Cesium at One Year

Today marks the first anniversary of Cesium’s release on the App Store, and I can’t write anything I’m happy with to mark the occasion.

In November 2014 I released a buggy little app that played songs from the iTunes library. It allowed for custom sorting of artist albums, which is all I really cared about. There was no Collection Control, no queueing, no miniplayer, no night mode, no themes, no rating or volume support. No in-app settings, no search, no audiobooks, no composer support, no landscape mode, no gesture support. There were severe lag issues, and crashes. To compare it to the Cs of only a year later, it’s pretty embarrassing and amazing just how rudimentary it actually was, and how far it has come.

I’m not a programmer. At best I’m a UI designer, and really not even that. Prior to starting this project I had some HTML/CSS classes under my belt from design school, and I’d hardcoded my own portfolio website for a few years. In June 2014 I had had enough with the iOS music player, couldn’t find an alternative I really liked, and decided to download Xcode and start googling music player tutorials. And that’s really what version 1.0 was. Tutorials and snippets of code from stackoverflow cobbled together into a moderately functional package. In fact, the only reason I put Cesium on the store at all was so that I could buy it myself and stop paying the annual developer subscription.

I figured that getting Cesium on to the App Store was the end. Permanence. I was very wrong.

So here we are, 2 major releases later. Cs was updated 20 times this year. It’s been downloaded over 10,000 times (although the vast majority during the periods it went free). That second paragraph of features was added (and I was somehow able to keep the lag and crash issues in tact!). There’s a website, and a twitter account. There’s a subreddit. I’ve had the pleasure of reading dozens of extremely generous reviews. There’s over 100 beta testers who don’t send me reports :P Cesium has been mentioned in Macworld and Sanspoint (Hi, Richard!). Hopefully soon it might be mentioned on Mashable (fingers crossed). I see it come up in the same sentence as Ecoute. People ask me to develop Cesium for iPad. People ask me to develop an alternative to freaking iTunes.

Cesium is a success story. A modest one, but an outlier unlike most of the apps that are put on the Store. I can’t take all the credit. Like nearly all apps Cs started with an initial spike but sales began dropping off exponentially. In June it earned just over $30, with Apple Music just around the corner. I was pretty sure that Cs was done. A passion project I’d continue to support, but the revamped Apple app was going to kill it. I mean, it had to. Again I was wrong. iOS8.4 was actually a blessing, and Cesium has actually shown growth ever since. July, September and October each set new records for my most successful months ever. That’s extremely unusual. I mean, we aren’t talking big numbers, but the trends just don’t change like that. I know I’m not alone in this, because I’ve spoken to other music player devs. We’re all benefitting to some degree from the questionable decisions made regarding the stock app.

This shouldn't happen.

This shouldn't happen.

That success brings new challenges. New questions that need to be answered, and that I hope to explore in subsequent posts. Can you be a dev even if you’re not a programmer? What is an app; code, a download, a series of in-app purchases, a support ecosystem? Is a good app really a service? Is being an indie developer ever actually viable? Why do people feel that apps (and music for that matter) aren’t worth paying for? It’s weird to think about these things, I just didn’t want to pay 99 bucks a year to keep using my little music player.

One thing is clear; an app’s nothing without users. I’ve made no secret of the fact that Cs is currently funding a Disney holiday for the family. There’s still a few years to go, but if things keep up the way they are, it seems quite possible that by that time my family will be able to have the absolute trip of a lifetime. The kind of trip I could never afford to give them without Cs. That is entirely the users. Each download, review and casual mention helps make that dream come true. I can’t possibly express how grateful I am.

Thank you for making this a good day.