The webcomics blog about webcomics

That’s Life In Techland — Projects Come, Projects Go

Unrelated to anything else, this update of Gunnerkrigg Court is officially Today’s Best Thing.

First noticed via Kris Straub’s twitterfeed:

assetbar closes its doors january 1, 2012. check out their blog.

That link leads to a blogposting that ain’t much more verbose than Straub’s summary:

Assetbar is closing its doors January 1, 2012
We built Fanflows so creators and artists could have an easy way to pursue their craft and make a premium connection with their fans.
It didn’t work

So, as of January 1, 2012, Assetbar and all Fanflows will be gone.
How this is going to go down

  1. Effectively immediately we will no longer be accepting new funds deposits.
  2. Other than adding new funds, you may continue to use Assetbar for the rest of the year, but…
  3. On December 30, 2011 at 11:59PM PST, we pull the plug on the servers.

Actions you can take


It has been fun. Mostly.

Peace out,
The Assetbar Team

Rewind: in April of ’07, Chris Onstad introduced a new tool to control content availability to his subscribers; he referred to the for-pay area as the Fanflow, and it was powered by a toolset called AssetBar, cooked up by friends of his. By January of ’09 Straub’s Starslip and Scott Kurtz’s PvP added the AssetBar technology, followed by Meredith Gran’s Octopus Pie, described by these adopters as essentially a testbed¹. I recall one or two other webcomics did likewise, but they all sort of drifted away over the course of a year or so.

AssetBar never really took off and achieved that magical level of Must! Have! for a large enough swath of the webcomics audience (and to my knowledge didn’t really attract users outside that community at all) to be self-sustaining. Part micropayments, part content management system, it did a couple of things pretty well, but ultimately required a compelling case on the part of creators to get enough users².

The users, on the other hand, needed to have lots of their favorite creators hooked into AssetBar to be certain of having enough places to spend their deposited funds; while a few superfans of just one site might pay a buck or two a month for sneak peeks at behind the scenes content (something that Kurtz, for example, gives away for free daily now), it seems that most wanted to spend a bit here, a bit there, and there just wasn’t a broad enough marketplace willing to accept the virtual scrip.

Not enough sites means not enough users means other sites not seeing the point in adopting means still more users not signing up — vicious circle stasis was achieved fairly early, and yesterday’s plug-pull announcement seems more an afterthought than anything (for example, the AssetBar blog seems not to have updated since December of ’09, a sure sign of a non-priority project).

Props to Israel L’Heureux and the rest of the AssetBar team for winding down with plenty of advance notice and a chance to reclaim funds; too often enterprises like this just disappear one day and any customers that have outstanding credit are outtalucko. Given that a previous project of the team got sold to Juniper Networks for a not-insignificant sum, I don’t think they’re hurting for cash, but still — it’s sadly more than you expect these days, to see startups try to go out with a modicum of class.

¹ Kurtz in particular is pretty flexible about messing around with his business model: trying things, keeping those that work while they work, ditching those that don’t, and thinking about what to try next on an ongoing basis. That experimental, never-think-you’re-safe approach makes me think he’d be a damn good IT admin in charge of disaster preparedness — dude’s always got a backup plan. Respect.

² Onstad probably came closest.

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[…] Assets closing it doors Assetbar, a premium content thing created by/for Chris Onstadt/Achewood to give his readers extra content, is closing its doors. Seems like it aspired to be the Topatoco of premium/subscription content, but never took off. Found via: Fleen – Assetbar […]

[…] ago, a number of webcomickers were flirting with premium content (like through [the now-defunct] AssetBar) so that you could see development sketches, or watch strips being drawn a day or two early. These […]

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