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Earth to Google: You Might Not Want to Alienate Developers

  
  
  

iStock 000009570345XSmallGoogle stirred up a hornets nest with its App Engine developer community last week when it instituted a steep price hike.

The backlash was so hostile in fact, that it has Google back-pedaling and talking about possibly reassessing the hike. They would be wise to do so.

An article in Information Week indicated this isn't necessarily an over-reaction either as many developers will have their bills increase by a factor of 10-100 under the new pricing structure.

Joe Brockmeier writing on ReadWriteWeb reported that one developer who had been distributing PlusFeed, a service that provided feeds for Google + was shutting it down because his daily bill rose from $2.63 to $68.46 per day!

No wonder PlusFeed developer Richard Bettie was hopping mad and decided (using more colorful language than I am) that there was no way he was paying that kind of money. What's worse for many developers is that the price hike will double when a 50 percent initial discount expires on November 1st. (Beattie's total price hike reflects the discount expiration.)

He wasn't alone. As other developers learned the effect of the price hike on them, the reactions got sharper and more pronounced-- and why wouldn't they?

Google has taken the time nurture a developer community and then basically taken all of that good will and burned it in one startlingly swift move. These are the folks who provide the value-added services to the services you have created. You probably want to keep them in your good graces instead of alienating them in such brutal fashion.

Developers have to be feeling a bit used and abused as it is, what with HP so swiftly pulling the plug on its webOS hardware. I'm sure those developers who had invested time and money learning the platform and developing the applications were none to pleased to be treated so rudely by HP.

Apple hasn't been exactly warm and fuzzy to developers either, putting them through an approval process that sometimes leaves them and their investment dead in the water until Apple gets around to approving the App (or even worse rejecting it for whatever capricious reason it decides).

It's never easy for developers to walk away from a platform. You put time, effort and money into developing for a given platform. The income you earn has to make that effort worth it. By increasing the cost of participating in this fashion, Google may in fact make less money than it did under the old system because such deep developer anger could result in an exodus.

The initial anger could die down of course, but my guess is Google will take a careful look at this and back track. One thing it could certainly do to help ease the situation would be to make the 50 percent discount due to expire in November permanent.

But a better idea would be to roll back the prices with a more modest increase and put those developers back in its good graces. The last thing Google should be doing is finding ways to make developers so angry because it's only going to hurt Google in the long run.
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