State of the Micro-ISV-osphere

Updated on Saturday, May 1, 2021

I was a micro-ISV (µISV) for years before I heard of the term. It was coined by Eric Sink to describe a one man software shop, and is now generally used for any small software company.

There isn't much market data available this far down the long tail so I've spent some time analyzing PAD files to see if I could answer a few questions.

PAD is the Portable Application Description specification from the Association of Shareware Professionals. It's used to describe software for submission to download sites. How useful these sites are is another question — read Scott Kane on this if you haven't already.

I spidered all the PAD files listed in the ASP directory, downloading data on 76,066 products from 39,861 µISVs (companies / people / publishers). It's not a perfect data set as there are PADs that aren't software and µISVs that don't use PAD. I've also heard that some people are developing web apps these days. But here goes…

Where are the µISVs?

Countries with the most micro-ISVs

Overwhelmingly in the US. Other countries with more than a thousand listed are the UK, Russia, China, India, Canada, Germany and Australia (in descending order). Most countries have at least one µISV but the numbers fall off pretty quickly.

How much do µISVs charge for their products?

Micro-ISV product cost distribution


About a third of products are free and a third fall into 9 price points (all ending in 5). I found over a thousand different US Dollar price points overall.

The most expensive product was a $150,000 Green Living site license from South Beach Software (an order of magnitude more expensive than the runner up).

How large are µISVs products?

Micro-ISV product sizes

There's not much action past 20 MB. Most downloads are between 1-2 MB. There's an interesting little spike around 14 MB. I guess this is a popular framework, possibly Java? The largest download was almost 1.5 GB.

Are µISVs still releasing downloadable software?

Most recent micro-ISV product release by month

This is a tough one to get at because PAD files just tell you about the most recent version, not the release history. The chart really shows a last update distribution for the products in the PAD catalog.

There's a large number of products last updated in mid-2008 with nothing comparable in 2009. Could this be a drop-off in PAD usage? A shift to web apps? Maybe final releases before the recession hit leading to less spare cycles for side projects (my µISV certainly pays for beers rather than mortgages).

How many products do µISVs publish?

Micro-ISV products per company

This final chart shows that most µISVs have just one product. Of course in some cases there might be a brand per product and still a single entity — it's impossible to separate this out from the PAD data. The largest number of products from a single µISV is 616.

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(Published to the Fediverse as: State of the Micro-ISV-osphere #marketing #asp Data on micro-ISVs - small software publishers - generated from association of software professionals PAD files. )


Matt Morollo

Very interesting analysis. Thx.



This is a great piece of work. Two points:
1) If the most common price point is $29.95 it means these software products are either not creating much value or they are grossly underpriced.

2) On the $150,000 Green Living software, I took a look at the site. I think the price is a typo and what the product does exactly is unclear.


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Rob Ellison

Anonymous, interesting point, although Ukraine was #9 on the list just below Australia. I wonder how many micro-ISVs represent themselves as being in a different country - impossible to tell from the PAD data.


Many developers don't publish its real countries (such as Ukraine) and use USA, UK, and Russia.

Rob Ellison

MB, great ideas, thanks! I'll try to incorporate as many of these as possible when I do the next version of the report.


Nice data! Other things that might be interesting are: banded cost breakdown (to see more about costs in higher price points); breakdown of version numbers (some indication of product maturity perhaps); analysis of whether vendors have separate product and company websites; breakdown of download file type: exe, msi, zip etc; and, if it's possible, some analysis of payment processor used. If there was any way to tie the pad file variables to some available indication of success or popularity then that might make for some fascinating results. Maybe a popular download site has interesting scrapeable stats that could be correlated with info from the PAD to work out some tips for success. I might be getting a bit carried away there!

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