in Apps, iPhone

When an App is a victim of it’s own success

Firstly Windsock has been in the store for nearly three long years and was originally developed to work on iOS 5 which is an incredibly long time for an app! I worked hard building it so that I could save time finding the best location to fly my model plane from after work and originally developed it for myself.

I’ve often struggled to find reliable data that updates hourly until I found the amazing This is a paid-for 3rd party service used by Windsock behind the scenes to collate and compute data from over a dozen different sources to give you the most reliable data possible. I also use data from a number of other sources and these are merged and handled by Windsock’s server – the server the app talks to. However recent downtime and removal from the App Store has questioned it’s future…

Recent Downtime

Last week you probably noticed the app wasn’t refreshing. This was because one of’s sources had changed the file format of their cloud data and meant it couldn’t be read. Windsock’s server was expecting the returned data and so choked when it didn’t get it. Thank you to everyone who raised that the app wasn’t working. After intensive investigating I managed to debug the issue and raise it with who have fixed the issue their end too.

Now some of you might be thinking… Windsock doesn’t display cloud data. Good point! I’ve actually been working on putting extra weather data in the app but trying to do it in a way that doesn’t detract from the main user experience. When and if it’s ready I’ll release it as a major update.

Removal from the App Store

I decided to remove Windsock from the App Store after I realised my business model wasn’t working. My original thinking was that users didn’t want to pay monthly for premium weather data despite it costing me a small amount per refresh, per site. I know that from a business point of view that model wasn’t the best but many apps at the time were doing that. After reading research I saw indicating that most App users download an app, use it for a month and then usage tails off with a number of core users who use the app regularly I decided on a different model… Price with 6 months of typical usage included – typical being you’re average RC weekend flier and inactive users should balance out active users if all goes to plan. I know that from a business point of view that model is incredibly risky but many apps at the time were doing that and having wild success.

However it didn’t go to plan! Windsock was a much bigger success than I thought it would be. RC magazines reviewed it all over the world, model clubs started talking about it and people started using it nearly every day – particular professional RC drone photographers/fliers (which is awesome!) It did mean though my business plan was out of whack with what was actually happening and soon the cost of premium paid-for weather data started to out-weigh the money incoming making it a victim of it’s own success. As a developer who was freelancing at the time I’ve only just managed to cover operating costs and I never actually made enough money to cover development and so for the time being I’ve pulled it from the App Store. I’m still maintaining the server but not allowing new users at the moment. If you’ve previously purchased Windsock you can still download and use it though by going to App Store > Updates > Purchases.

The Future

I’d still very much like to keep developing Windsock and bring it back to the App Store. Many people have emailed me saying how useful they’ve found it and how for the pros, it’s now part of their workflow now. However for the next version I need to change the business model to make it support itself. That will mean switching to an in-app purchase non-renewal subscription model where users buy premium data access per month or season. However I intend to offer richer data and develop a fully optimised experience for iPad, iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus. I do fully appreciate the support behind the community of Windsock users and will be looking at the possibility of grandfathering in existing users with 6 month or so free usage. Thank you for your support so far. Keep watch!

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