Twitter) is free. I don’t mind seeing ads on the app, but as the user on the image said, it would be a cool feature if the ads keep relevant to my timeline.

    A cool future feature that I’d pay for the “professional” version could be video integration or page preview. Also it would be nice if you make an API so that developers can create plugins and extend MetroTwit, just like Seesmic guys did (but of course, with your monetization model, you know, only 5 plugins can be installed on free versions, etc.).

  23. Just give option to pay you guys 5€ or willingly more for the software without ads and all the features. I like the model they have in Cyberduck where you’re told continuously that you haven’t donated to the developers and when you do it’s like you registered a shareware product. Where did shareware die to? I think it’s still pretty viable distribution model even today. Anyway I voted for Freemium because of that.

  24. Of the 2 choices I’ve voted for microtransactions but given how awesome Metrotwit is I’d be happy to pay a larger amount now to support development and (perhaps) have a permanent license. What about MetroTweet Premium for $50 / €50?

  25. The word “Freemium” annoys me so much. I get that it’s an amalgamation of “Free” and “Premium”, but there’s nothing “premium” about it. It’s the cheapest, less premium version available. It doesn’t become premium until you pay, and at that point it’s no longer free. Why don’t you just call it the “Free” model?

  26. Have you considered a simple ‘pay what think we are worth’ model? You obviously have a decent sized following and pointing out how much it costs to maintain the product will have a percentage of your population pay that amount. People who are more happy with the product will probably pay more.

    Only thing I’d suggest, put a single reminder 1 month after install to popup and suggest the user assist with ongoing development costs if they haven’t already. In case you forget to donate when first downloading it.

    1. I’d argue that more advanced clients like MetroTwit, Tweetdeck or Seesmic aren’t covered by that description – the multi-column approach is a far more powerful client than the basic Twitter-provided one and adds a lot of value.

  27. One great feature to be added is the possibility to view trends from other places, not just the global ones.

    About monetization, I think microtransactions are the best way. And to develop it, a solution like MEF fits perfectly for the situation.

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