We focus on free web services a lot here at Lifehacker. However, Pinboard developer Macie argues services come with a big problem: if we don't pay for them, they're likely to go away. Her solution? Use services that offer a premium option, and subscribe to it whenever possible.
Photo by Don Hankins.
We've all had a favourite service that shut down after it couldn't stay afloat. Some -- like my favourite extension, Xmarks -- got lucky and were bought out by a bigger company. Others, like Drop.io, were bought out and changed or never heard from again. We've often talked about which services are worth paying for, but Macie at previously mentioned Pinboard makes a different point: It's not just a matter of principle. Paying is sometimes the only thing that can keep these services around:
The dynamic [of many free projects] is the same. Someone builds a cool, free product, it gets popular, and that popularity attracts a buyer. The new owner shuts the product down and the founders issue a glowing press release about how excited they are about synergies going forward. They are never heard from again.
To avoid this problem, avoid mom-and-pop projects that don't take your money! You might call this the anti-free-software movement.
If every additional user is putting money in the developers' pockets, then you're less likely to see the site disappear overnight. If every new user is costing the developers money, and the site is really taking off, then get ready to read about those synergies.
What if a little site you love doesn't have a business model? Yell at the developers! Explain that you are tired of good projects folding and are willing to pay cash . . . to prevent that from happening. It doesn't take prohibitive per-user revenue to put a project in the black. It just requires a number greater than zero.
We don't mean to lecture, obviously. We merely think this is an interesting, different way of approaching the issue. While people always say "you should support the projects you like", it's often interpreted as a matter of principle -- but what Macie's saying is that it's more a matter of whether you want to keep using the service next year.
What do you guys think? Have you had any services you love die because they couldn't make any money? What services do you currently use that you pay for, if only just to see them stick around? We'd like to hear your thoughts in the comments -- and be sure to check out the full article below; it's a pretty interesting read.
Dono't Be a Free User [Pinboard Blog]