Pressgram to Shut Down, Development Discontinued

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Pressgram founder John Saddington announced today that he will be shutting down the project and pulling the app from the Apple Store on September 11. The app started as a WordPress-powered photo sharing app and evolved to support all kinds of publishing platforms. Last March, Saddington dropped the social layer in favor of focusing his efforts on the publishing features.

Despite running a successful $50K+ Kickstarter campaign, Saddington was not able to continue development on the project.

Today marks the 2-year (official) anniversary of Pressgram and it is with a very heavy heart that I am announcing that active development on Pressgram is being discontinued.

He does not specify the reasons for shutting down the app in his departure post, which is more of a thank you to investors and a farewell to users. However, his responses to users on Twitter indicate that he could not continue to uphold the financial burden of the Amazon AWS costs of running the service, which centralized publishing requests to various social outlets.

https://twitter.com/saddington/status/507596625582120960

In response to users who inquired whether or not they will be able to continue using the app, Saddington replied, “The service will turn off officially at the end of the month, unfortunately.”

When Pressgram was in the crowdfunding stage, WordPress co-founder Matt Mullenweg had pledged $10K dollars to help get it off the ground but eventually withdrew his pledge when he learned that the project would not be open source. The last time we spoke with Saddington, he was open to open sourcing the app but has thus far continued with it under a proprietary license. Now that development is being discontinued, users want to know about the possibility of open sourcing the code so that it doesn’t disappear. He confirmed that this is still a possibility.

https://twitter.com/saddington/status/507587286129598464

At a later date, Saddington plans to share more thoughts about why the project didn’t end up working out. The information will undoubtedly be of interest to his many Kickstarter backers, some of whom pledged hundreds of dollars to see this app become a reality.

From the beginning, Pressgram had mass appeal, given that it used WordPress to power a creative application with the potential to become a viable alternative to some of the larger players, such as Instagram. Many in the WordPress community were hoping that that app would be open source, since it was originally based on open source software and could potentially help move the WordPress app space forward.

If Pressgram were open source, it’s possible that someone could use the code as a starting place to build an app that doesn’t require a centralized service. Where could Saddington have taken Pressgram if he had a team of enthusiastic open source contributors surrounding the project and improving upon it at a faster rate? Would you like to see the app open sourced or do you think it should be simply retired? Let us know in the comments.

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14 Comments


  1. Well, at least he started with the notion of “owning your own data” so at least a ton of photos won’t be lost forever since the service didn’t store them.

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  2. This must be a massive disappointment to all the investors that gave over $50k (!!) towards the development – so glad we decided to not invest. While people will be interested to find out the reasons, pretty certain the investors would much prefer the project to become open source. You quote Saddington as saying that this is still a possibility – this is the very bare minimum that the investors deserve

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    1. As one of those backers (investors is totally the wrong term)… no this is not a “massive disappointment”, at least not for me. I’m sure John far more disappointed than any of the backers.

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      1. @jb510:

        First, thank you for supporting this project. that means the world to me.
        Second, i thank the backers specifically for the Kickstarter project. I use that term specifically.
        Thirdly, I use the word “investors” because I actually did have some. I raised some money to support the growing costs post-Kickstarter.

        :) just for clarity.

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  3. Wow… very disappointing news. Not least of all for John, I imagine. Hopefully he releases the source code under an open source license so the community can pick up where he left off.

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  4. As a backer, I’m not disappointed in the outcome of the app. I know this is hard for John more than anyone. Maybe we’ll see the code running wild in open source land soon.

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  5. Surprised John hasn’t said why… too hard to monetize perhaps? Or something else? Hope to find out eventually…

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    1. In many ways, a real “pivot” before time, resources, and finances were completely gone. Really, really tough decision… i can’t stress that enough.

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  6. The first sign someone is no longer committed in seeing a project through: starting another major project. The moment you have a more attractive side project, the more likely it is you won’t go all out to keep the older project going forward. All project creators will recognize this, the tempation is universal. Sad, because a lot of ambitious projects tend to require multi-year commitment to get anywhere. You have to persevere through long spells of uninspiring growth and tedious work with almost any project.

    One reason why I have never gone through with crowd funding: you have to be incredibly sure you are going to stick with something and see it through. Because when you abandon something it creates a lot of guilt. Sometimes abandoning a project is the right decision, but it’s better to do that without having taken on backers or investers. The guilt would really get to me.

    This is one reason why I admire the Pods team so much. They were in it for the long haul. Between 1.x and 2.x it seemed like there wasn’t much going on. And today they have their own dedicated Pods camp with Pods 3.0 on the horizon. Its amazing work. What a loss it would have been if it had been abandoned somewhere along the way.

    I can’t tell from Pressgram what the true reasons were, just like it was hard to tell as an outsider why WP Daily really ceased, or why the Standard Theme closed up (all of which were promising and impressive ventures). It takes a lot of guts and effort to make things, I just hope that the next project doesn’t suffer a premature ending before it gets a chance to mature.

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    1. I suppose a worthy clarification is that Desk represents an internal pivot as one weighed the promise (and runway) of existing opportunities. Most great surviving ventures experience at least 1 pivot… there are too many great examples to name. It is actually more rare to find ventures that land on their success product the first-time through. If that is the story of Pods (which I think is great) then those guys really nailed it and they deserve some serious kudos.

      Secondly, Desk isn’t a new shiny object. I’ve written enough about that already though around the blog and it’s been in active development nearly 300 days. This wasn’t a temptation (as I know that feeling all-too well) but an actual product that helped incentivize my investors on making their financial commitment (i.e. mitigated risk). I suppose I could write a book on this and this isn’t the place for it.

      :)

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  7. @John I’m very interested in WP use cases that are like personal applications. WP is so suitable because you get this self hosted backend that you have full control over. And that’s how I use WP everyday already. I hope a real market can develop out of it (because it’s what I want to be involved with myself).

    I’d be really surprised however if something like a desktop editor actually makes a lot of money, even a modest amount would surprise me quite frankly. Is that the intent with Desk? Are their certain criteria you are aiming to hit to determine whether its something to continue after year 1 and 2? I imagine such a thing taking a long time to really grow to a level where it starts to give a return on investment.

    I know pivoting is an important decision for startups, not all ideas are going to be winners, some solutions become apparent dead ends or a project simply runs its course, or an obstacle surfaces that isn’t worth overcoming (maybe that played a role here?). Having said that, you only hear about the successful pivots, you never hear about the projects that could have grown if only a team had persevered, i.e. the could-have-beens. I think in WordPress especially quite a lot of projects owe their success to sticking around long enough for growth to happen. I’m not sure the same expectation of growth that you find with, say, a venture backed tech startup can be realistically placed on a WP centric product (except for perhaps the hosting company model).

    Anyhow, I hope you blog your experiences for all to benefit from!

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    1. Rats…looks like PolarFox would be a great replacement but only for Android at the moment. Hope they are successful and add iOS support in the future.

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