03 June 2011

Free App Options

We’ve heard from a few people who feel our charging $1.99 for the app is wrong in principle. From most of you, we hear that yes, it’s only $1.99, but the principle of charging any money when you, our users, are volunteering to provide content is unreasonable. Well, know that we’ve gone through that same argument ourselves.

First and foremost, $1.99 for the app is not making us any money. Forget about profit: it’s not even going to offset any startup costs. Charging $1.99 is not significantly helping us.

Before we released the app, we went back and forth on the idea of charging for the app. You’ve already hit on the reasons we had for making the app free. But our rationale for setting a price on it may not be what you’d expect. We’re concerned about ensuring you get the best content as fast as possible. In developing other apps before BillionGraves, we’ve learned that free apps get downloaded by the casual passerby—and often don’t end up being used, or end up being used improperly. With most apps, that isn’t much of an issue. But BillionGraves is a camera app, and the content gets uploaded to a site with a very specific purpose. To the casual passerby, who does not necessarily understand or have a particular passion for finding and preserving the names of the dead, it may seem fun to take pictures of a dog, the front lawn, a car, a dresser—the possibilities for inappropriate photos are endless. As you may have seen already, sometimes these types of photos end up coming to BillionGraves because of an honest mistake made by someone who is interested. Cemeteries, which require individual approval to ensure accuracy, can be added incorrectly. All this faulty input has to be managed, and to conserve resources and put them to better use, we need to mitigate the amount of faulty input. The more faulty input we get, the longer it takes to make good photos and cemeteries available, and the longer it takes to make the improvements and additions you’ve requested.

So that’s the problem we’re facing. Charging $1.99 was the solution we settled on. Our logic was that $2 is not enough to deter someone who is interested in the project (hopefully). It would probably cost you more to get a bottle of water at 7-11 to take with you to the cemetery than it would to buy the app. But $2 is enough to make casual passersby think twice before downloading. If they then chose to download, it would most likely be with a more honest intention to satisfy their curiosity by using the app the way it was meant to be used.

With the feedback we’ve gotten, it’s apparent that you’d like us to find another solution as well. The amount of the cost isn’t the issue: it’s the principle and we understand that. We’ve been brainstorming all day, trying to figure out a way for someone to prove honest interest and be rewarded with a way to download the app for free. But it’s difficult to find a solution that will work for both the iPhone and the Android. The capabilities and restrictions for the two stores are different. Nevertheless, we’ve settled on an option we’ll try, and we hope you’ll try it with us.

If you register on the BillionGraves.com website and send us an email through the “Contact Us” page using your registration email address, we’ll buy you the iPhone version of the app and give it to you. Then we have the guarantee that you’re at least somewhat interested and you get the app for free.

We’ll incur some costs in the process, but that’s okay right now. The trouble is, Android distributors don’t have quite the same options for gifting apps, so we’ll need to adapt the solution when the Android app comes out. We’ll try this method for the next two weeks, until June 17, at which point I’ll report back on how things are going and if we’ve found a good, more permanent solution. We’re actively looking to find a way to provide both the BillionGraves content and the means for gathering it for free while still maintaining speed and quality. For now, try this solution with us.