Friday, December 17, 2010

Flattr: Great idea, except for the greed

A while ago, I heard of a website that let you choose things you can donate to and then distribute your donations between them. I was psyched! It sounded almost too good to be true. I forgot the name and wasn't able to remember it until recently when I heard it was mentioned: Flattr.

Flattr is a website for "social micropayments." Essentially, you choose a monthly donation amount, then choose things to "flattr", which get the money split between them. It's quite a good idea, and welcomed, I think, by the software developers of the world. I think Flattr will do well for several reasons:

1. The idea is solid
Very few people donate to freeware simply because (I think) they don't want to throw alot of money, and they can't choose. Flattr is great because you can choose the amount, and you can also choose a ton of free things you enjoy, making it more social, almost like the "Like" function of Facebook. This also helps creators get the word out on their products because, come on, Paypal is great, but most people pass it by.

2. Look & Feel
Flattr's got the looks down. I have noticed increasingly that websites that look good have a much higher chance of success, and Flattr's got that. Plus, it has the catchy, 'clever' name, and a good way to get the word out with "Flattr this" buttons. Overall, it just looks like a winner.

3. Good foundation
Flattr was started by Peter Sunde, one of the creators of The Pirate Bay. That alone would make many people join Flattr just to support him.

Like I said, for those reasons, I think Flattr will do well. However, there is one huge, gaping flaw in Flattr that I see.

Flattr takes 10% of every transaction.
This is absurd, and frankly insulting. The whole concept behind Flattr is the user being able to choose what to give money to and how much. Flattr could have had an extremely cool business model: solely on donations. It could encourage users to Flattr Flattr, and honestly, if people are going to give money to things, who is not going to include the website that makes that possible? But no, instead, Sunde and Co decided to take that choice from the user and institute a flat 10% rate. And it's not even the flat rate. It's the insultingly high 10%. Even 5% would be pushing it, in my opinion. If you're not going to rely on a community who is obviously interested in giving money to those who deserve it, at least make it reasonable. The owners of Flattr should be aimed at giving the most to the developers as possible while taking just enough for themselves, not trying to get filthy stinking rich, which I believe Sunde will do if he keeps the 10%. Overall, I'm just very disappointed in this part of Flattr.

So here are the few things I think Flattr seriously needs to change:
1. Switch to a a Flattr flattr instead of 10%
Honestly, it's not even that they're making money off people. It's that they're doing it without asking. I think they might actually make even more from being flattred.

2. Localize
I understand that it's based in Sweden and that's fine, but they really need to localize, meaning that the user can select their currency and only see entries for their language.

3.Get a hold of the reins and clean up the interface
If you go to Flattr, it is a complete mess, partially from what I mentioned above, lack of localization, but also because anyone can add anything to it. Now I know that Flattr's supposed to be free and open, but there's got to be some rules for what can be added, and right now, it seems like there are none.
But I think this problem mostly springs from Flattr's layout. True, I said it looked good, and it does, but the layout is atrocious. Instead of Flattring a website, like "Diary of an Aspiring Nerd", you can also Flattr individual posts. I've seen individual Wiki articles. Which is ok, don't get me wrong, because then you can see what individual blog posts have been flattred alot recently, giving a clue of a good read. But I believe they should organize it more, so websites come up in searches and then you can expand posts underneath.

That's mostly it. For now, don't expect to see Flattr buttons on this blog, but I may throw a few up on FreewareWire, especally if I can ever release PEM 1.0, if I could get some help with it. But besides, that, I think I'm going to steer clear of Flattr for a while.
PS - I'm not going to lie, I really wish I could make a Flattr-ish website solely for software freeware developers. I think it wouldn't be that hard to get started, all I'd need is support from a big name like Mozilla or some such, and then the rest would follow. But alas, I know nothing about coding websites. Sigh.

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