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Making Freemium Work

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Making Freemium Work

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"I love writing authentication and authorization code." ~ No Developer Ever. Try Okta Instead.

Originally Written by Fred Sandsmark


When Dr. Dobb’s Journal debuted in 1975, it was the first and only publication dedicated to microcomputer software development. In the nearly four decades since then, countless publications covering that field have come and gone, but Dr. Dobb’s survives.

Among the reasons why: The creators of Dr. Dobb’s adapted their publishing model as technology and conditions changed. Consider: Dr. Dobb’s started as a free photocopied ‘zine (readers provided self-addressed, stamped envelopes for delivery), grew into glossy magazine, became a web-only publication, and now exists as a hybrid PDF/online presence. Through all this change – including multiple owners and editors – Dr. Dobb’s has retained its no-nonsense focus, high editorial integrity, and counterculture vibe.

The Dr. Dobb’s story illustrates some basic truths of business today: Change is inevitable, and adaptation is necessary to survive. The Internet and social media have changed – disrupted, really – many industries, including the software business. Many software vendors, both startups and established players, are responding by adopting a “freemium” model.

With freemium software and services, the vendor gives away (free) a subset of their product and charges money for added (premium) features or capacity. Free + premium = freemium. BIRT iHub F-Type is one example of freemium software; Dropbox and Skype are two others.

To make sense of this evolving landscape, our Actuate colleague Michael Williams has written a terrific editorial – published, appropriately enough, on the Dr. Dobb’s website – about freemium software. He traces the history of the freemium model back to 1980s shareware. (Dr. Dobb’s played a role in the shareware movement, naturally.) Williams also explores the genome shared by the freemium and open source models.

But Williams doesn’t just explain what freemium is; he also talks about how the freemium model works. And he takes a hard look at the value proposition that freemium software offers to both software vendors and their customers. For CIOs, one of the most important benefits is speed: A good freemium product, Williams says, enables IT teams “to deliver initial results quickly — a result that dovetails well with modern Agile development.”

Read Williams’ article here and share your thoughts. We want to hear about your experiences with freemium software and your thoughts on the freemium model.

"I love writing authentication and authorization code." ~ No Developer Ever. Try Okta Instead.


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