SproutBuilder no longer free in February
Shortly after making a huge announcement alongside Google at Adobe Max North America 2008, Sprout, Inc. drops another bomb. And this time, it’s going to cost their customers money. End a bad economic year on a good note and start a bad economic year with bad news. It doesn’t seem like the best course of action for the creators of Sprout Builder and Sprout Mixer.

Less than two months after releasing the popular, interactive, viral widget campaign builder Sprout Mixer, Sprout Inc. has announced that their other service, Sprout Builder will no longer be offered for free. The service hasn’t even been around a year yet.

Sprout Builder is (correction, was) a free, web-based service for easily and quickly building flash-based viral widgets that are hosted remotely. The widgets can updated from within an easy-to-navigate user interface and changes are reflected across the web when they are published.

Call it the bad economy, call it poor judgment on the part of upper management. Call it what you want, but it spells bad times when a service that, according to announcements at the release of Sprout Mixer, was going to remain free now will cost as much as US$ 300.00 a month to build and maintain more than 7 widgets. See the full price list here. Not only is the price tag quite steep, there is no mention of free trials or any other still free options.

Less Than One Month Notice of Change

According to an email the company sent out to current users yesterday, “Now that we have developed a solution worthy of creative professionals at the best agencies in the world, it is time for us to monetize. Starting in early February, we will begin charging for our service. We hope that you have found value from Sprout Builder and will continue to use our services.”

Current users may feel a little put off by that. It almost seems as though the company is telling the public, 'Thank you for helping us create a solution worthy of creative professionals. Now we're taking it and only making it financially realistic for those upper-end creative professionals.'

Perhaps (and more than likely) this is not the intention of Sprout, Inc. They did offer this small condolence at the end of the 283 word email, “While this news may come as a disappointment for those that have enjoyed using Sprout Builder for free, all companies must make money to grow and we thank you for your support.”

This might be a simple case of company survival in a time of trouble. One thing is for sure though, the announcement is certainly going to have an effect on the amount of users Sprout Builder continues to experience.