Almost Everything Seems Free
One of the most interesting things about the current information age and Web 2.0 is the prevalence of “free.” Almost everything seems “free.” You can upload videos for free on YouTube, you can share pictures for free on Flickr, you can have crazy amounts of email storage for free on Gmail.
It Seems to be a Trend
The trend of free services continues in the real estate space– upload listings and have profiles for free on Trulia and Zillow, blog for free on ActiveRain, upload your real estate videos to Wellcomemat for free, the list goes on. . .
But maybe “free” ain’t all its cracked up to be. All of the sites mentioned above are businesses, not charities. Presumably, one of their goals (and hopefully it’s near the top of the list) is to make money. They all have investors who have a financial stake in what happens, and they expect to make money.
But what do we, as users, do?
We complain when we have to pay for stuff. We want it all to be free. “Data should be free!” How many times have you heard that? Google has made data free, but only because it figured out a way to make BILLIONS of dollars off of the aggregation and display of that data. That data ain’t free. Someone is paying for it, just not the person doing the search.
Trulia and Zillow are great sites, and they have most certainly put a lot of power in the hands of consumers, which is a good thing; but how long can they survive when almost everything is free? They have costs, and they have investors, and both of those are going to have to be satiated at some point. Where will that money come from? Sure, advertisers can offset some of the cost, but all of it? Advertisers don’t have unlimited funds, and they do have almost unlimited choices of where to spend those dwindling funds.
So what if if Zillow and Trulia, one day, ask their users to start paying for the information; to start paying for access to the powerful tools they have built? What happens then?
My guess– people will grab pitch forks and light torches.
That is the nature of the Web 2.0 culture we live in these days. We want it all to be free. Democratization sounds nice, doesn’t it?
But democratization comes with a price. A price that many are far too reluctant to pay.
Think about it for a second, why do we hate paying for incredible tools from great vendors? Are we that cynical? Is it hubris? Have we empowered ourselves to the point where we have become too big for our britches? Are we no longer willing to put our money where our mouths are?
I’m not really sure, maybe it is a little bit of all of these things. But one thing is for sure, if we aren’t willing to pay for the tools and services that we hold up as the future of the industry, then those tools and services will disappear.
Maybe we should stop talking about how great Web 2.0 is, and actually start investing in its future. . .