The Synergy Story So Far

Sunday, November 11, 2018
Nick Bolton
Nick Bolton
Founder CEO & Interim-CTO of Symless (Synergy team)

I recently received some feedback from a LinusTechTips forum user about our pricing.

[...] making people pay for a program that is open source, and based on another open source program written by people who do not work for your company, leaves a bad taste in my mouth. I understand that you need to make money, but it kind of goes against my general philosophy.

I really do appreciate feedback like this. But I can't help feeling that people generally don't know the full story about Synergy. That's my fault, I've been delaying the About webpage for months now. But I do plan on reintroducing this, with a timeline infographic and everything!

So, the story so far...

I've been working on Synergy for the last 10 years, and actually, in the first 3 years I was doing so for free, working from my bedroom surviving on next to nothing; just coding for the fun of it really. For years I was struggling to make the progress I wanted to because I was the only person working on the project. Though I was making improvements, and people were happy to see this (including Chris Schoeneman, the original author), there's only so much one person can do.

So, I decided to hire my first software developer to help me make faster progress. However, to pay his salary I had to start taking donations. Then, I realised that it would take me years to train this person, so progress wasn't quite as fast as I'd expected. I realised that hiring more programmers meant the debt would soon start rolling in if we didn't somehow make more money. So I made the incredibly difficult decision to change the payment model from optional to non-optional (no more donations). It worked, we started making enough to run a proper development team. Sadly though, I started to receive angry death-threats about the new price; people were even reaching out to my family members to tell them I'm an evil person for doing this. It was a really tough time, but it made me a stronger person. In spite of this, I persisted to grow the development team, which required me to raise the sale price in order to pay their salaries.

Recently, however, with the Synergy 2 launch disaster, development has been set back significantly. I will persist, and I will keep releasing new versions despite the odds. We're currently working on a new major version of Synergy (as yet untitled) which will use Electron for the config app. Electron is a Node.js and React based UI framework, and there are some really great apps using Electron. For those of you who are worried about RAM, rest assured that the new Electron-based config app will only run for the initial configuration; it'll still be good old C++ running in the background. With the new major version, it could take us up to 2 years to create a stable release, as we've learnt our lesson and we're not rushing this time. However, an early alpha version may become available within the coming months. The new major version will focus on delivering outstanding UX (user experience) by not only having an intuitive interface, but it'll also include all of the features from Synergy 1 (with more planned). We're taking UX very seriously this time, by assembling a proper UX design team (no more "programmer art"). Oh, and it won't rely on an Internet connection either.

Over the next couple of years, while we grow our development team, we'll be releasing frequent bug fixes for Synergy 1 to support our existing users. Users who paid for early beta access or the Synergy 2 upgrade will receive the next major version free of charge (of course, the same goes for lifetime users who purchased or donated before November 2017). For users who will need to pay for the upgrade, we haven't decided an exact price yet, but it could be around $9.00 USD (don't hold me to that).

I hope that people can understand why we charge for access to our software; it drives development forward. We won't win every single bet, but we only need a few to be successful. Failure is an important part of our journey.

“The only real mistake is the one from which we learn nothing.” ― Henry Ford.

If you want to be part of the Synergy development team in the 2nd chapter of Symless, join us!

November 11, 2018
Nick Bolton
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