There was a bit of a backlash the other day when I launched the beta testing of 2.0, as I tied beta testing directly to supporting my new Patreon. Turns out, someone (me) didn’t think to read the fine print around TestFlight, and it turns out you can’t “sell” invites. Anyway, had to scratch that idea quickly.
It brought up a lot of comments though about ways people would like to help further development of the iOS app in a financial sense. It also, sadly, brought up some anger about my move to generate personal income from a open source project. People had suggestions such as charging for the app instead of giving it away for free or putting features behind subscriptions and all kinds of other ideas. I considered all of it, and in consultation with friends and Paulus, have come up with the solution I am moving forward with, at least for now:
- The Patreon will continue as is. The benefits to backing the Patreon will be providing feedback on the future direction of the iOS app, sneak peeks on upcoming features and priority bug fixes. I also have some other plans in the near term that I plan to announce soon.
- A tip jar will be added to the app. This will offer 7 options, all using Apple’s in app purchase (all amounts will be translated to local currencies as needed, all amounts subject to change before or after launch of 2.0):
- Recurring tips:
- A monthly tip of $0.99
- A yearly tip of $4.99
- One time tips
- Recurring tips:
- The iOS app will continue to remain 100% free, both in cost and in source. It has never even crossed my mind to do anything else. (Not that this was ever announced or hinted at, I just wanted to make it crystal clear.)
- Beta access will continue to remain open to all (you can join the 2.0 beta here)
I wanted to take a moment to address the two ideas I heard most over the last few days:
- Why not charge for the app?
- The app has seen over 100,000 downloads since it first launched (have I mentioned recently how thankful I am for all your support since then? No? Thanks!)
- Apple does allow changing a free app to a paid app, but won’t retroactively charge owners (obviously)
- Therefore, I would only be charging future buyers.
- This seems pretty unfair in my mind. 100,000 people got in for free and suddenly the app is no longer free for anyone discovering Home Assistant tomorrow.
- Finally, Home Assistant aims to make privacy focused home automation available to every person in every country in the world, regardless of income.
- Why not put some features behind a subscription, such as Siri Shortcuts and the Apple Watch app?
- First of all, Apple doesn’t allow charging just for access to iOS features (3.2.2 ii) such as Siri Shortcuts and a Watch app. Most recently and famously, Apollo for Reddit was bit by this and eventually Apple removed the app from the store until Christian added some simple things like custom App Icons. I’d need to add similar simple features to the app to bundle with the subscription. Not the biggest hurdle to get over, but still a hurdle.
- Secondly, there is a conflict with the Open Source Software model. If someone came along and contributed an improvement to one of the features of the app behind the subscription, it would be pretty unfair for me to make money off of their work. Yes, I have been the primary developer of the iOS app for a while now and contributors are few and far between (always happy to have more!) so this may not be an issue now but it could be someday, and it’s a sticky one that I don’t want to have to deal with. (Technically this applies to the first idea too.)
- Finally, it sets a bad precedent for other apps, whether mobile or not, in the Home Assistant ecosystem. We don’t have a problem with someone looking to make money, but would have a problem with them making money on others direct contributions to a project.
Finally, a little bit about why I wanted to figure out some way to allow users to financially contribute to the iOS app. Long story short, my entire professional life has been building startups whether they are reshaping the media landscape, helping to improve your health and digital wellbeing, teaching programming to an underrepresented group in Silicon Valley or connecting college kids and professors in a new and unique way. It’s been my passion, and it still is. But honestly, I’m tired of the 24/7/365 hustle and need a break for a bit. Home Assistant has been a passion project of mine for years and I’ve helped out as much as I could while fitting it in around my startups but now it’s time for me to dedicate a lot more than squeeze time on Home Assistant. My goal is to be able to spend the vast majority of 2019 recharging my mental batteries and spending all my time on Home Assistant, whether the iOS app or work on the core or building new components and integrations or designing new and maintaining existing infrastructure services. The iOS app is the largest part of my plate at the moment, but there is always more to do all around Home Assistant. It’s also probably the largest impact i’ve had and will continue to have on the community.
So, that’s the direction I am heading in for now. I hope you understand where I’m coming from on this. If you have questions, feel free to reply to me here or privately elsewhere and I’ll do my best to answer them. I’ve collected some general questions I and others thought up and answered them below.
Thanks again for reading and your unwavering support over the last few years.
Q: Don’t Apple and Patreon take sizeable cuts of whatever I donate (30% and 5%, respectively) or I don’t want to use Apple or Patreon to support you?
A: Apple and Patreon are the easiest ways for me to accept tips/donations/contributions/whatever right now, from a technical and legal sense. I don’t want to spread out over 3 or 4 different payment platforms and have to deal with the banking and tax headaches that would bring.
Q: I don’t want to contribute financially. How else can I help?
A: I totally understand that not everyone has the resources to contribute to or necessarily want to contribute to a open source project like this. No problem. Here’s a few ways that would help me out greatly:
- Leaving a awesome 5 star review on the App Store. Awesome reviews get me more visibility which means more users and the likelihood of eventually getting perks with Apple such as priority bug fixes or new features in iOS, as well as the possibility of being featured on the App Store. It also brings attention to Home Assistant itself which is always much appreciated.
- Help out on Discord in the iOS support room with users that need it. Even if you don’t always know the answer, nine times out of ten I bet you can point someone in the right direction. Same goes for the forums.
- Help triage issues on GitHub. That means that when someone opens a issue, confirming that it works and isn’t a user specific issue as well as providing me as much detail as possible.
- If your primary language is not English, help translate any part of Home Assistant into your native language!
- In general, being the best citizen of the Home Assistant community that you can be. That means helping out on Discord or in the forums, even if its not iOS related. It can also mean assisting with issue triage on the main repository, reviewing pull requests (whether code or documentation), being active on our subreddit and /r/homeautomation, telling your friends about Home Assistant, and the list goes on and on.