Free lunches still elusive on MySpace

Nice comment by Don Dodge…

MySpace has blocked Photobucket content again. Robert Scoble reminds us when you host your content on free services nasty crap can happen. TechMeme is flooded with blogs angrily protesting MySpace’s actions. The lesson is this; Free services always come with strings attached, limitations, service outages, advertising, and rules that can change at any time without notice.

Consumers sometimes forget the bargain they made in exchange for the free services. Sometimes it means your personal information can be sold or marketed. Other times it means your content is not really yours anymore. Sometimes it means you get to pay for additional services once you are hooked. Or maybe that the rules change over time and the service is unreliable. Most times things work out OK and consumers don’t complain too much.

Consumers will put up with hassles and uncertainty in exchange for a “free” service. Businesses will not. Business customers require solid, reliable systems and they are willing to pay for them.

Both markets, consumer and business, are important and potentially profitable. However, the economics and expectations are different for consumers. As an example, Microsoft has 260 million Hotmail consumer users and over 500 million Outlook business users. The terms of service and feature sets are different and so are the business models.

MySpace, YouTube, FaceBook, and other Web 2.0 free services get lots of attention. They are held up as examples of innovation and the new way of doing things. I agree they are fun services but innovative? Depends on your perspective…

Nick Carr gleefully pitches in:

It’s worth remembering that the business model of Web 2.0 social networks is the sharecropping model. After the Civil War, when the original sharecropping system took hold in the American south, the plantation owners made money in two ways. They leased land to the sharecroppers, and they also leased them their tools. It’s no different this time. The payments for land (Web pages) and tools (video widgets et al.) don’t come directly, through exchanges of cash, but rather indirectly, through the sale of advertisements. But the idea is the same. If there’s a widget that can accommodate advertising, that tool will be supplied by the plantation owner, not by some interloping varmint. Whine all you want, but that’s the way it’s going to be.