David Watanabe on Software Activation

David Watanabe (developer of apps including NewsFire and Xtorrent):

The only alternative to “network-mediated activation” is to furnish the user with an serial number or unlock code of some sort. This is, as everyone knows, a ridiculously weak barrier. One malicious user can post their code on a website and the scheme is broken forever. I did experiment with this unlock codes back in the day and came to the unfortunate realization that for every legitimate user, there were 10 others who were using a pirated code. Clearly offline unlock codes aren’t a viable solution at all. Relying on “honesty” is a huge mistake.

Ambrosia Software has a very clever product activation system, and I recall that they published information regarding how registrations went way, way up after they switched to that system from simple unlock codes. (I can’t find a working link to that story, however. Update: Found it.)

As Mark Pilgrim wrote, the biggest problem with any activation system like this is that your software won’t be installable if the company goes out of business.

Tuesday, 17 April 2007