from a google search while writing this

comments from 9to5 Mac

From Vesper's own release notes:

We three at Q Branch — Dave, John, and Brent — are greatly appreciative of everyone who has used and said good things about Vesper. We love this app. But the time has come to say goodbye. We thank you, sincerely, for your support and enthusiasm.

From Brent Simmon's blog here:

I loved working on Vesper. It was one of the great software-making experiences of my life. We’d get on a roll and it was wonderful.

And now it hurts to turn it off, but it’s time.

... and here...

The code is all Objective-C. It’s an iOS 6 app with just enough changes to keep it working on iOS 7 and beyond. It knows nothing about size classes, presentation controllers, and so on. Doesn’t even use auto layout. It’s not an example of how you’d write an app these days.

Belief inside Q Branch: if we had started with a Mac app rather than an iOS app, Vesper would have been much more successful. That wasn’t clear at the time we started, though (Dec. 2012).

... and from the same post as above, describing what comes next for Simmons...

This is the last app on the App Store where I wrote all (or almost all) of the code. Odds are excellent that there will never be another app written largely by me on any app store.
I’m working on new stuff from Ranchero Software. I had planned two apps, but I think it’s going to be just one, just because two takes too much time. So I picked the one I’m more passionate about.

It’s a Mac app...

And then that will be my app. The thing I work on for the next 10 or so years, until I retire. That’s the plan. (To be clear, though, I don’t plan to leave my day job, which I love.)

What happened?

  • "time to say goodbye"
  • "but it's time [to turn it off]"

These quotes aren't helpful.

  • "if we had started with a Mac app... Vesper would have been much more successful."

This might be useful. Sounds like the app wasn't making much money.

If it's a client-side only app, that's no big deal. It costs you very little (your Apple developer account cost) to keep something on the app store.

There are two problems with Vesper, however.

  1. They're syncing everything into their own cloud service.
    • This costs money every hour it's open.
    • Syncing images (size) can be a bear.
  2. The code isn't particularly easy to maintain.
    • See "It's an iOS 6 app... It knows nothing about size classes [etc]..."

The first means it's costing them money today (EDIT: Gruber adds that they were also paying licensing fees for the font. He's removed that portion from his post, but it was originally there). The second means it's going to cost them a disproportionate amount of time to improve the app tomorrow.

If today and tomorrow are overly expensive, it might be foldin' time.

Post Mortem Results?

Here's my guess at what happened.

  • They're stuck with a crappy codebase (we all write some)
  • Vesper has high server fees relative to new income
  • It's a poorly chosen app category where there's too much competition
  • Related to the previous: Nobody's buying
  • Most importantly: The app's not stellar. Great design, decent start, not yet stellar.

It's amazing to think that folks with the name recognition, at least in Apple circles, of Wiskus, Simmons, and Gruber could fail, but they did. To Gruber's credit, he didn't pimp Vesper much at all on The Talk Show or, iirc, Daring Fireball a few months after release. But he didn't do the app any favors with that restraint either. Wear your own shirt.

I heard that Gruber was using Vesper on his Mac in the iOS emulator. I think that tells you something pretty important right there.

I think you can also piece together from Simmons' final statements that he wasn't interested in writing a notes app for the Mac, and I'd guess that this provides the three a good escape narrative. "If we'd only made a Mac app..." I'd counter with, "If that's a good market, why not do it now?" And if the syncing code works well, it's done, man. You're 50% of the way to a notes app already (sync and much of your design is done)!

Again, I don't think Simmons is interested in writing a notes app for the Mac. But I think the real answer is that a great Mac notes app wouldn't have saved them, even if the coding time was zero.

Good, but not great

Vesper was good, but not great. It was, unfortunately, buggy. There were a number of times that I couldn't see and/or add images in one screen orientation. Sometimes cursors would jump around. Sometimes I couldn't enter text. It's a notes app. That's bad.

The idea -- the design -- of Vesper was great. It wasn't a great app. Mediocre apps, regardless of design, tend to fail if they're not maintained and improved. Vesper's had how many updates since 2013?

Revisiting The Marco Effect

I think the most important take home here is that The Marco Effect is greatly overestimated.

That is, if Marco's apps were no good, he probably wouldn't stay in business. Heck, if Marco's stuff was decent, even solid, it might not be worth making.

If Marco had the same reach as The Talk Show and Daring Fireball, picked the wrong app, and that app was only "okay", they wouldn't be worth his time.

Vesper shows me we don't give Marco enough credit. It also tells me app dev is a very tough gig.

A cynic might say that Wiskus-Gruber-Simmons simply didn't want to "stick it out" (certainly they could cover even server-side losses for a while), or that 33% of the cash from decent is much less than 100%, or that Overcast is a labor of love & doesn't make tons of cash either (actually, Overcast does quite well), but I still see Marco being undervalued here. His apps do better because of both (business speak alert!) product-market fit and quality.

Nice of them to let us dump our stuff before it disappears, natch. ;^)

Edit: Tell me what you really think

Ouch. The reviews have turned pretty nasty.

Customer Reviews

Oh well.

A good example of why subscription services are bad and why extremely expensive apps are bad. And this seems to be both. A $10 app for a service that is now closing and will be completely unusable. And if you haven't logged in for a while, you may have missed the closing notification and you'll be too late to recover important or invaluable data. I discovered this via Apps Gone Free. That's how I heard of it today and checked it out. Sad to see all of this.

About time you pulled the plug

Nice waste of money this app was. I bought it years ago based on the promises of one of the most opinionated, self promoting guys on the Internet. Turns out John Gruber & pals were a lot of talk & very little action. This app was abandoned almost immediately after it was released. Let this be a warning to others not to bother with promises of snake oil like this in the future.

I agree with those who are unhappy. Thank Gawd I didn't have to pay.

There are several other note apps that are much better and have mush better functionality.
No way to add to an existing note. No way to unarchive a note, and the list goes on of deficiencies.
Sync is discontinued.
Pull the plug, call it a day.

Edit #2: Gruber weighs in, a little

Must've missed it yesterday, or it came in later than I catch up on RSS, but Gruber says he's going to do his own postmortem in a bit:

I’m working on a postmortem — or maybe more of a eulogy — but for now, I can’t express my feelings any better than those two short paragraphs from Brent.

Will be interesting to see how candid he is. I'd like Jared Sinclair, Marco Arment-level candidness, but I'll guess we'll take what we get.

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