MacUpdate Interview


Anyone who is into Mac shareware applications has heard of MacUpdate, for the uninitiated, it’s basically a giant catalog of every Mac app, getting updated by-the-minute with new software updates. I recently had a chance to virtually sit down with Joel Mueller, the founder and head honcho of MacUpdate, for some questions about his site.

TAB: I’ve always seen MacUpdate as the underdog to the “big bad” VersionTracker. For one, I hate their bloat and all the Windows software cluttering up the site. What’s the competition like these days between you guys?

Joel: Depends on who you ask. Answers that people give to questions like these are often more representative of the person answering the question, than a proper representation of how things actually are. ;)

VersionTracker has a strong crew of people working for them and they do very well for themselves. I personally really enjoy communicating ideas with different members of their team during events like Macworld Expo. Both parties are often very encouraging to each other.

On occasion, issues in the shareware world arise (like spyware, unethical development behaviors, fake user reviews). When this happens, some of the great people behind both organizations connect to think of the best way to deal with the situation and better serve the community. Making decisions together about those types of issues helps keep good things uniform and protects users from issues that they might not even be aware of. It’s a good thing.

In terms of competition, one of the best games to play is to go to, a site that attempts to archive website changes throughout time. Enter both site URLs and compare the progression through time. It’s worth a few good laughs.

TAB: I noticed a while ago a call for experts in valuation. Are you guys planning on selling MacUpdate soon?

Joel: Way back in business school, and through various mentors, people have asked if MacUpdate has an exit plan strategy. And honestly it never has — we build a site for different motives and purposes. Exit plans were never a concern, and I personally was challenged to understand their importance (tell that to the YouTube crew ;).

But I really enjoy learning. I don’t live in Silicon Valley where the bubble grows, so naturally I’m not accustomed to the cultures of take overs, selling out or venture capital first hand. But I really enjoy learning. Years ago I can remember going to 8 different banks and asking questions about the processes and recommendations of getting a mortgage to buy a home. At the time, I couldn’t even afford a shack-of-a-house mortgage. But the focus wasn’t on me buying the home, but on learning all the information I could from different sources.

By sending out feelers for business appraisers, I was hoping to learn more about web-based company valuations and current conditions for negotiating. When I read sites like TechCrunch, it amazes me how much venture capital funding is being acquired and how many online communities are being sold with high price tags. I compare some of these site’s community and traffic to MacUpdate and I’m amazed. So naturally, I want to learn more about how all of that Silicon Valley amazement works.

TAB: Among other things, I’ve noticed a recent push for your daily promo service. Did MacZot’s success have anything to do with that decision?

Joel: There were a lot of influences, and a lot of questions asked to developers. MacUpdate wanted to know where to place its energy. There were two directions we were considering more: (1) Product reviews with style, or (2) software sales for developers. We even went as far as to send our requests to hire writers who could go above and beyond the a bland, normal review. We wanted inside stuff. We wanted quotes from developers about what they thought rocked. We wanted to be able to tell our users hints about what was coming in the next major upgrade. It was going to be entertaining, to say the least.

But the more we talked with developers, the more it became apparent that a strong motivation for getting their products reviewed was so that they would reach more sales. So naturally we thought, “why not cut to the chase and go after the deeper goal,” so that’s exactly what we did with the daily MacUpdate Promo.

There were a lot of factors and influences that made this happen. I’m grateful for all of them and how they played part in supporting the launch and continued improvement of MU Promo.

TAB: So is there anything new planned for MU Promo? I’ve snagged a few neat apps on there already, anything really awesome coming up that you could “leak” for our readers perhaps?

Joel: A bundle is coming. A big one.

A few weeks ago, MacUpdate received an email from Steve Wozniak, the co-founder of Apple. We emailed him about an upcoming MacUpdate Promo bundle, and he wrote back saying that the bundle was “incredible” and that he used many of the titles himself. I was in awe when I saw the name “Steve Wozniak” in my email inbox. How cool is it that he is excited about the upcoming MacUpdate Promo bundle?

TAB: A bundle sale. Ah, like the ones MacHeist and MacZot have done in the past?

Joel: The funny thing is that Zot and Heist guys all helped out with the MacUpdate booth a couple of years ago, on the floor of the Macworld Expo. It’s amazing to see them all branch out and create strong, new footholds in Mac shareware promotions. It’s an exciting time for Mac shareware right now. Passionate, skilled people are connecting with each other through awesome, free communication tools. I hear stories from Nate, the point man for MUPromo, about the great conversations he has with devs…often leading him to talk about sports or the iPhone or family. When you utilize communication technologies with the smartest computer minds, it’s a blast to communicate waves of new ideas and then see them materialize.

TAB: So when does this start?

Joel: Monday, July 9, 2007. For 9-days. Join me and a bunch of the crew that helped put this bundle together, on the 9th just past midnight, in IRC chat as we unveil each of the programs in the bundle, one-by-one. It’s going to be a lot of fun!

TAB: The 9th. Have you been following the MacHeist controversy at all? Something about someone stealing their bundle sale idea…

Joel: I’ve been pretty buried in last minute development and polishing so everything is smooth for the launch.

TAB: Thanks for your time Joel, and good luck with your upcoming projects.



Now that would have been an excellent question, or at least the basis of one. Unfortunately, you took a much weaker approach and tried to imply a tough question, instead of just asking it. It’s a shame you only put the question so directly in the comments, it might have led to an interesting response.

Richard Neal

Um, bundling 10 Mac apps together for $50, with certain apps contingent on certain sale numbers? Now where have I heard that before…?


“stealing their bundle sale idea…”

Wow! MacHeist invented promotional bundles! Who knew? I guess all the times — long before MacHeist was conceived — I’ve gotten several products at one time for a reduced cost, it was just an error at the check-out.

Or perhaps you could have worded that just a bit better…

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