Bookmarklet As App Store Paid App

On January 26, 2010

Vais Salikhov wrote to tell me about Find In Page, his newly available $0.99 app. The app isn’t. Instead, it’s a Mobile Safari bookmarklet. Confused? Allow me to explain:

Mobile Safari, like any modern browser, supports bookmarklets. Bookmarklets are compact blurbs of JavaScript saved as a bookmark. When you navigate to a JavaScript bookmark the browser simply executes the JavaScript in the current page.

So, instead of writing a complete Safari replacement to add the missing Find In Page capability, you write JavaScript to take the search term and then find it in the page. Add that JavaScript as a bookmark and you’re all set.

Vais’ twist is this: he’s selling his bookmarklet in the App Store for $0.99. His angle is clever: he’s created a simple app that places the bookmarklet JavaScript on the pasteboard. The user can then add a bookmark and set its location by pasting the JavaScript. This YouTube video demonstrates the installation:

Early registration for my iPhone Development For Web Programmers in Minneapolis on Feb10-11 ends this Sunday. $899 with “mo” discount code and early reg discount.

0 responses to “Bookmarklet As App Store Paid App”

  1. Mohammad says:

    Or you can just simply get the free replacement at:

  2. Dan Grigsby says:

    Mohammad: I think you’re missing the point.

  3. Omar says:

    Could you explain the point you think Mohammad missed, Dan? Is it that Salikhov has a found a semi-clever way of getting people to pay for bookmarklets, something most of us get for free?

  4. Jason says:

    Yeah, seems to me that Mohammad actually hit the nail on the head. Why pay for something that you can get completely free?

  5. Dan Grigsby says:

    Omar: it’s that this approach opens a new market. You can do amazing things with bookmarktlets. But, beyond simple one-liners, without a way to be remunerated there’s a disincentive to put in the time. It’s fair for people to be paid for the work they do. Vais’ bookmarklet is 7062 characters; what’s more, it’s distinctly better than one I used before. Using the App Store mechanism means that he can make a return on his time and do so in an way that’s both convenient for him and familiar to iPhone users.

  6. Jimmy Mac says:

    Then please tell me why I should pay for a bookmarklet in the first place?

  7. Dan Grigsby says:

    Jason: see my previous comment. This is a forest for the trees issue: if you want to focus on the specific functionality of this particular bookmarklet then go for it, but you’re missing the larger point.

    Additionally, there’s a question of audience. There are innumerable examples of some capability being available to the elite in a free form and it later being packaged in a way to make it usable to a non-elite population. It’s an imperfect analogy, but it’s like saying that Google Analytics is unnecessary because of log files. I’m not sure whether Vais’ bookmarklet qualifies — or doesn’t qualify. It’s still requires the same savvy to install as another bookmarklet, but it’s discoverable in a way that the on-the-web kind aren’t.

    Jason: Why should anyone pay for software ever?

    Both: It’s cowardly to leave a comment without a real email address.

    Ah, now I see. This post is on the front page of Hacker News. That explains these comments.

  8. “Ah, now I see. This post is on the front page of Hacker News. That explains these comments.”

    nothing like making a snarky generalization about a significant readership linking to your blog post.

  9. Pete Forde says:

    @Phil: I read Hacker News every day; so does Dan. If Reddit brings trolls, it’s entirely fair to say HN brings pedants.

  10. dreyfiz says:

    Cheapskates are a disease. This software is wonderful and I’m grateful to Vais for creating it. I hated my old Find in Page bookmarklet, this is so much better.

  11. Vais says:

    @Phil: maybe it is some of the “writership” and not the readership of Hacker News that the comment was about. I actually think of the Hacker News readership, as well as writership, as an open-minded, thoughtful community. I am quite surprised to see so much negativity in the comments – especially with regard to paying for software, considering that it is a news aggregator dedicated to software entrepreneurship and startups. I see how packaging up an existing bookmarklet and selling it is an app could indeed be construed as unfair (although, a point could be made about the added value of the package itself). Creating an original piece of software, on the other hand, and making it available to the public for a fee, is the very definition of fair play in my book.

    As Dan pointed out, however, this is entirely beside the point – the post is not about THIS bookmarklet or some other – it is about opening a new market and new possibilities for software applications that could benefit from tight integration with Safari and run in the context of any webpage – your imagination is the limit. The idea is that if one can monetize this, more professional-grade bookmarklets can become available. This is an opportunity for developers, and a boon for consumers.

  12. Martin says:

    I gotta side with OP here. The iTunes page is pretty upfront with what’s being sold, and for the typical end-user it has no bearing on anything whether the “app” is JavaScript or Objective-C as long as it fulfills a need.

    Could the user have found the bookmarklet for free? Sure, and if they have the savvy to do so they probably will, but if not then .99 is a pretty agreeable price for the freedom to not have to give a hoot.

    Bottom line; Claiming that it’s “wrong” to make a buck on JavaScript is sheer programmer snobbery. I understand the sentiment, but from a non-coder point of view it’s gobbledygook. If the product does what it says it does to the satisfaction of the customer; Go wild.

  13. Mohammad says:

    Dan, I’m sorry to hear you make such a generalization. I’m actually a subscriber to the Mobile Orchard RSS feed and I read this article from there! Comments are for sharing thoughts, ideas and suggestions. I’ve been using the bookmarklets at the site I linked to for over a year and I really like them. All I’m saying is that I would not pay for something I’m already getting for free and I wanted to share it with others to save them their $0.99

  14. dreyfiz says:

    Mohammad, there is no free Find in Page bookmarklet that’s this good, with such a thoughtful UI and implementation. You’re comparing free government cheese to barrel-aged feta.

  15. dreyfiz says:

    The iPhone has a free Notes app, Calculator app, and Camera app. There, I just “saved” you about 50 dollars buying Soulver, Best Camera, OldBooth, Pcalc, Simplenote, Groceries, Things, CameraBag, GorillaCam, and Best Camera. You’re welcome!

  16. cakesy says:

    There is nothing wrong with the question, of why someone should pay for something that is also free. If you get upset about it, or can’t find reasons why, then that is your problem, not a problem with the question or the people who ask it. People who get offended by questions like this may need to rethink their attitude/business model.

    I am not saying that this app is bad, or not worth any money, it probably is. The fact that it is so easy to use, and all it costs in 99c is a huge reason why the app is worthy, IMHO. No need to get upset at anyone.

  17. Mohammad says:

    Good for u dreyfiz. I’m sorry though that I didn’t save u the $0.99 🙁
    My reason why I posted the link is that it’s not something someone can find on the App Store, and so people wouldn’t be fooled that this guy’s app is their only option. It’s always nice to have options u know 😉

  18. Vais says:

    @Mohammad: I don’t this there is actually anything wrong with your original comment (well, except maybe for the word “replacement” – I think “alternative” would be a better fit, since replacement implies parity/equality).

    In my app description on the App Store (as well as on my blog) I allude to the existence of alternative free implementations: “What makes this Find In Page bookmarklet different from similar, free bookmarklets floating around on the Web?” here:

    I also explain that the reason I made this bookmarklet is because I was personally missing this feature in Safari. If I could get equivalent functionality elsewhere, I would (so I could continue working on my groundbreaking social-networked gas passing app – it is currently on hold).

  19. The point is that people who aren’t geeks and nerds like us now have a simple way to find this bookmarklet (the app store) and install it without even knowing what a bookmarklet is.

  20. CmonNow says:

    First of all, I’ve tried the free versions and I like this app much more. Yes, I bought it because (secondly) it’s ninety-nine-freaking-cents people! Vais put some work in on this so throw him a bone. Oh, did I mention it’s just 99 cents!!!

    Btw, I just tried one of the free Bookmarklets to get back to the bottom of this page and it didn’t work.

    And, YES, I found the link to this from HC.

  21. Mohammad says:

    Well, check this out too!

  22. Glenn Dixon says:

    I found this bookmarklet awesome and inspiring. If you buy it you are paying for someone else to write a piece of code then paste it into your iPhone clipboard. Sure, you could hand-type 7000+ characters, email it to yourself and then copy it into a bookmark all by yourself. Go for it. Well worth 99 cents. I’m going to go buy it right now!

  23. David Lewis says:

    Dan: I certainly get the point, and I think that it is a novel way to monetize one’s efforts.

    @Mohammad: do you truly consider what you posted as an equivalent replacement? Also, did you not see the “donate” button on the screen? Everyone deserves to get paid for their work.

    @cakesy: I’d say that there is something wrong with the question, in that implies that the two are equivalent – which they’re not.

    @Vais: Just bought and installed your app this morning. Much needed feature that I’ve been missing since I started using mobile Safari!

    @Mohammad: quixapp looks very interesting. Thanks.

  24. Vais says:

    David, thank you, I am glad you like the app – the feedback I have received from users so far has brought me lots of joyous moments, and I appreciate every new “star” I get on the App Store.

    I would also like to take the opportunity to announce another mobile Safari design fix I released on the heels of Find In Page – the app is called End Of Page. It is free, so anyone can check it out:

  25. David Lewis says:

    @Vais: Thanks for telling me about “End Of Page”. I’ve just downloaded it and given it a whirl. Works great! I see that you have a couple of other interesting “colour” apps as well. I’ll take a look at them as soon as I’ve posted my reviews of these two. Look for “Toronto Native”. 🙂