One Add-on Developer's Perspective on Contributions

Recently there was a post on on the Mozilla Add-ons Blog about Contributions. While that information was interesting, what I’d much rather see is individual developers talking about their experiences with Contributions. Hopefully my post will start a trend. (For those who don’t know, Contributions is a way for people to donate to the developers of Firefox Add-ons.)

When Contributions was first made available, the mechanism was flawed. You were asking a user to contribute when first downloading an add-on (which is unlikely since they haven’t actually tried the add-on), or somehow expecting the user to make it back to the add-on page to do the contribution (which is again unlikely since most users never go back to the add-on page since updates are handled through Firefox.). The AMO team tried to remedy this problem by creating a first run page, but this has the same problem – a user isn’t likely to contribute money at first run because they haven’t actually tried the add-on yet. But the existence of this page allows us to take advantage of displaying a request at a much better point than download or first run – upgrade.

Presenting a contribution page after an upgrade is a much more logical scenario, since your users have probably had your add-on installed for a while. I chose to use this method with the Operator add-on.

We need some numbers to put this post in context. As of today, Operator has about 160,000 downloads with around 14 to 15 thousand active daily users. (I’ve made my dashboard public so people can see these numbers.) That means I’ve had about a 10% download to user conversion rate.

As a side note, this 10% number seems to be pretty common. If you look on the AMO page today, you’ll see 1,624,545,716 downloads, 170,724,304 users. This works out to about 10%. I’ve actually seen this number with other companies and add-ons as well. It would be interesting to see if other people see this trend as well.

I released an update to my add-on on October 12, 2009. This update contained a first run page that would be seen by all users including upgrades. This page is hosted on my website so I can easily track page views. From October 12, 2009 to October 19 ,2009 (1 week), that page has received 11,469 hits from which we can reasonably conclude that there were at least 11,000 upgrades, which is a considerable amount of my users.

I set my contribution amount at 5 dollars before I released the update. During that week I received 8 contributions of 5 dollars.

So to summarize, 1 week, 11,000 upgrades and views of the contributions page, 8 contributions. That works out to about a 0.07% conversion rate. I don’t know much about advertising or these types of things in general, but my understanding is that ad conversion rates typically run anywhere from 1% to 4%, so this is extremely low.

I certainly don’t have any complaints about this scenario – I’m not trying to earn a living from Operator, and any funds I receive are just extra. But I was surprised at how low it was. I pictured Operator as kind of a “”niche” add-on so I thought more people would be interested in supporting it.

Some other random observations:

  • I put a picture of my family on the developer page per a recommendation early on. No idea if this influenced folks.
  • More granular data from the AMO folks would be useful – in particular from which page (AMO vs. first run) contributions came from.
  • I believe these numbers would be even lower if I had my developer profile as “Kaply Consulting.” I believe people are far less likely to donate to a company vs. an individual.

Any other add-on authors interested in sharing their experience?

Do you want to leverage Firefox add-ons to grow your business? Kaply Consulting can help.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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3 thoughts on “One Add-on Developer's Perspective on Contributions

  1. Hi Mike

    Interesting post. I remember when contributions first came out thinking exactly this, that donate up front or straight after installation is not going to work too well.

    In terms of figures for my addon, I have 2,747,469 downloads, with 290,286 active daily users, so yes 10% seems to be the norm. At the start I was getting a few donations (I set the price low at $0.99, like the app store difficult to know what is an appropriate figure), but has dried up now. AMO cycle their recommended addons, and I do not think it coincidence that donations stopped after my addon was taken off this last last month – goes to show how powerful this recommended list can be not just in exposure, but contributions as well it would seem.

    One area I do think would benefit from a contribute button is in the addons dialog within firefox – I quite often go in there to clean it out/remind what addons I have, and of course it shows when updates are available, so by having a contribution button in there users might be more inclined to donate to their most used/useful addons.

    Another suggestion I have seen elsewhere is a premium AMO where users pay for addons up front, but this does not appeal to me as a ‘part time’ developer as users paying for an addon are not unreasonably going to expect better support/maintenance/updates etc with pay for addons, something I cannot garuantee.

    There are clearly users out there that are willing and kind enough to contribute, we just need a bit more imagintive thought from Mozilla on how they can hook us up with them – a vibrant and sustainable AMO ecosystem benefits us all.

    However having said all of the above, contributions are not what motivates me to develop for firefox, it is just nice to have users thank you for your efforts in this way.

    Cheers, tones

  2. Mike:

    What your data suggests is that the Contribution program performs about as well as an ad campaign. At $40 for 11,000 impressions means you could have sold an ad on the page for $3.63 and netted the same amount. Given your audience, you could probably command this “premium” price and you definitely outperformed the $0.25 CPM ad networks pay.

    From an ad performance standpoint, click-through rates (CTR) continue to drop. A CTR of 0.5% is decent which means 55 people would click through and you converted 15%. Not bad if you’re looking at it from an advertising perspective. Not good if you’re looking to get more than a gracious thank you from those 8 people.

    For developers looking to leverage the Firefox ecosystem to build a business, Contributions doesn’t appear to make a material difference for those opportunities.