Note-taking app Notability has announced that it will move from a single paid app to a freemium model on November 1, with the current one-time fee of $ 9.99 moving to an annual subscription of $ 14.99. Users who do not wish to pay for the subscription will be able to use the app for free, but with a limited Notes edition and reduced feature set.
Controversially, Notability said in its subscription terms that when the new model goes into effect, users who previously purchased the app will lose all functionality unless they pay for the subscription. Following customer feedback, discounts from rival apps and the disclosure that this policy violated Apple’s App Store guidelines, Notability updated its terms to allow users who previously purchased the app to continue to have access to existing features they paid for.
While Notability’s cycle of controversy may be over, the backlash they’ve received is emblematic of greater frustration with the takeover of the Software as a Service (SaaS) model and content. ‘subscription. Specifically, the rise of SaaS and streaming services over perpetual licenses and media ownership of the past has created a digital ‘ownerless society’, where users can consume software or media at great prices. cheaper, but will have no control over said software. and media. Photoshop, for example, introduced a subscription model in 2012 that users followed. But what if they decide to increase the price or release an update that users hate? With the SaaS model, users would still be forced to pay for their software. Previously, users who purchased a software license could keep the app they purchased without having to worry about issues like these. The SaaS model thus gives more power to companies as users now only have access to a product, rather than owning it.
The rise of the SaaS model in key industries such as digital media has greatly contributed to the ownerless society we know today. Previously, when the predominant form of music consumption consisted of purchases such as CDs and MP3s, listeners could own a copy of the medium they paid for. Part of this property meant that the listener could have the perpetual right to listen to their music and carry their song library anywhere, two key features that are not available to users who subscribe to listen to music. the music. With the current use of streaming services, listeners can access music, but cannot own it. In day-to-day circumstances, these omissions probably aren’t something users are worried about. However, there are enough situations that illustrate why being in an ownerless company has its drawbacks.
Take the example of musical disputes. In March 2021, Spotify and Kakao Entertainment, a major K-pop label and distributor, failed to renew a license agreement, which resulted in the complete removal of thousands of songs by many K-pop artists from Spotify. Eventually a new deal was signed, but hundreds of millions of K-pop listeners found themselves without their favorite artists for over a week, and many feared the separation would be permanent. Individual artists can also refuse their music to streaming services for any reason, as was the case for all of Taylor Swift and Jay-Z’s discographies and for “The Life of Pablo” by Kanye West on Spotify. . In the event that tired users want to switch platforms, they are not allowed to easily transfer their music library, unlike MP3 listeners of the past. None of these problems would have affected music listeners if they had purchased copies of their favorite albums; However, the inexpensive cost of a streaming subscription and the convenience of having an on-demand library are huge advantages that have attracted hundreds of millions of users, so the ownerless company and its downsides are just a few. thing we all have to deal with.
Of course, people don’t have to own everything they consume. In today’s world, memberships and rentals are often the only options that make sense. Take a quarterly textbook rental, for example, or streaming services that allow convenient access to vast media libraries for a low price. Consumers should be able to make their own decisions between subscriptions or one-off purchases; However, as a society we have to make sure that the ownerless society that we are heading towards is something we really want. Are we comfortable being locked into the billing cycle of a streaming platform if we can’t guarantee that the show we love will still be available tomorrow? As we trade the ability to own our content for permission to access it for less, we are empowering big industries, like record labels and tech companies, to make decisions for us.
Johnny Nguyen is an opinion intern for the fall term 2021. He can be contacted at email@example.com.