Image via CrunchBaseA while ago, I recommended SproutBuilder as a great way for college journalists to build interactive web apps for free. It reduced the heavy learning curve of Flash and allowed you to embed the Sprouts on your web site with minimal effort.Now, no more. From an e-mail I received this afternoon:
Over the last year Sprout has provided you with a free solution for creating interactive Flash content and widgets. Like many technology companies, we offered our service for free while we worked on our products, spoke with customers and developed our go-to-market strategy. Now that we have developed a solution worthy of creative professionals at the best agencies in the world, it is time for us to monetize. Starting in early February, we will begin charging for our service. We hope that you have found value from Sprout Builder and will continue to use our services.
First off, I hate it when people do the bait-and-switch – offer something for free then cut you off and demand payment for the same services.
And second, we find out that SproutBuilder was being a little disingenous with their pricing, according to a (probably soon to be changed) version of their FAQ:
3. Is there a cost? What if I want to try it out?
It is free. Here are the steps, if you want to try it out:
1. Click on the blank slate under “create a new project”. 2. Type in a “title”, “project description” and select the “canvas size” (size of the page). 3.Click on “create project”, which will take you to the “stage” to create your first sprout.
Of course, this is a lie. As they state in their new “pricing faq“:
Q. Why is Sprout deciding to charge for services now?
A. Sprout has always been very clear on our Web site that we will be charging for services in the future. In order for the company to continue to grow and evolve, we must begin charging for our services.
The pricing levels are ridiculously high ($13.95/mo. for a basic account [three projects] is more than I pay for hosting per month with 8 databases and more storage and bandwidth than they’re offering) – especially in this economic environment. Here’s more on the new pricing plan.
So I can no longer recommend SproutBuilder for college journalism outfits. Guess it’s time to go back to learning Flash, folks.
UPDATE: Way down at the bottom of the SproutBuilder pricing faq (via the @sproutbuilder twitter feed, which is – rightfully – getting hit with a major PR problem right now), there’s this small bit of porridge for the education/non-profit crowd:
Q. Is there special pricing for educators or non-profits?
A. Yes, please contact us at email@example.com for information on how educators, design students and non-profits can use Sprout Builder at a discounted rate. You will need to prove that you qualify.
Of course, they don’t say how much that discount is (another thing I hate – lack of transparency in pricing structures), so I still can’t recommend using the service.
(h/t Andrew Dunn via Twitter)