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date 10.Jun.2014

■ Happy 10-year birthday xplorer²!

It was like today, 10 years ago on 10 June 2004, when xplorer² first went on sale (first paying customer was some Fred Gagnon :). As all birthdays it's a good time to reflect and remember and plan about the future.

I first started windows programming back in 1998 and I used an older file manager 2xExplorer as a working project to learn GUI programming. Then in early 2002 I started work on its successor file manager, xplorer². I wasn't sure in the beginning if I was going to sell it or just give it away for free like 2xExplorer. Soon I realized that many people made a good living selling programs on the internet so I said, why not give it a try? I split it in two, a free lite and a professional version but still many people got upset because I "betrayed the free spirit" and their free help — the first of many controversial decisions that were to follow, that created sworn enemies out of once fervent supporters. But you cannot make an omelet without breaking some eggs.

Then on that 10th of June the business era begun. In the first few days it was selling like crazy, and had me stunned — but that was just the fans being supportive and soon the cash tills petered out to what seemed like good beer money. Nothing to complain about, I had a day job and wouldn't mind the extra beer for what was fun to develop. Over the years there were quite a few of these financial ups and downs that made life "thrilling" — and quite scary once I quit the day job in 2008 and relied on xplorer² for bread as well as beer.

I can't complain about the money, xplorer² is a good cash cow for all the family, but it is not what most people imagine. I couldn't afford hiring anybody else for example, so I must do everything around here (I always chuckle when people write to the "development team" or to the support office). The workload may be intense but lack of employees has its benefits, e.g. I can be a rolling stone "wherever I lay my hat is my home" and work from anywhere in the world (currently touring Europe in search of a permanent base).

Of course it isn't all about the money, xplorer² is an interesting project to work on albeit frustrating trying to figure out what microsoft isn't telling windows programmers. Over the years I had to solve many riddles that kept the interest alive and do all sorts of non-programming things like fight the pirates. Then there is the sense of superstar programmer and feeling of doing something useful for the world at large:

I cannot tell you how much I appreciate your program. It does everything I want, yet I am constantly being amazed at new things I find out about it

The pinnacle (καϊμακτσαλάν) of public acclaim was the 2007 winning of the epsilon award for best software of the year, beating the likes of isobuster a program that has 10x the number of downloads but clearly not the same number of enthusiastic users — thanks guys!

Whatever next for another 10 years?

10 years ago I would never have imagined that xplorer² would last so long. Will there be a 20-year milestone? Who knows? Personally I am still committed to the project and will continue with business as usual, expanding to backup plans too, but the ship may be abandoning us. The PC-desktop is a deteriorating medium, kids prefer touchpads to browse facebook nowadays. I feel sometimes like a saddler watching the car take over the world. A forced career move to brick laying will be a sour end to the story :)

Notwithstanding the somber outlook, there are no regrets. Other than the increased blood pressure, I lead an enviable free lifestyle, and it's all from a pet project I used to brush my GUI programming. Thanks xplorer²!

So let us all drink and cheer for many happy returns!

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