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I've been a Setapp user since its inception in 2017. I was drawn to its branding of "The Netflix of Mac apps," since it meant having multiple apps under one subscription. And while it's nice to have access to all the apps that come with it, I quickly realized that this model introduces a new form of platform risk.
Disappointment, regret, and switching costs
You know that feeling when Netflix takes down your favorite show? That's what Setapp is like, but for apps. You discover an app, you start using it, you become dependent on it, and then, before you know it, it's gone.
Having stuck around Setapp long enough, I've seen a number of apps come and go from the platform. You get exposed to a lot of apps, and it's great exposure for them as well.
I'm not sure how their contracts work, but my guess is that they have some sort of exclusivity for certain plans—because some apps are exclusively on Setapp, and others aren't.
Setapp is usually good about replacing the lost app with one that has similar functionality, but there are still switching costs involved, and that new app may or may not be better than the last one.
That's why I find myself using the apps that introduce the least amount of platform risk.
The better way to use Setapp
I'll give you an example—I really like Craft. From its UX to its stance on privacy and data protection, it's a great product. However, I'm afraid that I'll move all my docs into it, and one day—like other apps I've seen—it'll be gone.
If I use Forklift, for example, which is an FTP client, and it's gone tomorrow, not a big deal. I can easily jump to another FTP client and keep my switching costs low.
But with something like Craft, where I'll be not only using notes for myself, but also inviting collaborators and creating templates and proposals and wikis and things that are meant to last a long time, it's hard for me to commit because I don't know the details of the contract between Setapp and Craft.
I don't need to know all the details of the contracts, but my use of Setapp has become more of a discoverability platform rather than a true productivity suite. It'd be nice we could at least get a minimum guarantee. If I knew Craft was going to be on Setapp for at least 5 years, for example, then maybe it's worth the switching costs.
The question then becomes: Is the subscription worth it? That's up to you.
Either way, I've learned to be more cautious when using a new app that makes its way into the bundle. Even if it's useful, I immediately find myself looking for alternatives that could work if the app is gone from Setapp tomorrow.
Having learned the hard way with multiple apps, I recommend you do the same.
If you have thoughts on this piece, I’d love to hear them.