“The Love of Free”

For some time, I’ve been thinking about writing an article to be called “The Love of Free is the Root of All Evil“… how in our society even people who aren’t obsessed with wealth are obsessed with ‘free,’ such as free on-line services. But, of course, ‘free’ things aren’t really without cost. I would go on to look at some of the insidious nature of using the “client” as the product.

It was interesting, though, to see a couple of contrasting web articles a few days ago. One is called “I am condemning free on principle, so should you.” It’s by Ben Brooks who argues that an advertising model is good but a free-for-now model is bad. His thinking is purely business: “Free is not only a bad business model, but it is short-sighted and short-lived. No service can remain free indefinitely….”

The second was called “Why ‘ReadItLater/Pocket’ went free.” In it author/programmer Nate Weiner makes his case for switching to the sort of model that Ben Brooks condemns. Customers can see immediate value in some products, he explains. And for such products, it makes sense to have the cost come at the beginning. For other products, such as Evernote or Dropbox, the value only becomes apparent after the customer begins to use the product. Such products, he contends, work best with a different revenue strategy.

I see good points in both articles, although I’m coming at it from another perspective entirely. I dislike the urge in me to get something from someone else for nothing. And I hate the way that some organizations are using that urge in people to get them to give up things without realizing it.