Seruku Toolbar: Version 1.1 is Doing Okay.

by William Grosso

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Last year, around February or so of 2003, I decided to build Seruku Toolbar as a shareware application (I don't mention it very often because, well, promoting personal products is not what this weblog is supposed to be about). The exact reasons why I built it are a little hazy these days, but they were a combination of:

  1. Wanting to experience the entire software development life cycle from inital design to shipping and supporting.
  2. Wanting to build a small test case to see if there is a market for personal (consumer) search tools.
  3. Wanting to get some hands on experience in thinking about marketing (even if it's something as small in scope as shareware marketing. Trying to figure out how to market your product is an interesting challenge for an engineer).
  4. Wanting to see if the shareware market, in general, really exists.
  5. Really really really needing the product.

Seruku Toolbar itself is fairly simple: it records every web page you visit in a nicely indexed data store. So you can do keyword and time-based searches against your web-browser's history. My memory for things like urls has never been very good and I often run into situations where I want to find a page I saw last week (and just can't). So I find the toolbar enormously useful.

And I bet what, in retrospect, seems like a ridiculous amount of time and energy building it on the premise that other people would find it useful as well.

For the curious: some aspects of the design and implementation are covered in my talk on Native
Compilation and Java

Anyway, the point is: version 1.0 was released last November. It had a few thousand downloads, and some fairly positive reviews. But the sales figures... well, let's just say that the engineering was better than the marketing.

In early May, version 1.1 came out. It's a souped up version of 1.0 with the 10 or so most commonly requested new features thrown in.

On May 13, Seruku Toolbar got mentioned in WinXPNews. Which might seem like small beans to most people reading this but is actually huge-- it's a newsletter that has tens of thousands of readers.

And today it was a Windows XP Shareware Pick of the Week

I don't have a lot of conclusions yet (maybe-- "shareware is harder than it looks"?), but building out Seruku has been a blast.

Got a favorite shareware product?