Lots of people, including me, use free applications. This blog is on the free version of WordPress.
But free really isn’t free. There’s always a price.
As Google grows, more people register to use their free tools, including GMail, Google Documents, YouTube, and this little tool called “Search.” Yes, and it’s all free. We love free, right?
Google is a for-profit company that has a responsibility to it’s shareholders and employees. The smart engineers who write the code for these free applications…well, they need to get paid. Everyone needs to get paid.
So how does Google make money? Well, right now, they leverage the immense amount of data that they capture every time we do a search. Or they monetize the content of our emails. Or our social networks. Or our video viewing habits.
Google, Yahoo, Facebook, MySpace, YouTube, WordPress and others offer free services with the hopes of getting a LOT of people to register. Then, they monetize it by selling profiling data about how we use their free services. (Note: Broadcast television and radio work in similar ways. Newspapers charge a fraction of what it costs to print and deliver the paper. It’s all fueled by advertising.)
Many people are thrilled that there’s a free alternative to Microsoft’s Office suite. But when you buy their software, you get a certain amount of protected anonymity. Microsoft isnt data mining information from your private Excel spreadsheets, but free services like Google Documents and Zoho can. The front end of these services are free, but they need to find a way to earn a profit. And currently that’s done by aggregating user behavior and selling it to advertisers.
There’s really no such thing as free. And with Internet applications, free is a temporary concept. Eventually, we will all have to pay.