November 18, 2015

On Pro versions and Free versions

Just yesterday, Pushbullet announced Pushbullet Pro, a paid offering to complement the existing free service offered by the company.

As a fellow startup, I understand the need to turn a profit in the face of ever increasing usage, but as the vitriol on Pushbullet’s official subreddit shows, their users haven’t quite taken to the idea:

What went wrong?

In structuring their pro plan, the pushbullet team placed several free features behind a paywall. As Chana Joffe-Walt discusses in The Cost Of Free Doughnuts: 70 Years Of Regret, consumers can’t stand the thought of paying for something that was once free.

The second sticking point was a matter of relative pricing. The perceived value of Pushbullet’s offering paled in comparison to cloud services at a similar price point. How could users possibly stomach $4/mo when for roughly the same cost, they could obtain the full Microsoft Office suite ($6.99/mo)?

Lastly, the pricing model reflects payment for all aspects of Pushbullet, whereas by their own admission, users tend to have varied use cases. I personally use the SMS and API features. My wife uses the SMS functionality exclusively. Still others use just Universal Copy & Paste, or notification mirroring.

Especially for B2C applications, paying for an entire set of features, in such a manner fostered the feeling of having paid extra for no reason.

Combined, these three factors left a bitter taste in their early adopters’ mouths. Their new pricing takes effect December 1st, 2015, so we shall see what changes are made between now and then.

Re: NodeBB & Pushbullet

NodeBB offers a third party plugin integration with Pushbullet to offer push notifications to your NodeBB forum. While this aspect of Pushbullet is still free, I can certainly understand why users may feel differently about installing the app now.

The plugin will remain free as the license dictates, and as the functionality used by the plugin is still free, no changes are necessary.


NodeBB will always remain free and open-source. There are no plans to privatise the source code, and even doing so would require the sign-off of every single contributor to our codebase, of which there have been many.

Occasionally, interested users will approach us and wonder why we charge for NodeBB, when the software is free. The reasoning behind this is the same as it has always been:

Our hosting service is a managed service, allowing you to focus your time and energy towards building your product, instead of maintaining your forum software. Think of the NodeBB team as your personal development team, customising your forum to match your vision.

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