Free isn't always the best option

Many people (especially Malaysians) love free stuff. Free is good on your wallet but a lot of times there isn’t many other benefits.


Free stuff inevitably goes away. The latest casualty is Google Reader – there wasn’t a business model for it, and Google needed to direct it’s resources elsewhere so they canned it. Via the official Google Reader blog:

There are two simple reasons for this: usage of Google Reader has declined, and as a company we’re pouring all of our energy into fewer products. We think that kind of focus will make for a better user experience.

Just adds on to my distrust of Google.

Free stuff by large organizations stifles innovation. Aldo Cortesi writes:

The truth is this: Google destroyed the RSS feed reader ecosystem with a subsidized product, stifling its competitors and killing innovation. It then neglected Google Reader itself for years, after it had effectively become the only player. Today it does further damage by buggering up the already beleaguered links between publishers and readers. It would have been better for the Internet if Reader had never been at all.

Free stuff turns you into a product to be sold to advertisers, since you’re not the customer. Bruce Schneier summarized our relationship with Facebook (it’s the same with Google):

Don’t make the mistake of thinking you’re Facebook’s customer, you’re not – you’re the product,” Schneier said. “Its customers are the advertisers.

I always find it strange that people would put up with annoying ads so that they can play games for free. If you like it and it provides value, pay the $0.99 for the game lah! If there are products and services that you use and like, please ensure their continuity by being a paying customer. Or donate if they are a non-profit organization like Wikipedia (donate here).

This is why I subscribe to Basecamp, Hootsuite Pro, Evernote Premium, Fastmail, Gravity Forms Developer License, and too many more to list. Maybe I’m very lucky to have the financial ability to pay for stuff I use, but I don’t smoke, don’t have a Starbucks or drinking habit, and try not to eat out that much. So next time you want to jailbreak your phone so you can install a $0.99 app, consider skipping the pack of smokes instead.

5 Comments on "Free isn't always the best option"

  • Matt says

    Interesting that you use FastMail. Good choice on Gravity Forms, I always liked that, but didn’t really have a reason to try it.

    • Email is mission critical! Too risky to leave it to a free webmail service (looking at you Gmail)

      • Matt says

        Would love to chat with you over this some day. I’m more than willing to pay for service, but nothing else comes close to Gmail in terms of features/speed etc. I considered Google Apps for Business, and Office 365, but I didn’t need the first, and the latter really wasn’t as good as Gmail.

        • Email is a hard one, especially if you are entrenched in the Gmail system. Google Apps is an option, but it’s a little overkill for people who just want email. Yahoo! Mail is a possible option too, but feels a little rickety.

          I decided on Fastmail because many geeks recommended it (see link below), and also because it was the only option available with power features. Of course, you can also purchase web hosting which comes with email functionality.

          All the best deciding where to host your email!

          • Matt says

            Nice. I didn’t know that Marco Arment was on FastMail too. Perhaps I’ll check it out in the future. If I had to pay for something other than Gmail at the moment, I’d probably go with Office 365, but we’ll see. I’m open to exploring. 🙂 Thanks!

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