“I love free software and could not have built my site without it. But free web services are not like free software. If your free software project suddenly gets popular, you gain resources: testers, developers and people willing to pitch in. If your free website takes off, you lose resources. Your time is spent firefighting and your money all goes to the nice people at Linode.”
This is a very interesting take by Maciej Ceglowski of Pinboard. He encourages all of us to financially support any web service we use and love, even if it requires you to “yell at the developers!”. He says that what happened to Gowalla could happen to any free web service. As the service gets popular, costs rise; and as costs rise (and the service gets popular), an acquisition looks very appealing the founders; but the appeal of the acquisition wears off when the acquirer shuts down the service and keeps the engineers to work on something else. Patrick Rhone (of Minimal Mac) took this advice and announced that he will be sending Tumblr $10 per month to help keep the service he loves afloat, even after the VC money is gone.
I think this is a very interesting situation. There are SO many free web services out there, and there is no way they can all survive while being free. I like that some users are trying to take it into their own hands and help keep the web services they love in business. But I also like that some of the popular web services are trying to think differently about “monetizing” their service.
David Karp of Tumblr has said that he wants to find ways for Tumblr to make money that “enhance the experience” for its users. I can’t wait to see what they come up with. I also can’t wait to see what other services, like Twitter, Instagram, and Path eventually settle on as their business model. Twitter seems closest by far, but I think they still have some way to go. This is why venture capital is so great - by raising money from VCs (instead of charging their users), these web services have the opportunity to innovate new (and hopefully interesting) business models as they grow into larger companies.