Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Zoho Creator Marketplace for millions "for free" seekers. Marketplace?

Lately Zoho Creator updated their home page and disclosed the information that 300,000 small businesses, education institutes and not-profits used it. That made me ponder it for a while. This number is pretty big, isn’t it? This is exactly why I took a closer look at Zoho Creator Marketplace in order to give an in-depth perspective on this.

It seems such quantity of potential users should be of a great interest for VAR, Solution Providers or Individual developers, but I can hardly believe anybody builds a profitable business on that. To my opinion on this stage one can’t consider this as a marketplace, but it’s more like a try to create a COMMUNITY of Zoho Creator developers and users that would help each other. I think the vast majority of these 300 000 users are not ready to pay for development, as well as for readymade mature applications. But expect to get it for free. And this, for sure, can’t be presented as a marketplace.

If you are a Solution Providers or VAR looking for a marketplace for your products or ideas you'd better take a look at SalesForce App Exchange. Even despite the fact SalesForce has “only” 55 400 customers. The thing is marketplaces really differ. Customers too. Who can contrast quality with quantity?

13 comments:

Yoav Rubin said...

Following your post I've looked at these two marketplaces, and it seems to me that one of the big advantages of Zoho Creator's marketplace is its simplicity and ease-of-use. Can it be that this is the cause for the big difference in the number of customers?

Jane McCarty said...

Zoho doesn't disclose the info how they count users. Paid and free customers ratio is not clear as well.

My point is there are really few buyers on Zoho marketplace and if you are a Solution Provider or VAR it's better to look at other marketplaces.

raffic said...

Jane, Thank you very much for posting your views on Zoho Creator.

As far as the numbers are concerned it is for users and not customers. I would like to bring to your notice that we launched pricing in May 2008 but Zoho Creator, free version was launched way back in Dec 2005. So this user base (300,000) is built over the period of 49 months.

Regarding Marketplace - As we provide option to post requirement to get it done by the 3rd party developers. Our users and visitors choose posting rather than buying apps directly. The reason being - everyone's need is so unique that it's difficult to satisfy them with a ready made app. We get several customization requests for the free apps posted at marketplace, which are again picked by the developers.

Check this link, http://creator.zoho.com/zohospace/application-request-tracker/view-perma/All_Requests/ which has the project listings (budget varying from $100 - $2000)

Zoho Creator Marketplace has couple of success stories - http://www.zoho.com/creator/marketplace/success-story.html

All said, there's big scope for increasing the sales of apps built by third party developers, which we will be addressing shortly.

- Raffic from Zoho Creator

Jane McCarty said...

Raffic, I really appreciate you answered my 300 000 user base question.

Can’t help but agree everyone’s need is so unique that it’s difficult to satisfy it with a readymade app.

My concern is it’s difficult to call it a marketplace at this stage. I mean just 200 requests (I followed the link you cited) sound not very promising comparing it to 300 000 user base if anybody wants to build a profitable business on this marketplace, doesn't it?

Anyway, I’d like to wish Zoho Creator good luck and I will keep on paying attention on its progress in my blog. And maybe one day Zoho will even overgrow SalesForce, who knows.

raffic said...

Jane, I would like to clarify one more thing

300,000 user base is for Zoho Creator, the platform and not for the Marketplace.
Marketplace has 140 apps + 200 project requests.We still have a long way to go.

Yes I agree that Salesforce-Appexchange has more apps. But I hope Zoho Creator community will match with SF soon, with the quality of apps if not by numbers.

Thank you very much for your wishes Jane. Keep an eye on us;)

Ranjan said...

Thanks Jane for the perspective. I am a complete newbie with techie things. However Zoho Creator has helped me design some applications that are unique to my needs. And a lot of techie friends have actually downloaded my application for their use!

So I am an online database application creator without being a techie. The Zoho marketplace is new. But I'm sure it'll be a winner.

Pascal Veilleux said...

Zoho Creator gives us the ability to built custom web based apps. I have customers who are managing all their operations with a Zoho Creator application.

All of these customs web apps are not on the marketplace.

So, the marketplace is not the only thing...

Gaev said...

Jane, the theme of your post appears to be that "ZOHO Marketplace is not worth the consideration of VARs, Solution Providers or Individual developers".

I am an Individual developer who decided to provide my services on the ZOHO Creator platform last November ... perhaps I can provide a developer's perspective on the subject.

The potential customer base ... whether it is 300,000 ZOHO Users or a much smaller number of (paid) ZOHO Creator Accounts/Subscriptions or the stated 55,400 SalesForce customers ... is not important. The decision to participate in a Marketplace is based on just one criteria i.e. are there sufficient (steady) numbers of "winning bids" to warrant the effort ?

To that end, one must look at the ratio of requests to number of developers responding to such requests ... because one platform may generate 10 requests per day but have 50 developers vying for these projects ... while another may generate 5 requests per day but have only 10 developers ... do the math.

One also has to consider the quality of the project requests. Requests run from "looking for a free solution" to "build me a clone of Flickr or Twitter or some other popular Service for about $200". In other cases, I have had to decline requests as they were not technically or financially suitable for deployment under the ZOHO Creator platform.

Finally, a developer's decision is also factored by the ability to develop solutions rapidly and efficiently ... as most Customers only care about the cost, delivery time and of course reliability of the solution. ZOHO Creator gives me the ability to deliver solutions that meet Customers' expectations.

So far, I have had modest success in winning bids (and delivering solutions) that were posted on ZOHO's Marketplace ... and this business is growing steadily. Projects have varied from $100 to $2,000.

The other half of the Marketplace facility is for developers to offer "ready to deploy" applications. ZOHO Marketplace offers an excellent (one click) facility for potential buyers to "try out the application" and for the developers to "install the application" in the buyer's ZOHO Creator Workspace. What is missing (and holding me back from offering such Applications) is that currently, there is no protection for the developer's Intellectual Property. The promised enhancement to be able to offer "run licenses" without exposing the underlying source/script code" will cause me (and other developers) to offer many more "ready to use" applications.

Finally, let me say that independent developers should not be making their living developing solutions for a single platform; the demise of the Coghead platform should be a reminder of possible consequences of placing all your eggs in one basket.

I am happy to say that the ZOHO Marketplace has met my expectations and will continue to be the place I bid on projects.

George Baltatescu said...

Gaev, Zoho Creator already offers the option to publish an application on Zoho Marketplace without exposing the source code. Just try to publish an application on Zoho Marketplace, and you'll see the option to do it with or without the source code. I tried and it works. My application from Zoho marketplace is published without the source code (this is just to see how it works, because otherwise I am a fan of free software/open source movement).

As Pascal Veilleux said in a previous comment, not all the developed solutions are on Zoho Marketplace. Some people just want to find developer to build some custom solutions, and if they find a capable one and they discover the advanced capabilities of Zoho platform, they ask him to work on other projects, without putting their new requests on Zoho Marketplace.

On the other hand, Zoho Creator will need to reach new stages of maturity in order to become a very successful platform on the "cloud" business applications market. Zoho Creator is only one of Zoho services, and if its integration with other products will succeed, this product will become much more powerful and attractive. Imagine Zoho Creator deeply integrated with Zoho Office suite and with other Zoho products such as CRM, Email, Projects, Invoice, People and Reports; I don't know if there will be other competitor with such a complete offer. I started to build applications in Zoho Creator in 2006, and I was a witness of the product's growth.

In previous comment, Gaev said, and he is right, that "independent developers should not be making their living developing solutions for a single platform". But keeping an eye on the "cloud" development platforms, Zoho Creator seems to me one of the most promising.

Jonathan Sapir said...

The only vendor in this space that I am aware of that hasn't isn't already participating on the PowerInTheCloud site is Zoho. So if any of the Zoho Creators above want to put in their 2c for Zoho, please do so at http://www.powerinthecloud.com/zoho1/2009/1/20/zoho.html

binarysprinter said...

For any innovation to take place, a person, organization or team, must have a vision independent of the profits 'it' gains by its own work. Then and only then, can their be a significant contribution.

I'm a developer for Zoho Creator apps for a while.

There is such a beauty and simplicity and functionality in the Marketplace. That I can challenge anyone that there isn't any other platform that can compete with it. If such a marketplace exists elsewhere, the number of them can be counted on one hand.

Now, to counter your criticism that '300,000' users vs a 'scant' Marketplace isn't a good sign for the Zoho Creator Platform, together with an unknown counting method, making the statistics shaky in comparison to other platforms:

There are fewer apps on the Marketplace, because as Gaev rightly pointed out, it is a matter of choice of the Client whether to participate in it or not.

300,000 'users'. Out of which I"ll be damn proud to say, these 'users' turn out to be more of 'developers' than 'users'. Most people/individuals build their own apps. It is only the big businesses that 'hire', and all who want a 'professional job done' pay.

You are speaking of the Marketplace in terms of revenue through app 'development'. This is precisely the bird that the Dev Team at Zoho are trying to kill!

Zero development cost, Very gentle learning curve, plenty of 'free' help on the forums.

The user base extends far and wide beyond the limited 'tip of the iceberg' activity seen on the forums. Most people have their queries answered through the help documentation and by the use of sample apps, it is only when newbies are trying to code something a little more tricky, or advanced is that they 'need to' approach the forums.

One of the reasons, there is less activity on the marketplace is, that many apps can be built for free. The income as I say is not generated for development, but rather in hosting the paid shared users-wise application accounts.

Whoooo, big statement there:

"To my opinion on this stage one can’t consider this as a marketplace, but it’s more like a try to create a COMMUNITY of Zoho Creator developers and users that would help each other."

I think it's the other way round. The community already exists. It is we, the developers who have taken the initiative to help others on the forums. There is no such community that Zoho Creator is aiming to create, and the marketplace has nothing to do with it. The marketplace is has a clearcut purpose. Buyers can look for developers for 'free'. Developers can earn their bread without having to worry about how much to pay to the Creator Platform. It's a give and take. This bring us to the business-expansion/marketing strategy that we've seen so far.

Creator doesn't have any ads. No aggressive marketing. No nothing, in fact it's highly under-marketed, because they believe that, if a product is good, people 'will' eventually know about it. From what I've seen, every one of those 'few' 300,000 users, are here to stay. Those who use the platform, love it.

What is preventing Creator from the rapid bubble-burst of incoming users is certain important functional updates to the deluge coding capabilities on the developer side. This is taking time, but not without reason. When such a flexible and intuitive platform, is highly bent upon incorporating user requests, often the 'core' has to be redone and this is by no means an easy/safe task to have it done in a 'hurry'.

To put it simply, this is a platform driven solely by the people who use it, and the excellence of the product itself. No other visibly aggressive marketing has been used.
To give a comparison by vivid imagery: Others market with a lot of boom like a thunderstorm that may or may not yield it's share of rain.
Creator is more like coming from below, from the people, can be compared to the mild tremors, before the bowels of the earth split open for all to behold.

Finally 300,000 is an understatement. I'm sure the Team at Zoho Creator have carefully counted what they're talking about, to eliminate the 'duplicates'.

Like every new idea, Creator has ploughed through unexplored territory. Just hold on, as I'm waiting too, till the wave breaks. They are heading in the right direction, and more importantly, one that hasn't been dared by other businesses. Although certain 'business' decisions haven't worked out so beautifully, and some criticize 'it's stupidity', but I'd say, it's integrity. They've dared explore an avenue no one wanted to walk. And while others are busy 'making profits' only. The Creator team are busy building the future.

I end what I've started off with:

For any innovation to take place, a person, organization or team, must have a vision independent of the profits 'it' gains by its own work. Then and only then, can their be a significant contribution.

It's irrelevant to a researcher when or how his invention gets sold. The Creator Team are playing both roles, researcher and businessman. And it is not always a mutually healthy combination. So 'peu importe' 300,000 or a scant marketplace.

It's like google with millions and millions of users, but only a handful of users exploring the 'beta-products' or google-apps. Do they care? bah..

Well that's a lot of words from a little user, hope I've been able to shed some light.

Jane McCarty said...

All I can say is Zoho Creator can really be proud of such developers.

Just wanted to point out about Google. These guys have built all their services around advertising and know how to get the most of it.

Zoho strategy is not that clear now, but of course I wish these guys all the best.

binarysprinter said...

Thank you Jane,

Don't take my words too seriously, they're only valid in the 'context' and from 'my tiny present box'.

The one most clear-cut point you've made in your article is that the Zoho Marketplace has a long way to go if it is going to generate revenue. There is not a shadow of doubt about that.

Yes Google have a stronghold through ads, and don't 'depend on' beta features/or apps.

About the Strategy being uncertain: You're absolutely right.

We're hoping for the best, as well.

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