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How Long Can The Free Services Stay Free? 200

A nameless cretin writes: "Yahoo and Bigfoot are both noted for providing free services. They both seem to be planning to add fees for selected services. Yahoo's "Yahoo! by Phone" service, also known as "1-800-MY-YAHOO", provides various information services via voice phone, including the ability to retrieve e-mail. According to this page they are planning to charge a monthly subscription fee beginning May 7, 2001. Bigfoot provides a variety of e-mail services, such as relaying and filtering. They do not provide mail boxes. Although some of their pages still indicate their services are free, some member pages (requiring member login) indicate a $19.99 annual subscription fee will be required for many of their services. Although I am disappointed in these changes, I would like to thank them for the service they have provided us. I hope they are able strengthen themselves financially and continue to exist. I also hope they explore new means of providing free service." Any other free-beer services you've noticed being shut down or leaning suspiciously of late? It's been rather nice to have so many free email accounts in the meantime, eh?
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How Long Can The Free Services Stay Free?

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  • by Anonymous Coward
    What are you talking about? The only way internet ads are going to be as successful as TV ads are if (a) the mediums merge or (b) internet ads go intrusive.

    Oh, but J. Random User HATES the ad banners and popups. But guess what? Most people that are advertising on TV get WAY more exposure than they would on the Internet. And guess what, they're intrusive ads.

    Take a smaller company, and internet advertising seems more affordable, but they run into a brick wall--they're advertising to people who don't want to spend money.

    TV audiences spend money; internet audiences complain that they shouldn't have to. Except for buying stuff from ThinkGeek.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    The only reason a company offers something for free is to raise their profile so that they can sell some profitable services, whether it's eyeball-time (ads) or other services.

    Other services like personal data. I am confident that free email will be around forever, if for no other reason than to collect the email addresses of all your acquaintences.

    Think about it. Someone sends email to all their friends and family. The company that offers the 'free' service suddenly acquires a whole bunch of valid email addresses. The company then sells these email addresses to spammers.

    The same business model applies to online greeting cards, send your friend this story news reports, and just about any other 'free' give-us-an-email-address service.

    This model will dry up if the masses ever get smart enough to give their real addresses only to trusted people. The masses are not this smart, and for that I thank them :).

  • by Anonymous Coward
    the best way to get free email is to get a friend with their own website to give you a free email address on their site. you know who youre dealing with, dont have to worry about any 'all your everything are belong to microsoft' type service agreements, and it can be used where a hotmail account could not because many sites would not allow you to do things from a free email account (on account of the lack of accountability). --Crank
  • With banner ad revenues completely gone it's likely that we will see more and more pay services.

    Any just who is going to pay for that service?

    You assume that just cuz companies start charging, that enough customers will pay to sustain the business. You are wrong.

    Napster can't operate without charging fees? No worries. They'll disappear because no on will pay them. And when they're gone, as in nature when a dominant animal goes extinct, something else will pop up to take its place and flourish.

    Newsflash! The net existed for a great many years before advertising was even legal on the net (pre 1994). And it will again after the venture capitalists/whiners are dead and gone.

    The very existance of GNU proves beyond a reasonable doubt that people will still make good things available for free over the net. Music, images, etc. will still be out there. Even if only on users' personal web pages. And again, as before, search engines, like the early archie and veronica, will index it, again, all for free.

    "Imminent death of the net predicted."

    It's the same old shit all over again. The IT bubble guys, I guess, don't know how old that above quote really is.

  • Those of you with a subscription to WiReD or Time or something. Go and get a few issues from last year and put them in a stack. Now take the same issues for this year and make a seperate stack.

    Notice something? This year's stack is significantly smaller. Why, you ask?

    Everyone is making less money from ad revenue this year. The first thing companies cut when they foresee financial problem (since everyone does say The Economy Is Slowing!) is cut their advertising budgets.

    Sure, this sucks for dot-coms that make their money from ads, but it also sucks for everyone that makes money from ads. The same arguments you could use for Yahoo's business model collapsing could be used for Time magazine. See, the difference here is that Yahoo is now painfully aware of how dependent they are on advertising. They have the ability to use multiple models, whereas Time does not have that luxury.

    The dot coms are better. Stop crying and start buying them while they're so low. :)

  • That was one of the funniest posts I've read in a while. (If it wasn't meant to be funny then it is even more hysterical.) I'm glad it was moderated up so that it caught my attention.
  • I use bigfoot since '97 (seems like forever:-) and they always (as far as I remember) had services that you'd have to pay for...

    Yes, but the problem I have is that they've changed what's free and what's not. Some time ago, I set up a bigfoot web redirection service. That web site has now moved to a different server, so I went to update the redirection, only to find that I now have to pay for it. So my options are to either stick with the outdated URL, or change it to the new one, and pay a monthly fee in perpetuity. I've chosen the former option, with a pit of PHP on my old server doing the redirection to the new server...

  • It sounds like a partial restatement of the Cluetrain manifesto. At least the first point is 100% cluetrain.
  • In a moment of distraction, I submitted this reply before having finished to proof-read it.

    Any reference to "OneStop" in the above should be replaced with "1stUp".

    1stUp was the backbone of many free internet services.

    OneStop (.net) is a totally irrelevant ISP.

    Karma karma karma karma karmeleon: it comes and goes, it comes and goes.
  • by MouseR ( 3264 ) on Tuesday April 17, 2001 @05:09AM (#286726) Homepage
    we will see more and more pay services

    Or the plain and simple elimination of those services. Take a look at OneStop: they were the backbone of *many* free internet access services, like what AltaVista was using. 1stUp would make it's revenues off a cut of the adds displayed by the client software onto the user's machine.

    When the add market started to erode, OneStop saw that they wouldn't be able to expand, and simply stopped the service with about a month forewarning. AltaVista warned [] it's users two weeks in advance. Many other providers simply did not.

    My sister was one of those AltaVista users, and she was quite pissed at this. but, as I explained to her, they owed her nothing, as she has benefited from their service free of charge for many months.

    You get what you pay for, in the end. My browser blocks adds too, because I'm sick of the screaming colors and abrasive distraction they bring to web pages. But this may, how long before Slashdot requires a login fee for anyone with less than 20 karma points?

    I already pay for a descent web access (cable). Will it come down, eventually, to pay for Slashdot?

    Karma karma karma karma karmeleon: it comes and goes, it comes and goes.
  • is going to paid-for too... this is definately a trend.

    In the end it should be a good thing, as most of the free services ultimately have no path to profit or even being able to sustain themselves.
  • You're missing the point. I'm not talking about the kind of ads, but rather the companies that advertise.

    Old fashioned trademark ads from big companies are way to uncommon, and they're the only ones who can actually afford it.
  • by BELG ( 4429 ) on Tuesday April 17, 2001 @12:32AM (#286729)
    It's pretty obvious what's wrong with the ads on the net, isn't it? A site that isn't making any money has ads on it to cover some expenses, the ads are banners for other sites that are also not making any money and so the circle is complete.

    The money initially pumped into these companies is running out, so there is no one left to pay for the banners.

    The Internet needs big companies to realize that it's a great place to advertise! We need Coca Cola ads, shampoo banners and all the crap we're used to from watching TV. Those are the ads that actually bring some real value to the advertisers as they need their trademark to be displayed everywhere you go.

    It is time for the Internet to grow up. It's not going to be pretty, but it has to.
  • Your scenarios are silly. I'm connected to the Internet 24/7 with a flat-rate ISDN connection. Whether my or my ISP's sendmail is connecting to "George"'s server doesn't make a blind bit of difference. But that's irrelevant, because you are missing the point. I don't pay, or at least I don't think I pay, for "Internet services". If I wanted that, I could use AOL, no? I pay for a connection to the Internet. If I can only send mail via to designated servers, then I don't have a proper Internet connection. What next? Would you support ISPs filtering packets, and only allowing the services they think I "need"? It's the same thing. And please don't give me bullshit about "competition": a) I'm in Germany, we ain't got none of that there competition; b) as the players get bigger in the ISP field, the "competition" will go away anyways. My original point stands: I want a proper Internet host; the DUL respondes, "too bad: fuck off and buy a T-1 line". To hell with that. Who died and made Paul Vixie King of the Internet?
  • Thanks for explaining what MAPS does, which I knew already. What point are you making that I haven't already addressed? The original post, which you obviously haven't read, had nothing to do with my ISP per se; go read it.
  • by paul.dunne ( 5922 ) on Tuesday April 17, 2001 @01:44AM (#286732)
    I don't mind paying for a service that's been free -- the free period gives you a chance at least to try it out and see if it's worth paying for. do this in a more honest way than most, though: they say up front: you get a month's trial, and must pay at the end or lose your account. A month does seem ample time to find out whether the service is good enough to pay for. Bigfoot have always said that there is no guarantees that their services will remain free, but don't indicate when they are likely to introduce charges. As I recall, so of the services -- the auto-responder is one that springs to mind -- that used to be free are now charged for.

    The real problem with all these e-mail forwarding services is spam. Their measures against it are simply inadequate -- I stopped using both bigfoot and then pobox because of their reliance on the MAPS DUL (dial up list). I object to this list on principle: The DUL is only and explicitly for the purpose of denying access based on the degree of connection the users can afford; but it doesn't even stop a lot of spam. The only effective anti-spam measure I've used is brightmail. Why free e-mail provides can't simply license that technology (which is what brightmail's business plan amounts to), I don't know.

  • I can't see any changes in the Bigfoot pricing model, at least since a few years ago when I signed up. They have a few premium services that are chargeable, but not all the premium services are for-pay in any case.

    I would actually be happier to pay $20 to $40 per year for email forwarding - my main worry is that Bigfoot will go bust, since they have no visible means of support, and my email address will no longer be usable...
  • Just a wild-ass guess, but I'd assume Yahoo! pays at least $0.10-$0.20 for the average call to this service. There is no way to support that with ad revenue, even in the best of times, even at rates several times that of similar media (such as radio). On the other hand, you can serve hundreds or thousands of customers via the web for the same money. You could probably pay for it with ad revenue even in the current depressed ad market.

    Don't read too much into this. Free 800 number service wouldn't have lasted that long even if the dot-com phenomenon hadn't imploded.

  • That may be true, but its also true of other, more traditional systems as well.

    Things that quicly come to mind, are the phone network (build it, switches are desigined to last 20 years, and just provide power, and you done...), and hydro power (build a dam, install a turbine and a generator and youve got free electricity in the spring forever...).

    And it also works for non 'network' like services... R&D costs for pharmicitals is high, but the per unit manufacture cost is low as an example.

    Your argument seems to be that the price of things should be related to the cost of production. In a market driven system the price of things is related to what the market can bare. If that greater then the cost of the item, the company stays alive. And if its less, the company dies.

    Right now the goind theroy is that the price the market can bare is $0 for these online services. When the free services either die, or are forced into some kind of payment, the high quality content will dry up.

    It remains to be seen weather or not the maket can bare a non-zero price on these things...

  • Well, my ISP's news server has been down for weeks (and maybe forever!), so I've been using it quite a bit.

    Compared to Deja, is extremely fast. The onlything I would like to see is slashdot-style nested threads, but I'm sure that they are working on something. (DejaNews' outline was nice, but verry slow).
  • Well, they're fuzzy on the final Windows application, but it looks like that they wanted to keep the CGI/Module architecture in place instead of going to a runtime environment such as NET or Java. This makes sense because when you are already running 400 webservers, speed is a greater issue than shorter development cycles.

    You're right that they didn't need to upgrade (even though Slashdot told me they were "About to Collapse Under Load"!) But any document where the "Business Justification" section fails to mention that they own both Hotmail and Windows and the obvious PR problem there, and instead blabbers about Unicode etc, really shouldn't be worthy of a /. flamefest.

    It is interesting that they are using Interix in production, tho.
  • Although I generally agree with most of what you said, I think you ignore some equally large underlying issues. However, the only thing that I wish to comment on is the mindset that "the majority of people do not wish to pay for products or services, and if threatened with this, will move to another product or service." People will pay for products and services if the only way they can get it (or something of like quality) is by paying for it. To the extent that this is true online, it largely owes to the fact that billions of dollars in venture capital and IPO monies were being spent subsidizing this mind grab effort. Once the vast majority of these internet businesses cut their losses (they either do or die), customers will simply have a choice between paying or getting nothing. Neither will customers keep expecting "free" services online, since hardly anyone is going to be providing them in the months and years to come.

    In other words, I believe that a good number of these Internet businesses will start charging money, directly or indirectly, in the next year or two and have some success (about as much as can be expected, given that so many schemes were ridiculous). Furthermore, I firmly believe that the overinflation of the Internet by VCs, investment bankers, and the like has actually done far more to harm Internet businesses then it has to help. When the party line in the financial community is to grow grow grow at all costs, it essentially forced more stable strategies out the window. If you were a startup that needed capital, you had to accept that philosophy. Even if you were free from having to raise money, the problem was that all of your competitors were following this strategy, drowning out your more sober plans by essentially buying customers; very few startups can afford to go without significant revenue for long.
  • Heh, I would be the first to tell you that the internet was, and still is, overhyped. I do not see the internet as a social scheme (although there might well be some modest implications, I simply don't care to debate them), rather I see the internet as offerering the modest potential for economic benefit. Some goods and services can only be delivered cost effectively online, others are simply delivered more efficiently online, even if the vast majority of offerings online offer no benefit beyond hype and a zero dollar price tag. Put simply, while the pundits of yesterday and today price the Internet as offering a trillion plus dollar economy, I see it as offering a couple billion and that the only way it can be effectively exploited is if it is valued reasonably. (hint: Yahoo and the like are still way overvalued in my opinion).

    So yes, I agree that some customers were drawn online just because some things were free, but those services were mostly things that should never have been online. For services that offer the customer real value, customers will eventually come around to the realization that there is no such things as free lunch, and they will be willing to pay for it. In short, money will be made online, even if all of those that hyped it are now saying the exact opposite. Financially speaking, this is not terribly unlike the BioTech crash ~10 years ago. Just like the DotComs, the VCs, hedge funds, and investment banks were throwing money at anything associated with Biotech, no matter how stupid the investment was. The end result was that a lot of bad companies crashed and burned, taking good companies out with them in part or in whole (by sucking up good capital and/or distorting the market). Then, after the market crashed, those same VCs and such wouldn't touch very good companies. However, although solid companies were harmed while it was hyped and harmed when it crashed, astute investors that were willing to seperate themselves from the herd made a LOT of money, ultimately.
  • But TV (and radio?) have a trusted ratings system - clickthrough is an attempt to replicate that ratings system for websites.

    Maybe if the website viewing statistics were believed more...
  • Or parents buys a game for a birthday/christmas/whatever present. The kids figure out what they want by reading the free game sites, which don't necessarily have to be contant promoters of any piece of crap like the big, secure, ad-based or magazine-backed commercial sites. The parents probably don't want to shell out $5 or more a month just so their kids can find out what to spend another $50 on.
  • Developers usually don't reply as AC.
  • Well, the majority of gamers are kids, and the majority of kids either do not have jobs that pay enough to spend money on a game news site or just do not have jobs at all. So, you're message to them was basically that you are shutting them out.
  • Developers usually have a LOT of stuff being used on their computer at once: compilers/IDEs, several browser instances, help files, flowchart/modeling/UML tools, email, various utilities (internal development programs, version control, third-party stuff, release utiltiies, etc). We're shoving internal company data all around. Faster computers, more memory, larger monitors, and faster networks dramatically increase our productivity.

    Now, the place for the older machines is in the testing department. The testers are supposed to reflect a selection of supported customer configurations, so thats where the minimum system requirements boundary should be tested. It is far, far easier to tone down an application developed on a high-end machine than to build up an application on old hardware.
  • ...are well advised to go straight to the source. Rather than asking provoking questions of people who probably don't know the correct answer anyway, it's always best to get your infromation staight from the horse's mouth.

    If you want to learn about Red Hat Linux, why not

    Try it -- it's really easy, and fun too!
  • Very interesting and worthy of a front-page story IMHO, you should submit it (and probably already have I imagine). I'm not holding my breath expecting to see it posted, though. I thought the "Business Justification" section was very interesting:

    • cgi one-process-per-socket model, which is really an Apache limitation, isn't it? One could write a web server that used separate threads versus new processes. I wonder how well this works under Linux, where theoretically a new process is almost as fast as a new thread.
    • globalization/unicode support - I didn't see that one coming, but if FreeBSD is really lacking in that area, then I guess Microsoft had a good point.
    • development cycle time/tools - I couldn't really find much to back this up, other than that VC++ was better than GCC (not really a justification) and that it was easier to find memory leaks with native Windows debugging tools. It sounds more like the Hotmail team wasn't aware of all the debugging capabilities available with FreeBSD + free software, but then again I don't currently use MS tools so maybe I would be surprised.

    An interesting read, though.

  • Sure, if you or I wanted to make a web-based email service the initial cost would be cheap. But you're not going to get the traffic necessary to support an ad-based revenue model unless you have plenty of users. And then when you have plenty of users, you're going to need more web servers and more bandwidth, so your costs are going to go up. That's why there's been consolidation among the free web-mail providers along with some just shutting down altogether or selling certain domain names that they promised their users that they could have for life (leaving many angry email users behind in the process).

    As an aside, and likely to generate flames, Microsoft recently posted a case study [] of Hotmail's conversion from FreeBSD to Windows 2000.


  • This might be good news for Bigfoot users, since if they start charging, maybe the rest of us can start thinking about taking them out of our procmail spamfilters.
  • If efficient software is necessary, explain java.

    Because efficient programmers are much, much more important than efficient software.

    It is a simple, repeately proven fact that it is far quicker to develop certain classes of applications in Java than in C++.

    The performance differences between the two are irrelevant; you can throw more hardware at a slow program to make it faster. Throwing more programmers at a late project (because the tools don't work for the job) make it later and probably buggier (due to incomplete understanding of what you're fixing/implementing).


  • Ok, I'll bite. (Yes, I know I'm a sucker)

    When I bought my new computer, I had
    Windows, Internet Explorer, and Office pre-installed (for free)

    Not quite. You paid for it, you just don't know you paid for it. Microsoft, whose biggest market is OEMs, like the company that made your computer, sold the software to your machine's manufacturer. The manufacturer's cost of the software, plus a small markup, is then built in to the cost of your machine. Had Windows and Office not been pre-installed on the machine, your machine would have been cheaper. By how much, I can't tell you, because Microsoft has a different deal with each OEM based on sales volume.

    RedHat does not develop Linux. For the most part, Linux is developed by a worldwide team of volunteer programmers scattered across the continents and the 'Net. RedHat *does* provide some funding for open source projects and actually employs a few of those developers (including Alan Cox), but so does Corel (they have been funding wine development), Caldera (I forget what they fund), and other companies that don't even make a Linux distro like IBM, Compaq, and others. Nobody is "stealing" RedHat's work because all the work they and other companies do on Linux and other open source software is licensed under an open source license like the GPL. See the Open Source Initiative's website [] for more information on the open source licenses like the GPL. There is a difference between free as in speech vs. free as in beer. Linux is free as in speech.

  • RedHat Linux and all Linux distributions are free as in this page [] or this page [] to find out what the difference is... the developers of Linux (Linus Torvalds, Alan Cox, et al.) decided out of the goodness of their hearts to donate their software to the public. Companies like RedHat make money by selling things like technical support and services. Selling CDs is just to get into the door, really.

  • I think Operamail uses the same webmail system. seemed a bit slow for me when I checked.
  • As they say, TANSTAAFK and you have to be honest enough to yourself and any potential users. Be up-front and even transparent enough to put out to your users (and get them on your side) to show that your irreducible costs are $x/month and that *YOU* are currently acting as Santa Claus.

    You're in a tactically unpalatable demographic as from the appearance of your site, it caters towards the pre-teen market which is notoriously short of change. However, I would suggest doing a little thinking inside the cube ... what is it that you can offer them? And how can you use it to offset most of your costs (especially your stress levels). Again hypothetically speaking, if you don't have real-capital from a revenue stream you have to look at alternatives ... in this case I would nominate *STREET CRED*. Kids (again assuming that is your target demographic) like boasting that they are better than x in something. How can x be achieved only from your site, and how can you convince another company that x is worth sponsoring. Again you have to think about your business model but I would suggest things like offering to act to 2nd tier games companies beta-testing programs (bounty scheme where they pay $xxx directly for each found bug), creating web-easter eggs to be sublicensed, web playback of advanced (you'd have to make an agreement with equivalent in Europe and Asia to spread the time-zone differential) playing techniques, offer to host chat rooms and provide sanitised market intelligence about future trends. This requires putting yourself into the shoes of a test-dreictor, coach, scout-master and what-else. It's also good to find yourself a niche that bigger companies find hard to duplicate as you are only a one-person band at this stage and it is too easy for the AOLers/MSNBC/Yahoos to muscle in on your customer base. Again, do yolur accounting sums and work out what meta-model you are trying to apply (resouce model, distribution model, service model, etc ...).

    Best of luck ...

  • by LL ( 20038 ) on Tuesday April 17, 2001 @01:28AM (#286754)
    OK let's look at it from 2 points of view, you (as person) and from the client. Basically in this day and age, you get paid either for your time (mythical 9-5), task ($$/page writing), your talent (what you know that others don't/can't), or your teleprescence (film-stars/Tiger Wood). So you ask to ask yourself, given that the computer is a tool, how does it enhance your performance?

    The client's point of view is even more important as it defines what custom you take and what ones you would reject. Put yourself in their shoes, if they had to hire you as an employee, what skills would you bring to add value to what they do? How can you demonstrate that without your time/skills/knowledge/stellar personality etc, they would be worse off?

    It is not easy as you ned to do some very careful critical thinking but once you've identified your role, you can then work out the business model (costs/value/risks/etc). For example, (hypothetically speaking) if you believe your skills are in programming/development with some judgement as technological consultant to these community groups, then you can market yourself as a fractional CTO. Ie if you have 20 organisations, ask that you expect to spend 1 day/fornight workly sole with their technological infostructure (information infrastucture) which would be equivalent to 5% of a CTO salary at market rates. You then have to pay the costs of the server and bandwidth against this income but then that's just a matter of accounting and tax deductions plus an incentive to keep the costs down.

    The key point is to ask yourself what business you are in ... and how will building your longterm reputation will bring you the outcome you desire.

  • If your developers have to have new computers every few months, chances are you're going to be shipping products that are unusuable by most of your customers. If you give two groups of developers identical specs, and one group has the latest Pentium III/IV/whatever systems with hundreds of megabytes of RAM, 21" monitors, and a network spewing Cerenkov radiation, and the other group has 486 and Pentium systems stuffed with a few 10's of megabytes of RAM, monitors that can actually be carried by one person, and a network that just might be as fast as sneaker-net, well, you're going to get two very different-looking products that do the same thing.

    Kind of. Certainly the team on the 486's will be forced to write more efficient software, but you have to ask yourself if it's really needed? If efficient software is necessary, explain java.

    The more important point is that the team on 486's will ship way late. This has something to do with compilers being slower, the network being a dog etc. And one hell of a lot to do with pissed off software engineers not being arsed to do anything or leaving to go somewhere with better gear.

    Never underestimate the power of 21" monitor.

  • To wrap up yourpoint, companies like Coke advertise not to get more revenue, but to protect their trademark. They have to advertise or else they lose the right to use this trademark.

    Ever wonder why Coke's little name says TM and not copyrighted? A copyright runs out, but a trademark is forever as long as you show you are actively promoting it. Sneaky little way, really. If the Beatles wanted to keep all the copyrights to their songs and keep Michael Jackson from owning some of them, they should have marketed themselves better and not filled out all that paperwork.

    Don't you just love all the education some corporations will give you just to make sure you don't give away any of that IP or harm the trademark? I hated the classes, but somethings were kind of cool.

  • Again I disagree. Lawyers will do no good if one can establish previous use. See the eToys saga.

    Advertising has everything to do with maintaining IP. Advertising shows possession for the IP holder, in addition to all the other stuff they have to do. The point of the post was to discuss the reasoning behind why Coke is trademarked and not copyrighted. If they copyrighted the ingredients in Coke they would have to disclose them. Disclosing them is revealing their IP. Coke will not sue someone for making something that tastes like Coke, only something that IS Coke.

    Did you know that Coke has their own police force? They send out people to eat in restaurants who order a Coke. If they are brought Pepsi without being told it is a Pepsi, they report the establishment. The idea here is that the IP for Coke is being diluted and while the customer may know instinctively they are drinking Pepsi, they may still have the word Coke in their head.

    Trust me...we had Coke people and lawyers in the room teaching us this. all I was doing was drawing attention to this fact.

    If you want to see an intrusive ad, go to [] and see the Intel ad. Now THAT is intrusive and Intel is just like Coke in this respect.



  • The service provided long distance in exchange for listening to an ad at the beginning of the call. 30 second ad gave you 2 minutes of long distance. I used the service often, and it came in very handy at payfones. According to their site [] they seem to be still running, but for the past month or so, I can't get through the number--at first it was disconnected, now it just rings forever. So it looks like they're gone.
  • I had the same worries, and was starting to have some odd problems with Bigfoot (some mail sent to me was bounced by Bigfoot!!).

    So, I just switched to pobox []. I think it's $15 per year for basic service, and offers mail forwarding just as Bigfoot does - the only thing I wish it would do is let me forward email to multiple addresses, but I can live without that for more stable service.

  • by Basje ( 26968 ) <> on Tuesday April 17, 2001 @05:14AM (#286760) Homepage
    You have to pay anyway. It's just that time == money. You choose your currency.

  • Anywho [] provides many of the same services as 555-1212...and AFAIK, it's all still free...
  • Personally, if it's a service that's important to me, I'd rather know they're using a business model that a) will last and b) will reward them for providing good service. An ad-supported service is at the mercy of the advertisers. If they don't do well, then the site goes under. (Not to mention, that if you're beholden to the advertisers, you suddenly have a vested interest in not hosting content the advertisers don't like.)

    But beyond that, an ad-supported site makes more money when it's better at getting ads in your face. It only needs to provide good enough service to keep eyeballs there. If they need to keep my $20/month or whatever, they're more motivated to make sure the thing works well.

    Bottom line... I hope some of the sites I use -- including Yahoo -- start making more money directly off users and rely less on advertising. The only question is whether it will work. It'll be interesting to see how Salon's experiment [] works out.


  • I see nothing wrong with paying Yahoo a subscription fee for the services they provide.

    • they have a decent privacy policy
    • their servers are rarely down
    • their online services integrate well with my Palm Pilot

    I think companies like Yahoo will always have basic free services, but I can see them rapidly moving towards subscription based "power user" services, which a certain class of customer (like myself) will be more than willing to pay for.



  • Once the vast majority of these internet businesses cut their losses (they either do or die), customers will simply have a choice between paying or getting nothing. Neither will customers keep expecting "free" services online, since hardly anyone is going to be providing them in the months and years to come.

    True, but you give short shrift to the option that many people consider the most likely: namely that a significant group of users give up on the internet. It's extremely possible that the entire internet as social tool will end up as relevant as the CB radio (still in use, but largely forgotten).

    Commercial use will of course, still be with us.

    But there's every likelihood of a migration back to the (mall, tv, library, etc.) on the social side.

    Unlikely? About as unlikely as the entire dot-com sector coming down with an amazingly resounding crash.
  • If the following item from NTK is true, it all sounds a little suspect from Bigfoot's end. I certainly haven't been told about forwarding limits and the like:

    From NTK ( this week:

    DESPAIR for remaining BIGFOOT users, whose "free e-mail

    forwarding for life" looks to have an expectancy of somewhat

    less than five years. "Times have gotten tough for Internet

    companies such as ours", the company weasels, and goes on to

    say they're spreading that "tough" sensation by limiting

    mail forwarding to 25 messages a day. And even then,

    subscribers have to provide "demographic information"

    before the forwarding restarts. Given that most people

    receive about that much mail in "GREAT INKJET DEALS" alone,

    you can understand that the company would introduce this

    change gently. But, so far, as far as we can tell, they

    haven't mailed users, or put the policy change on its

    Website - they just stuck it in the autoresponder FAQ at How stealthily desperate can you get?

    I've just checked Bigfoot via, and I got:

    Our basic Forwarding service is free, but if you wish to use it, you will need to provide us with some demographic information, so that we may send you periodic emails from our partner companies. You will then be able to have up to 25 emails forwarded daily.

  • we went through a similar time with dialup bulletin board systems; sysops discovered that they couldn't afford to provide 12 incoming lines and 40,000 messages bases without charging access fees. in most cases, when presented with having to pay, users bailed. some people considered the cost worth it, and of course some of the nicer systems survived. out of all that, though, people got used to paying for worldwide email and discussion groups, and good file downloads. kinda sounds similar to paying for internet access, doesn't it?

    some of the elements of services like yahoo phone (reading email over the phone, especially) have a good chance of surviving, just as some of the elements of old commercial bbs services survived. the fact that yahoo is going to charge for the phone service is a small part of a bigger picture. how long will it be before you can check your email at work by calling to check your voice mail? probably not too long.

    if you're interested in using and keeping track of free services, I maintain a resource list at [].
  • Donations are a good idea, especially for relatively small communities, I think. I know a BBS (on the internet, not dial-up) here that is run on donations. They don't just ask for money, they also throw parties every now and then, where the users get a chance to meet the people they have been talking to in real life. They make some money with these parties (even though the drinks are cheap and you don't pay for entrance), which is enough for them to keep going.
    So yes, donations can work, depending on how you do it, and how your userbase is structured.

  • I'd rather pay for the site than buy what is advertised ... Because paying the people who run the site is much more direct (and noticeable - how do they know the impact of online ads on sales, anyway?), and might keep the site completely free of ads, which I would really like for some of the more interesting sites.
  • The DUL is only and explicitly for the purpose of denying access based on the degree of connection the users can afford

    This is patentely wrong! The MAPS DUL does not discriminate against dial-up users, as they can send mail to whomever they want. Nor do the users of the DUL discriminate. If you want to send mail to someone, use your ISP's mailservers! That's what they are there for.

    Consider: if you send email to George, and George's mailserver is down for a day because of Jethro and his backhoe, what happens:
    Scenario A - you are sending the mail directly: Your client must connect every hour or so, and try to get to George's server, tying up your modem and phone line.
    Scenario B - you are sending via your ISP's mailserver: You connect and send the message to your ISP's server. It then tries every hour until they get George's connection fixed, and you go about your merry way.

    Which of these scenarios makes more sense?

    Come on, I was on a dial-up for years, and I just tell my boxen to forward to my ISP's mailserver. It's not that hard, it saves me bandwidth, it just makes sense.

    And for the argument that your ISP's mailservers suck: If your ISP cannot run its mailservers reliably, is your connection going to be any more reliable?

    And for the argument that you wish to use somebody else's mailserver to receive mail: YOU CAN. Using your ISP's server to SEND your mail doesn't prevent you from retrieving your mail from some other server: that's why mail goes OUT on SMTP and comes IN on POP3/IMAP!

    Lastly, for the argument that the DUL doesn't reduce SPAM: My ISP just went to using DUL filtering. My spam went from ten a day to one every couple of days.

  • The quality of trolls has really gone down lately.

  • by Baki ( 72515 ) on Tuesday April 17, 2001 @12:38AM (#286771)
    With all services having to be free up till now, users are bombarded with ever more intrusive ads, biased (bought) information and trash. Because so many internet users expect everything for free, a quality provider offering good information for a (small) fee could not survive.

    As so many free services get into trouble now, I think chances for offering quality services for a fee get better, which might benefit all who value their time and thus are prepared to pay a little for a better signal/noise ratio.

    Dejanews is a good example: It was good, but not economically viable. Because of the "everything must be free" mentality, it was not yet relaunched as a for-pay service. Soon it might, and I would gladly pay a reasonable fee for the invaluable resource that a good usenet archive is. ( is no good, is incomparable to the good old dejanews).

    Subscriptions are cumbersome however, because when there are so many service to use you would have so many subscriptions to keep track of (and to cancel in time). What I would like is a system where I could subscribe to some services that I use heavily, and to pay-per-view for some that I would use only occasionally (like buying a separate newspaper as opposed to taking a daily subscription). However, until a single worldwide system for micropayments is established, this seems impossible.

  • As an employee of a software company, I can whole-heartedly agree with #4. With R&D, shipping, customer care in the south and everything else (most management, sales, marketing, accounting, etc) in California, the natural cultural clash of markeing/sales v. engineering is exacerbated by the cultural clash of "left coast" v. "bible belt". It's REALLY ugly.
  • Juno (free e-mail service) issued a new TOS effective March 13, 2001, which allows them to use their subscribers' equipment in a similar manner to the SETI@home project:

    2.5. You expressly permit and authorize Juno to

    • (i) download to your computer one or more pieces of software ...
    • (ii) run the Computational Software on your computer to perform and store the results of such computations, and
    • (iii) upload such results to Juno's central computers during a subsequent connection, whether initiated by you in the course of using the Service or by the Computational Software... Juno may require you to leave your computer turned on at all times, and may replace the "screen saver" software that runs on your computer while the computer is turned on but you are not using it...
  • More info on JUNO's supercomputer project is at [].

    I couldn't find the TOS anywhere on their site; it's mailed to subscribers after they join.

  • You're not fooling anyone!
  • Regardless of the poor condition of the advertising market, I can't believe that free email is about to go extinct. The cost of providing email access is so minimal -- and going down every day -- that even $0.01 CPM advertising would probably cover it.
  • A friend told me about a company called TellMe that does something similar: you call them up and get stcok quotes and other info. I signed up as a beta tester (they haven't gone live yet as far as I know) and since the first e-mail I got from them (not too many, thanks for not spamming, TellMe) I've used the service once.

    My question to the /. community is: Are people interested in this email-and-other-info-by-phone technology?

    I have absolutley no interest in it and it seems like I'm the only one. Why sit there and listen through all my emails when I can go to a computer and _read_ them all in a quarter of the time. And if its important, I have a cell phone... ?? It just seems like a lot of companies are pushing for this and its one of the few things I don't see any demand for


  • The story submitter states:
    . I hope they are able strengthen themselves financially and continue to exist. I also hope they explore new means of providing free service.

    This is the major problem with the mentality that the braindead Stanford MBAs foisted on the dotcomm world and the users of the Web. A business that spends money to give away its core product away for free is doomed to failure. The notable exception to this rule is television but even then quite recently they were all money losing ventures until the rise of cheap reality-television and talk shows which garnered high ratings without being expensive to produce.

    The mentality of giving things away for free fucked the dotcomm world which in turn fucked the Tech industry which in turn fucked the economy. the sooner we lose it the sooner we'll be on our road to recovery.

  • It does allow more, though it defaults to only forwarding to a single destination. From the page where you modify this:
    "Your Pobox account can forward your mail to up to five host addresses."

    Just go through the Modify Services section and change your Forwarding Address. That page has a button to allow you to add more addresses.

    -- fencepost

  • by Fencepost ( 107992 ) on Tuesday April 17, 2001 @07:55AM (#286792) Journal
    Pop3Now ( []) has a similar service available, and I think it's still free for basic use. What isn't still free is having an account with them that lets you configure settings and have them preserved - they recently changed that to $5/year, which is worth it to me.

    The distinguising feature of their service is that the connection between your browser and their site is SSL encrypted. If I'm checking mail from a public place, I figure it's much more likely that someone has slapped a sniffer on the public terminals than it is that someone's done the same on the networks at Pop3Now or my ISP (or in between), so that added bit of security is a nice thing to have. They also allow checking of up to 5 accounts, but with the page design using more than one or two can slow things down.

    -- fencepost

  • That's right -- Slashdot is now so incredibly lame that even the trolls are migrating elsewhere. (You know how preppies tie sweaters around their necks? Slashdot is even lamer than that!)

    The next logical question is, why are you still here?


  • Recently I've been struggling to figure out the answer to this question on my site - just when we started to make some money, almost enough to break even, the banner ad money dropped through the floor.

    One possible service has been in Flashlink ( [], a system which has a series of member web sites (focused on computer/console gaming) that offer news, reviews, walkthroughs, etc. The catch? You have to pay $3.50 a month to access the web sites. That's not the amazing thing - the amazing thing is that its starting to make money.

    I'm sure the fellow who runs Flashlink won't mind me quoting from his email to me:

    There are of course a handful that are upset and saying they wont pay for anything, but when we are getting a new signup every 3.72 minutes, the positive responses are well outbalancing the negative ones

    The point? While free services in some way will always be around (search engines, some major news sites that can operate the web site as a loss to advertise their TV/Cable operations (like CNN)), it appears that people are beginning to recognize that there are things they have to pay for.

    Pornography, for all the jokes we like to make about it, has been profitable on the Internet. Do they charge you money? Sure - but you pay because you can't get the information they have anywhere else. They provide a service some people want, and someone is always willing to pay, because they already know that porn isn't free - the second a site gets too popular, and hits skyrocket, and the bandwidth costs are too much for most ISP's to handle without asking for more money to operate.

    Other sites that have been free for years will have to start charging for their services. Will people complain? Yeah - I mean, why pay Flashlink $3.50 a month for information they can get for free other places. But if the information is of a high enough quality (like exclusive game walkthroughs you can't find anywhere else, and excuse me for focusing on the game industry because that's what I'm into), people will pay. Would people pay for Tom's Hardware of Anandtech? Most would bitch and moan - but I'm willing to bed that for the quality of reviews/in depth information sites like that provide, there's enough people that would pay that would make it profitible.

    Here's one last thought then I'll shut up. Linux is free - I like it, I use it. But for support, I either have to figure it out for myself or pay someone else to help me - and that's how the Linux industry proposes to make money. Web sites are going through the same evolution. Some things will be free, others you'll pay for. People have mentioned the need for "big advertising" (Coke/Pepsi, Levi) to get into Net ads - but I'd rather make money the "old fashioned way" - by selling something people want to pay for rather than having to prostitute myself. "I love playing Serious Sam - and speaking of serious, I love Coke!"

    I'm curious to see how it goes. Things are going to start to get interesting as we figure out how to make it all work.

    Of course, I could be wrong.
    John "Dark Paladin" Hummel

  • Tom Vu!?

    Hah! Loser...

    Anyway, as you said "The very internet that you love so much is now going after you wallet. "

    No, the very Internet I love is coming back...
    Less commercial clap-trap, more useful discussion, is what I'd like to see.

    My pick for best free site on the Internet? The Motley Fool [], hands down.


  • They have targeted ads. Ask for driving directions.
  • I dunno. All my sites have good placement in the major search engines, and I've never paid anybody a dime for it. I just submit them to one or two of the big engines, wait for a few people to find them and link to them, and let spidering do the work.
  • ...used to be the most accurate place on the web to get phone and address information. They updated their database every month or so (compared to some online directories which still have me listed under my old phone number which expired two years ago) and even had snazzy features like reverse lookup.
    I noticed a few days ago that their services now require a registered account that only includes a limited number of lookups per month.
    It's a shame since I used to use them exclusively for distant relatives phone numbers and the like.

    I guess now i'll have to use Ameritech's or Yahoo's online directories.

  • by Aryeh Goretsky ( 129230 ) on Tuesday April 17, 2001 @01:51AM (#286809) Homepage

    I am a former employee of a "dot-com", company which was closed by its parent company, so this is somewhat dear to me. And painful.

    The company I worked for gave away its product for free to home users while pursuing "branding" (OEM) deals with other companies for increased eyeball count andhopefullysome revenue.

    It didn't work.

    While I will be the first to admit the banner emplacement in our product was poorly-implemented (one of the ways we intended to generate revenue), the sad truth of the matter is that the majority of people do not wish to pay for products or services, and if threatened with this, will move to another product or service. And as for deals with other companies, well, most of them were in the same situation.

    The minority of the user base who are willing to pay for the product or service are usually not large enough to sustain the company. And OEM deals with companies with the same problem does not help, either. Instead, your own costs increase to support the new users you've just gained. And when money starts getting tight, one of the first things which gets cutor at least frozenis the support budget.

    I've had plenty of time to ponder what went wrong (e.g., I still haven't found employment), and have come up with the following list of pitfalls we didn't avoid:

    1. Treating customers like dirt - Customers are the key to any successful business. If you alienate enough of them, then you won't have any.

      Do not lie to, mislead, or hide information from your customers. If you intend to turn a free product or service into a commercial one, let them know right up front that one day that might occur.

      Your customers are your reality check. Not any sycophants you might be surrounded with, boards of directors, or venture capitalists. Listen to your customers. Within reason, do what they tell you. It could be that one suggestion, with a little polishing, might be just the thing to monetize your product or service.

      As a corollary, I'm aghast at the number of companies which need to outsource market research/customer feedback activities. Why can't you ask your customers directly, or, for that matter, the folks who interact daily with them, the customer service reps, technical support engineers, account managers, and so forth? Are you afraid you are going to hear lies if you ask your customers or employees, and that the feedback you get is only valid if it is "massaged" though a third party? Blah.
    2. Engaging in non-revenue-generating activities - A lot of our development and support efforts revolved around activities that did nothing to generate income. If you're going to spend time and money, do it on things which are going to make you money.
    3. Splitting your company into parts - Don't have separate locations for execs, R&D/development, support, and so forth. Nothing reinforces the mentality that "X is filled with gibbering, idiot morons who can't be trusted to tie their own shoes, let alone be responsible for a project" then to keep people apart from each other. Employees need to work with each other, not against each other. Make sure the company is structured so this can happen.

      Human beings are social animals, and need to interact with other people. No amount of videoconferencing, conference calls, email, or instant messaging is going to change that. And allowing employees to remain faceless and anonymous to each other is a great way to install fear and loathing in each other.

      If you've outgrown your building and need to move activities into different offices that's fine; it means you're probably doing something right. However, don't put them in different cities, or, God-forbid, different states.
    4. Spending money like a drunken sailor in a liberty port - We all like to spend monies on nice things for ourselves and our cow-orkers, but there is a bottom line, and you don't spend money on things that don't let you make more money. For example, if your company isn't making any money and your CEO decides that you need to have a new conference room furnished with a walnut table that doubles as an aircraft carrier and a videoconferencing system with more processing power and bandwidth than your server room, then you could probably save money by getting yourself a new CEO.

      Before you start laughing like a hyena, keep in mind the same is true for developers. If your developers have to have new computers every few months, chances are you're going to be shipping products that are unusuable by most of your customers. If you give two groups of developers identical specs, and one group has the latest Pentium III/IV/whatever systems with hundreds of megabytes of RAM, 21" monitors, and a network spewing Cerenkov radiation, and the other group has 486 and Pentium systems stuffed with a few 10's of megabytes of RAM, monitors that can actually be carried by one person, and a network that just might be as fast as sneaker-net, well, you're going to get two very different-looking products that do the same thing. Which do you think your customers would rather use? The software that forces them to do massive infrastructure upgrades, or the one that blasts along with the occasional sonic boom? I know which one I'd rather use.

    So, in a nutshell, if you respect and listen to your customers and your employees, develop products that people are willing to pay for, and spend your money wisely, you'll probablyand there's a fairly big "if-factor" in there do okay.

    Aryeh Goretsky
    - - -

    - - -

  • I completely agree with you and completely disagree. Honestly, 90% of e"sites" should go the way of the dinosaurs.

    Tonight I was reading a story on about a larger e"site" called (why haven't I heard of any of these *Larger* sites before ?).. So I thought I would take a look at Well, nothing really caught my attention, except that it seems like just any other e"business" site that I've been to before, ie. chokfull-o-links and small typeface lettering, a feeling of being overwhelmed and not really knowing where to go.

    So anyways I click on "free" music link littered about somewhere in the page.. which takes me to another page, click on another link which will apparently give me "free" mp3 music,.. Well the third or fourth page is located at Okay, so here is the link to the music, "CLICK"

    "Access to the requested Liquid Audio media is restricted to certain countries."

    Well thats fine and dandy after wading through four or five pages of recursive crap. So I go back to, click on "Free Carl Cox MP3" or whatever it is.. this is great, Carl Cox is the king of DJ's "Cant wait to get his latest mp3 !!" So after another couple of minutes chasing the carrot above my head I finally get a link to the music, in big bold letters "DOWNLOAD MP3" or some such shit (MP3 was highlighted in big bold blue letters)... So i download, here is what i get..


    oh for christs sake! That is no more an mp3 is than a chihuahua is a doberman. I'd love to call my volkswagen a cadillac, sure both are cars, but for fucks sakeone is a rattling piece of shit on its last gasp of air, and the other is a well engineered automobile.

    Frankly the experience was lousy, there is no value in, its misleading its users ontop of that, the lack of value I reiterate.

    I hope goes bye-bye, it should, it deserves it, I hope its fate is approaching soon, bye bye bye bye bye bye.

    Why should I plunk down an annual subscription of $40 or $50 to pay for a valueless site ? I want something in return just like an investor would expect some dividends from gambling on a stock, I'm looking for the same thing in a different form.

    Napster? Sure I'd pay for it, You know I would.

    BTW: Why is liquidaudio (wtf is it anyways) restricted from Canada ?

    Fuck esites. Did I say I agree with you ? Actually I dont, Suck it.
  • I'm happy with my 17" monitor, but what I first need is...

    ...a good chair, a table with enough space, paper and a good pen. The computer you can buy me a few months later when I finished my design.


  • Agreed. A friend of mine worked at Spinway, a company that provided free dialup access. They not only had an ad bar at the bottom of your screen, they also had a 30 second MPEG (or somesuch) ad that played while you connected. Imagine-- an audience that has nothing better to do than watch the ad while they connect, and the ad can be the same one you play on TV if you like.

    Now, you'd think these things would be fairly easy to sell, at SOME price. They can easily measure audience size, your ad is on all by itself (no competing ads before or after), and it's unlikely people are leaving to get a snack for the brief 30 seconds. But Internet advertising got such a bad name ("banners are ineffective!") that no one-- not the brick and mortars, not the dot coms-- would buy these things. They had to give a bunch away for free, as "trial offers".

    It seems to me a lot of the brick and mortars are losing out on huge bargains right now, when a few years from now they'll be paying high rates when everyone catches on.

    Ah, well, maybe it's for the best. The last thing we need right now is MORE corporatization of the net. Maybe these clueless corp's will help extend the incubation period of micropayments, tip jars, and such, so that when they finally come around, a lot of sites will be able to tell them to fuck off.
  • by Cognoscento ( 154457 ) on Tuesday April 17, 2001 @12:27AM (#286821)
    The only reason a company offers something for free is to raise their profile so that they can sell some profitable services, whether it's eyeball-time (ads) or other services.

    Sometimes it happens that their initial business plan fails because a smaller percentage of the public opted for the "pay" services than the company in question expected. It's certainly fair play to add new "pay" features, and it's even fair play for a company to turn some of its "free" services into "pay" services as long as appropriate notice is given.

    I honestly don't expect my Bigfoot account to be around forever, nor my Hotmail account... They don't owe me anything in that regard, except for common courtesy. Problem is that we tend to get wrapped up into a sense of entitlement once we get habituated to something...

    Of course, that's just MY opinion, and I'm often wrong. (Just as my ex-girlfriends...)
  • This may be the first time that a telephone system has been slashdotted.
  • Yahoo is shifting their FinanceVision service to pay. Smart move. Hit the people with the deep pockets.

    Personally, I don't think things like free email are ever going to become non-free. Services like Hotmail may begin to limit usage (You have to log in every 60 days now for the account to stay active. Maybe it'll go to 30 days?)

    One service that still exists, and I can't understand how it's survived, is TellMe. The 1-800-555-Tell service that's like an uber version of Yahoo's. It's been completely free for a while now, and as far as I know the only company that's been advertising on it is AT&T (probably to lower their phone bill costs). I actually use the service pretty often when I'm away from the computer (check up on New Jersey Devils scores and the weather), but for how much longer? How are they making any money?

  • There's a big ol' problem with subscriptions, though: the web really just isn't set up to support them.

    The key aspect of the web in tying together information has always been the use of links. But nobody will link to a subscription site - what's the point? The reader probably won't have access to the linked content. Search engines would also be dead, since there's no way they could be given access to search the subscribers' content (doing so would open massive security holes regarding faking a search engine, using multiple search requests to retrieve the entire content by assembling the return contexts, etc..) and without it they'd be restricted to searching the site's own summary keywords - and it'd take only a few sites abusing the keyword system ("sex sex sex sex sex sex sex sex" anyone?) to make that useless. The "web" would become a set of radiating lines. Furthermore this would raise the possibility of midstream providers charging for relaying: international packets cost more people money than national ones, after all. The result of *that* would be that the web would be reduced back to the ye olde BBS days - every site seperate, different costs for accessing them, massive information redundancy because of the seperation, etc. etc. etc.

    So what can be done? Well, firstly, the reason for the death of advertising can only be to the silliness by which it was performed. Measuring click-throughs was a silly idea, really, because consumers are simply not used to ads that require an active response. Furthermore, the only reason for clicking through an ad to an e-commerce site would be an impulse buy - and nobody impulse-buys over the internet because you have to wait for the goods to be delivered which negates the impulse. (Some of them had silly ideas too. Like putting the ad at the top of the page, so "the user doesn't have to scroll down". Unfortunately the only result of that is that the ad gets skipped with the browser chrome and UI stuff at the top of the window. Or putting all the ads on a centralised server. Lag caused by ads is a far greater nuisance than the ads themselves.)

    So what can happen now? Well, there's a chance that the cost of bandwidth will fall: less demand (remember, "demand" in economics means desire *backed up by money*), same supply (do you see any T1's being ripped out?) = price falls. People have already suggested new advertising models, but companies will need to accept that people aren't going to madly click on ads for info. Everyone's used to ads that they keep in mind for later buying.
  • Well, with alot of free services going away, between banners ads dropping out the bottom, and spam (email services) etc. alot of companies have had to look at alternatives. There was this recent slash article [] on juno's arbitrary use of your computer cpu cycles for their own clients via their special screen saver. (the idea really irritates me no end)

    but in context the great period of the internet free lunch is going away. Banner Ads are likely to become the net equivalent of highway bill board signs for effectiveness, for example. We will have alot of services whose main purpose in life is to collect marketing data.

    (I still think that we should all enter in the marketing data for our favorite politician when filling out online survey forms. This would probably help out vs spammers no end [insert smile here])

    Check out the Vinny the Vampire [] comic strip

  • One thing on yahoo has done is if you want to get email for them using POP3 you have to agree to recieve advertising from them.


    The problem with paying is not that I'm cheap, it is because it is so difficult. You have to put your credit card number in. Your address, which I'm think they will sell. Make sure you don't agree to recieve spam because of confusion check boxes.

    Would you like us not to send you daily deals!

    Maybe Yahoo has an answer with paydirect []

    One thing these email services can do is charge a micropayment on sending email. Like every month yourfirst 5 emails are free but as you send more email the price goes up. But after 1000 it is 10 dollars per email. The great thing is this makes it difficult on spammers.

  • I know they will just use something else. But good, yahoo and bigfoot don't want these spammers using their servers.
  • Some free ISP such as [] actually use their prestation as a demonstration of their abilities; They can then show:
    • How wide their bandwidth is
    • How many users they can handle
    • How many simultaneous mySQL/PHP apps they can run
    So, if you don't think about a free service as a finality, you've got a chance to make money out of it (and in this case, with no banners, ads, etc.).
  • Now, I know this will sound lame but you could try donations. If your "community" is quite large and you think you can ask them for something in return on a voluntary base. It just might work.

    One service that took this approach is [] which hosts free email addresses (POP3/Webmail hybrid) and gives unlimited homepage-space (I only use the mail). They have an absolute no-SPAM policy which is why I stick to them even with the occasional outage.
    Last year they started to have financial trouble due to the lost of revenue in ad-sales and they did a "plead" during christmas time. Needless to say, I was one of the first that contributed... If I had waited 2 weeks longer, I would have gotten a T-shirt, but what the heck.
    Anyway, if they keep in bussiness, I'm pretty sure I will donate again around christmas next year.

    So perhaps in your case donations are the way to go. I wish you good luck on with your website (I'll check it out when not at work).

  • As a web developer, I spend a lot of time interacting with search engines. In the past months, a lot of the big name engines like Excite! and Altavista have switched towards a pay-per-submission model.

    AV, for example, wants you to spend TWO HUNDRED dollars to get listed in their directory with LookSmart. And those bills don't guarantee anything other than that your site will be "reviewed" to see whether or not it "qualifies" for inclusion. You can still submit to AV for free, but only after jumping through hoops. They generate a random GIF and you have to type in the characters contained inside, before you can submit... And even then, your "code" is only good for 5 URLs. If you want to submit more, you have to generate a new GIF and type in the new code. They're doing their best to make free submission a huge pain in the ass, especially if you have a lot of URLs.

    I wouldn't be surprised (though I'd be rather disappointed) if the day comes when you can't submit to any search engine without paying a fee.

  • by ShaunC ( 203807 ) on Tuesday April 17, 2001 @12:52AM (#286840)
    >Any other free-beer services you've noticed being shut down
    >or leaning suspiciously of late?

    MailStart ( used to be the most useful site around. It would let you check any POP3 account, read your mail, reply to the messages, etc. through their web interface. The ads on their site were, surprisingly, quite non-intrusive. They recently closed down their free services.

    On the brighter side, it only took me about 5 minutes to install a PHP script that does the same thing. Sure we're used to getting a lot of things for free, but if those places go under or start charging fees, quite a few of those services can be replaced with "do it yourself" projects.

    I miss MailStart, though.

  • by OblongPlatypus ( 233746 ) on Tuesday April 17, 2001 @12:58AM (#286852)

    I run a free community hosting service []. I've developed the system myself, and I pay for the increasingly pricey server myself. The site is and will probably stay free of ad banners, but I would like to keep the service free of charge anyway.

    What am I to do? I can't say I feel like I have much in common with large corporations like Yahoo and Bigfoot, but I'm having the same problem as they are. Does anyone have any ideas that might help me avoid taking their path and charge monthly fees for my service?

    (This would have been an Ask Slashdot, but that section is in my humble opinion turning into a farce []..)

  • Well, how about Internet Radio? Sites like offer a TON of free radio stations. They have banners along with a few traditional radio ads. Will they be smart enough to know that while the banners may not show much revenue, that they can still sell ads like traditional radio stations? The advertisers on traditional radio stations get NO statistics whatsoever. Ever the listening audience is just a rough estimate. Sonicnet can at least say for sure "we had x number of people here your ad today".

  • by NineNine ( 235196 ) on Tuesday April 17, 2001 @08:31AM (#286857)
    Well, what about BIG advertisers, like Coca-Cola? Do you go into Wendy's and say, "I'd like a Coke because of the ad I saw last night."? No. That's simple brand recognition. The big advertisers don't see the Net (yet) as a valid medium for developing brands. When they do, the Net will advertise the same as TV/Radio/Print, and the researchers will target Net advertising in the same way they target more 'traditional' media. You've got to give it a while. This is a TOTALLY new medium that's only been largely popular for a year or two, and still isn't nearly as widespread as TV, although it will be soon.

  • by NineNine ( 235196 ) on Tuesday April 17, 2001 @05:38AM (#286858)
    No, Internet ads ARE effective. To say that they're ineffective as compared to TV/Radio/Print is comparing apples and oranges. With Net ads, people are trying to track direct clickthroughs. There's virtually no consideration given to mindshare or branding. With TV/Radio/Print, it's ALL about mindshare and branding. There is NO clickthrough to measure. People buy those ads, and look at their sales, and see if they're going up after an ad campaign. Ad companies need to start to think the same way for the Net. Just because somebody doesn't click on an ad (I don't click on any TV ads) doesn't mean that they're not effective. Hell, or you can think the other way, and say that there is no direct way to measure traditional advertising at all (other than 'Tell us where you saw our ad when you come in to our store!'), so it's TV/Radio/Print advertising that's totally ineffective.

  • by Beowulf_Boy ( 239340 ) on Tuesday April 17, 2001 @01:23AM (#286860)
    IS the best Dang Free e-mail account out there.
    You can use Imap and use a program on your own computer, or Check it through Http.

    It has no ads whatsoever, and is being ran as a free service by the people who own Netware, and the only problem is its down about once a month because they keep their servers upgraded with the Beta Stuff to test it out.

    So, this is a free service that will most likely stay free, because it benefits the company.
  • Switching services as soon as a provider starts charging for services is not the answer. At the most basic level, companies provide these services for free because they are trying to establish a base of user to whom they hope to charge for services or they want to sell advertising.

    The linux community likes things to be 'free', as in beer and in speech. However, the free beer model doesn't work as well for hardware and services as it does for software. If an individual wants to make a contribution to 'free' software, where free refers to the cost (regardless of which license they prefer), then there is no cost involved for the user. They are volunteering their time - which does not require a cash outlay.

    For free services on the net, which are typically provided by businesses, someone must pay for servers, bandwidth and people to keep the whole thing up and running. Depending upon the number of users of the service, this can become exceeding expensive. Businesses aren't charities, so in the end, they need the ability to generate money from the free services. The revenue can come from banner ads, subscription fees, or perhaps the service provides awareness of their other products which will lead to increased sales. However, in the end, there must be a financial justification for providing the service.

    Consider /. The service here is free, but who provides the service? The motto is "news for nerds", but the content typically is narrowly focused on linux, open source, free software and similar ideas - which is a more narrow focus than they had several years ago. Why is this? Does it have anything to do with the fact that the owner of /. is in the linux business, i.e. if linux were to fade away, they would be out of business? /. is a great service, but it is a self-serving service.

    I see a lot of post here complaining about the evils of banner ads. Should I ignore the 'Think Geek' banner that is flashing incesantly at the top of my screen right now? Or, should I go check out their products and perhaps buy something of interest so they will continue to provide financial support for /., so this service can remain free? Considering that I like /. and I would like to see it stick around, perhaps I will go look for something to buy as soon as I post this comment.

    In the end, someone must pay the bills, and that requires cash, and if there is no cash generation, then the service will end. While services may end, the open source revolution will remain, because the cost of participation is time, not money.

  • The more important point is that the team on 486's will ship way late. This has something to do with compilers being slower, the network being a dog etc.
    While I do not dispute the argument that faster systems make for happier programmers, my computer spends way more time twiddling its digits waiting for my next keystroke than it does compiling.
  • Yes, but how much time do you waste waiting for your project to compile?

    Very little.

    I for one, would like to take iterative development to the next level, compiling and running regression tests more often. I think an average of once per line of code would be best.

    "Iterative development"? That sounds like writing code without designing it first. If you don't know what effect a line of code will have, you need to consider whether another career would better suit you. That's like a writer that says he needs to print out and reread his entire book after each sentence he types in or changes.

  • It's a sad fact, but in the world of business, especially with plumetting ad revenue - free services just don't make financial sense. They make even less financial sense if they are _good quality_ free services which people would be willing to pay for!

    I am the founder of a completely free technical support community [] - but it has no big business behind the site. The internet is great, because it allows 'community freebies' to be globally accessible [such as], but it doesn't change the basic premise which investors want - a service that generates those greenbacks - and lots of them!

    However, many internet startups have, and always will, provide time-limited free services in order to generate interest in the community...and some may even be able to sustain them by other means. You should always be able to find some enterprising company giving away a perfectly good quality service for free; but you need to expect to have to eventually either pay, or move on!

    My (still extremely overvalued) 0.0042 euros.

    - Emile [] : why not become a volunteer tech?

  • This site [] discontinues its free service and requires a subscription and login.
  • There were people on both sides of the money. Investors put it into businesses that weren't worth a damn but there were also people peddling those businesses, knowing full well they wouldn't make it.
  • For as long as people are willing to pay for them
  • I started programming on an 8088. Then I got the first 286 in our department. Then I switched jobs, and had to stay on a 286 while the other developers got their 386s. I didn't get a 486, or a Pentium, until I bought one (not at the same time).

    In 1995 I proved to my manager that by buying each of his 5 developers a P90 instead of the 486DX75s we had, we would save the equivalent of one full time programmer. He said no. Don't ever confuse head count with capital budget. Finance people hate that.

    Did we ship late? Sometimes. Do I ship stuff late now with my aging PII-366 laptop? Sometimes. So I ship it any later than the guy at the next desk with the 900MHz PIII? No.
  • by an ominous cow ward ( 443574 ) on Tuesday April 17, 2001 @01:30AM (#286905)
    SDF [] has been free since 1989. That's the longest running free service that I know of.
  • by htwright ( 443662 ) on Tuesday April 17, 2001 @01:01AM (#286908)
    After reading a lot about RedHat and Linux, yesterday I decided that I
    wanted to try it out. But I live in a small town and our only computer
    shop sells only Microsoft Windows and a few games. In order to find
    out where I could buy RedHat Linux, I talked to some of the "hacker"
    type of guys at my job, who knew more about it. I was infuriated when
    I found out that it was possible to download and even install RedHat
    Linux from the Internet for free, through illegal so called "FTP
    mirror" servers! They even told me that this was the "normal" way of
    installing RedHat Linux. Even though it is illegal to download
    software from the Internet like this!

    Personally, I think this kind of behavior is abhorrent! You people
    just don't understand that theft is theft, even though you are only
    stealing "bits of information". The people behind Linux deserves to be
    paid for their hard work! How would you feel if somebody stole your
    computer? That wouldn't be too fun, would it?

    Why do you think Bill Gates of Microsoft (the creator of MS-DOS and
    Windows) has become a wealthy man, when Linus Torvalds of RedHat (the
    creator of Linux) hasn't? That's because people have been paying Mr
    Gates for his software, while other people are illegally downloading
    Mr Torvalds' RedHat Linux for free!

    From what I've heard, there are even web sites that specializes in
    providing stolen Linux software (i.e., programs that can be run under
    the Linux operating system). At those sites, you can choose what
    kind of software you want to download (games, word processors, etc.),
    and you are provided with lists of stolen software that you can
    download, for free!

    Even though there must be millions of dollars lost because of this
    murky business, this hasn't been brought into the general public's
    attention. My guess is that this is due to the fact that everyone has
    been talking about the Napter MP3 web site. But I hope that this "free
    software" business will be the next in line to be shut down!

One can't proceed from the informal to the formal by formal means.