In this new age of social computing, everyone, it seems, wants to create a “community.” They exist for developers, software architects, IT guys and more. There’s a home for everyone, and more than one for most.
Into this crowded landscape comes SoftCity, which launched in April what it calls a “social commerce community” where developers and software users can communicate, share ideas, and benefit from each other’s knowledge—and buy and sell applications.
The site, www.softcity.com, actually has two sections. One is a marketplace, where developers “have a secure, friendly place to sell software,” according to SoftCity director of business development Wade Goodman. Potential customers can take advantage of “try and buy” options and read reviews from other customers.
The second section is a virtual café, “where the community takes place,” Goodman said. There are articles on software, and areas where users can ask questions of experts and post their own comments.
Goodman said the site was written from scratch, because a “SoftDollars” reward program required that site managers be able to track customers and their usage.
“We want to be much more than a download site,” Goodman explained. “There are no ads, it’s real clean visually, and completely free for developers.”
This is a unique approach to the “app store,” which normally just provides downloads. The purchasers get no documentation, nor the opportunity to speak with other purchasers of that application or the developer himself. As for the developer, he gets direct feedback from users and potential users about his application, and perhaps even the germ of an idea for a different application.
Goodman said there are about 75 or 80 developers involved in the marketplace, with about 200 products available in the store. He did not have figures on membership on the “café” side. Non-members can read comments in the café, but only members can add content, such as reviews and discussions.
The marketplace is free for developers, who get about 50% to 75% of the revenue from software sold. Depending on the developer’s status, he would be provided with a storefront on the SoftCity site for his products. Also, tools are available for the developer to cross-promote his software with complementary products from other sellers, Goodman said.
While SoftCity is not a specialized environment, Goodman said, the focus to this point has been on general-use Windows applications. Surprisingly, there have been only a few games put up for sale. “That’s an area we thought would take off early, but it hasn’t,” he acknowledged. “But Windows ISVs are showing up with system tools and resources, and music and photo things.”
So, as other app stores try to find success with platform-specific applications—see Salesforce or the iPhone AppStore—SoftCity is creating a new social marketplace where developers and end users can put their heads together about software. Feedback has always been a critical part of software updates and future development plans, so bringing it together in one location seems like a win for users and a win for developers.
David Rubinstein is editor-in-chief of SD Times.