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I’ve already noted why the open source or free angle isn’t as helpful at getting people to switch. As Seth Godin says:

The chances that you can top a trusted provider on the very thing the provider is trusted for are slim indeed.

Instead, you gain converts by winning at something the existing provider didn’t think was so important.

This is why if you show someone a checklist of features their proprietary software has and show that the open source alternative has all of them, they probably will not be swayed. There is a cost to switching, and if they already have the proprietary one that does all those things, why switch. In fact, you have to show them the features they don’t have.

Wow Factor

It might not be something important. I’ve mentioned Disco before, a disc burning app for Mac OS X. Killer feature? Smoke blows around on your screen as it burns the disc.

With Disco we tried pushing the boundaries of interface, usability, and utter functional simplicity. Well, once you realize that Disco is emitting real time smoke as you burn, we start redefining the boundaries of progress indication. You can even blow into your microphone and the smoke will react accordingly.

Useful? Hardly. But I bought it. And I couldn’t wait to tell others about it. I didn’t lead off with things it actually did- I led off with the smoke. Don’t get me wrong- the minimalist UI was fun and easy to use. But the smoke- man that’s cool.

Don’t provide an alternative- provide a better product. What has your app got that they don’t?