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But haven’t you also said many times ppl shouldn’t complain abt ‘free’ apps that take & sell their personal info? That seems to me a root problem. Free apps aren’t free, but still hamstring more honest developers. Hope I’m not mis-stating your view.

Transpondster, in a reply to my complaint about the culture of free that I accuse Google and others of creating.

You’re right Transpondster, I have made that statement in the past and posted good quotes that in some ways promote using free services. Heck, I’m replying to you on Tumblr—a free service that, to my knowledge, doesn’t make much money besides premium themes (a handful of which I’ve bought, by the way). But I think there’s an important difference in my perspectives that perhaps I haven’t been clear enough about.

Companies probably aren’t going to abandon “The Free Strategy” anytime soon. Maybe they’re Google, or perhaps they took VC in order to build a product and grow quickly, then figure out the sustainability thing later. There’s a lot of educating we can do in terms of helping people to know what they’re getting into once they sign up and rely on any of these services. These companies—and any company, for that matter—are not our friends. One day they may be running fine, but tomorrow they could pull the plug, sell to Facebook, Google, or Microsoft, or make a deal to plaster advertising over every square inch of free space.

When you pass up the option to exchange good ol’ fashioned goods for good ol’ fashioned money, all bets are off.

Professionally—as the employee of a developer and as a tech writer—I can make choices for how I run my endeavors and who I work for. Right now, my day job is for AgileBits, makers of 1Password and Knox, which are both for-pay apps. We offer trials on the platforms where we can. As often as I’m able to for my work, I opt for paid apps and services because, unless it’s a company like Google, nearly everyone I’ve talked to prefers being supported that way. When I write about free and paid services, I hope to present the pros and cons for both, but I do still have a personal dislike for free.

As a user, though, while I may not personally like free, there’s not much I can do about it. I can write about why I believe it’s bad, cite examples, and at least hope I can help educate a few folks on what’s going on and why. But I just have to get over it and make my own personal choices for how to roll in this 21st century world.

At the end of the day, lots of people will continue to be drawn to free services. Judging from the level of surprise that continues to crop up around buyouts like Instagram’s, though, I think there’s still plenty of educating to be done when it comes to typical users understanding what they’re getting into when they choose free.


  1. transpondster said: Thanks. Good reply. I like Flipboard, but really can’t understand why they don’t charge $3. As for tumblr, I def want David and co to make a fortune off it. But hope they won’t go nuts mining my data when they roll out ads next month. No reply needed
  2. chartier posted this