Alastair’s Place

Software development, Cocoa, Objective-C, life. Stuff like that.

License "Cards"

What a neat idea! The authors of the 1Passwd password storage tool have come up with an ingenious and attractive way to present customers with a software license key… “License Cards”.

Here’s a sample (reproduced from their blog post):


Now I can’t say we’ll be running to support this new style of license key, given that we’ve put a fair bit of effort into our existing set-up. I also take issue with some of the remarks about software activation (especially the one about how programs using it “essentially spy on [their] users”, which, frankly, is both untrue and needlessly inflammatory).

That said, I like the idea of drag & drop license keys. I also like the idea that it’s possible to make them look pretty (in fact, why not offer them with a variety of attractive backdrops?). And whilst it will cause a small amount of pain for users who keep their keys organised in a text file, it will also cause a large amount of pain for software pirates (e.g. the “serialbox” will have to change significantly if it is to cope with these files).

I do wonder whether their technique is based on steganography or simply on public key encryption with data stored in their own JPEG chunks (or in the EXIF information). The former has advantages (e.g. it would be possible, with a good implementation, to print the card out and then recover a usable card by scanning the print-out), and would also be robust against poor storage techniques on the part of the customer (such as filing it in a Word document file). However, it is considerably harder to do, so my guess is that it’s some variation on the latter.