Several months ago, we started testing two unique revenue models to help us keep Digsby free and ad-free for all our users. We posted a lengthy blog post describing the changes but we want to reiterate some of that information again and share some changes that we will be making in a release later today.
Now that some time has passed since we first implemented these changes, we would also like to take this opportunity to get feedback from our community of users about these revenue models and where we should go from here.
First, we introduced a new installer that shows you several offers during the installation process for other products such as the Yahoo Toolbar and a desktop weather application. The reason we decided to test this revenue model is because we believe it is better to show you ads once during the installation process than to plaster banner ads all over the product like other IM clients have done (ie: AIM, MSN, Yahoo, ICQ). We want to do our best to keep Digsby free and ad-free and this is one way we are able to do so.
All the offers shown to you during installation are 100% optional. You don’t have to install any of the products advertised in the installer and none of them will be downloaded or installed to your computer if you choose not to install them. For each offer, there is an “Accept” and a “Decline” button.
There is more information about the installer in the original blog post.
The second revenue model we started testing is a Grid Computing Module. There is a lengthy explanation of what grid computing is and how this module works in the original blog post but the basic idea is that Digsby uses some of your computer’s unused CPU power while your computer is completely idle to do computation research for large scale projects that require thousands of computers to complete.
The module turns on after your computer has been completely idle for 5 minutes (no mouse or keyboard movement). It then turns off the instant you move your mouse or the press a key on the keyboard. We did this so it would have absolutely no effect on your computer’s performance and only uses processing power while your computer is not being used. It also runs as a “low priority” process so if any application on your computer asks for CPU power it will always get it before the research module gets it. On laptops, it uses a much smaller portion of your CPUs overall processing power than it does on desktops. It will also never turn on if your laptop is running on battery power.
Just like the installer, we have made this module 100% optional. You can disable it in the main menu by going to “Help > Support Digsby” and disabling the “Help Digsby Conduct Research” option.
Lack of Information
While the installer is quite obvious since you use it to install Digsby, the Research Module is not obvious to new users. An article describing these revenue models was published yesterday on LifeHacker and most of the people commenting on the article did not know about it since they don’t follow our blog and don’t read the Terms of Service shown in the installer.
We are pushing out a release later today that will include the following changes:
- We are moving the entire “Support Digsby” section out of the “Help” menu and into the preferences window so the option to enable/disable the research module is easier to find
- Digsby will show a popup notification telling you about the module with a “Learn More” button which links to a page describing it in detail including instructions for how to enable/disable it. The popup will be “sticky” so it will not disappear until you click “Learn More” or “Close” to ensure that users don’t accidentally miss it.
We want to make it completely clear to all users so Digsby is not doing anything you don’t want it to do. The above changes have been on our to do list but the article really opened our eyes about how few people know about this functionality. Our goal is to create the world’s best IM client and social media tool. The only way to accomplish that goal is with transparency and communication so we can keep working with you to make a better product.
We are still a young company that is trying to figure out our long term revenue models. At the end of the day, we need to keep the lights on and pay salaries so we can keep making Digsby even better by bringing new features (and products, ie: mac/linux) to market. The reason we decided to test these two revenue models is because they would allow us to accomplish this while keeping Digsby free and ad-free.
The more traditional path to take is to place small unintrusive ads in Digsby and offer an ad-free version for a modest price. While we felt that experimenting with unique revenue models that keep the product ad-free was the better path to take, that might not be how all of you feel.
We would like to take this opportunity to get feedback from all of you about which you would prefer.
Option 1: Continue to show multiple offers in the installer along with the research module
Option 2: Show just one toolbar offer in the installer like other IM clients do and place small unintrusive ads in the product with an ad-free pro version available for a modest price
Option 3: Other – let the creativity flow!