fragile future

Source: SPIE

In 2015 I got sad news, my favourite calendar app had been bought by Microsoft and shutdown. Why is this a problem? you can still use it right because you still have the program downloaded?

The answer was No.

Source: canvasstories
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During the 2010s, the world of tech shifted from programs to services. APIs are everywhere, you have multiply 3rd party facebook and twitter clients.

Source: chxrrypie
Source: MadeByShape

everyone had to have an email or a facebook, some other account because otherwise you couldn't use any of the "cool new" application being released seemly daily.

Source: tokayares

we all agreed, it made life very easy to connect and the web became so powerful but a shift in ownership happened as well.

We had accounts in their app but we didnt own the software

…but who cares it was free anyway.

the Subscription model


People started ditching their assets,

CD, photo albums,

dvds and

most importantly


Source: Pusheen

The Adobe Create Cloud launched in 2013 it required

Source: Chy Girl Boutique_

monthly fee

an adobe account

Source: HapaKristin
Source: mychelromance

Many artists hated the new system and refused to use any Photoshop past CS6.

The people that did switch have now been trapped in a cycle of forced updates and monthly payments.

10 years of paying $20 a month totals $2400 but with no assets gained once they stop paying. If you don't use absolutely every new feature, It's a dead investment. If you could pay the normal photoshop price (around $600); you could have owned 4 photoshops for the same price which is basically every other year and evaluated each release for features you actually wanted, you would also have an asset after each purchase with re-sellable value.

Selling access is not inherently bad but it has a heavy impact on users evaluation of service. Canceling your Photoshop subscription removes access to photoshop so the application isn't required to earn an upgrade like in the above example, this means if photoshop didn't release any new features for a year; you have no option but continuing to pay or loss access to all features.

Canceling Netflix is not just losing new shows, its losing access to all the shows you have already liked and watched. You don't have the option to rewatch Star Trek TNG for a month to save money, instead of buying Star Trek Discovery, you have to pay for both.

if you think about each dollar you spend, those dollars are divided between all shows in the system, its basically UBI lol. so instead of paying a large amount to the company and show runner you like, you are giving a smaller amount to that same company but also all the other companies you don't like the content of. This breaks the reward feedback loop in another way as well.


There is plenty of "free" accounts out their though! just use free services you might say. Even free account have their own issue because they lock you in the more you use them.

If we look at Figma, a design program similar to adobe's illustrator, I have used for many years. My design files are linked to my account and they are all stored on their server.

I have hundreds of files that would require migration to stop using Figma and I dont even pay for Figma. This poses an issue in fairness because if another app came along; It not only would need to have the same features as Figma OR more targeted features to my needed but it also needs be worth the time cost of migrating my Figma locked, Figma branded .fig files.

To Recap:

subscriptions for access don't foster product advancement

No assets are accrued while subscribed

subscriptions for access subsidies unwanted features

subscriptions break the reward feedback loop for making something people want.

account migration costs adds higher requirements to competing programs

Source: Molly Jacques
Source: Shopee
Source: Mat Voyce
Source: Shallow Lagoon
Source: Your One and Only
Source: tenkdraws
Source: Specks of Dust
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Source: November Five
Source: rcktcom
Source: Figma


My issue with this system is APIs don't live forever and they certainly don't stay the same for forever so all these apps that connect to external APIs are fragile and will slowly break. Slowly is probably pretty generous the API, because the most apps have a API health check so if the version doesn't match they just wont open. So as little as one month could have an app become inoperable regardless of the feature you would like to use.

All apps break as operating systems update but they can be frozen if you choose. Take winamp for example, you can use it on windows XP or windows 11 but the same can't be said of adobe creative cloud, Spotify, figma or most API connected subscription apps.

We can go back 25 years and use those programs but we can't go back 10 years and use those programs.

That's not how I want to build software going forward.

Source: Squishiverse
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