The monetization dilemma · 2009-03-25 13:02 by Wladimir Palant
There has been a fair amount of discussion lately on the topic of earning money with extensions. Yesterday I read Kent James’ blog post – and only a few minutes later I noticed yet another mail titled “Commercial offer” in my inbox. Now these are typically about some crazy business model they need my help with, usually something along the lines of replacing ads with other ads and redirecting website’s income into your own pocket by doing that. Not this time. An employee of a search engine company suggested I add a checkbox to the post-install Adblock Plus page which will add their search engine to Firefox and change user’s homepage to their entry page (all that restricted to the country where they operate). And they would pay me for each change performed of course.
Now I don’t really know why they chose that route given that they already have an agreement with Mozilla. Maybe the employee who contacted me is just unaware of the current state of affairs. Maybe they hope to see results sooner that way (with Mozilla they still have to wait until Firefox 3.5). Maybe they want to do more with that default homepage than Mozilla lets them (from what it seems, Mozilla has rather rigid requirements on default homepages even though they are hosted by search engines). Or maybe they simply expect to get a lower price with extension authors rather than Mozilla. I don’t know and it doesn’t really matter.
What matters is that I don’t know whether every author of a popular extension will reject that offer. I don’t want to blame anybody, maintaining a popular extension is a hard and very time-consuming job. There are times where I wish I could turn Adblock Plus at least into a part-time job rather than struggling with finding time to do everything necessary. I know that some other extension developers have their extension as a full-time job and that makes them dependent on money sources. Given the market value of their user base, it is hard not to sell out.
So far, getting money for your work ranges from begging for donations over post-install pages with ads (where some go pretty far to make sure these ads are seen) to showing ads in the extension itself. Now I am afraid that we might see another development that we already know from desktop applications: extensions that change your homepage/default search engine or install unrelated extensions if you aren’t careful enough to opt-out. Yes, I have been asked about “recommending” other extensions several times as well, and I was even asked whether I would sell the project when I declined.
I would be interested in knowing what you think about it: Is it a real threat? What can be done to prevent this scenario from happening? And maybe we can attract more developers while doing so?
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