As I look around the web, I see the shells of formerly great web services. I see the Flowgrams that could have been. I see the Google Notebooks that wallow in disuse. I see the missing Jumpcuts that provided me with so much hope and pleasure. I have spoken about these web applications vanishing from the face of Web 2.0, but I kind of always blamed the companies themselves for going out of business. I mean, it is their fault that they gave away their products and then had no way of making money, right?
I am coming to the conclusion more and more that we share a lot of the blame for Free being the standard pricing for all of the things that we want on the web. I think that the culture of “free music” and “ad-supported” services have lead us to believe that any new service that comes along should offer a huge chunk of their functionality for free, especially to schools and non-profits. This is what we have been demanding by presenting on topics like “Free Web 2.0 sites to engage your students” and “How to leverage free social networks for marketing and engagement.”
Other people have written much better about what the price of “Free” really is, but I think that it is time we stop looking to others for what we have created. We have created an unsustainable model of ownership. By craving the products that make our life easier but asking them to be free is making sure that we will never be able to hold on to them for very long. We will be forced to make the choice, either pony up and start providing funding for the resources that we need or let the web become a wasteland of good intentioned companies.
(To be sure, there are many web services that I would never pay for and that should not have been funded as a company, but there are things that I would pay for and I just wish someone would ask me to.)
Advertising can’t be the wave of the future, even as much as those who are in charge of Augmented Reality are pushing for it. There really has to be a point at which that we take the helm and start owning access again. I would feel better about cloud computing, cloud storage, and cloud applications if I could pay a monthly fee or buy the product up front.
We are our own worst enemy in the race to find the next “big thing”. When we spread the word virally about a new service, we shouldn’t be putting in the “but it costs” as a detrimental part of our pitch to others. We really should be extolling the virtues of a good business model. We should be saying: “Come check this out. It is exactly what I need, and guess what? It costs money! I actually can pay for access to it so I know it won’t be going anywhere soon. Come and pay money with me so that we can collaborate together and not lose this service.”
Essentially, if everything is free, then everything is equally expendable. It really doesn’t have “value” if we won’t pay for it in some way or another.