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The Almighty Buck

The Not-So-Free Web 100

Big Brass Balls writes: "The NY Times has an article about how freebies are becoming harder to come by on the web." Registration free link, even -- "just doing my bit to promote freebies on the web." And I never got my free 50 photos developed by Shutterfly, either.
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The Not-So-Free Web

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  • by Anonymous Coward
    The traditional location of the Garden Of Eden is souteastern Iraq. Archeology bears this out, at least to the degree that it used to be a fertile and lush area. Don't look now, but it has been a desert for a long time. The natural result of typical human behavior is the creation of a desert.

    Actually, neither the Bible nor archeology show that man turned the region into a desert. In the Bible, God did it. (Several sinful cities were wiped out, and the whole region was flooded. By the time the Jews returned from Egypt, most of the wilderness was desert land except for the "fertile crescent" region (or "land of Canaan") along the coast of the Mediteranian Sea.

    While man may have wrecked the ecology in places like Greenland and Easter Island, the arabian desert came about naturally (or super-naturally, depending on which explanation you accept).

  • by Anonymous Coward
    Maybe when some of these companies finally work out that the web is not profitable for them, they might fuck off and take all their in your face marketing with them. No more banner ads, popup ads, click thru licences, domain name lawsuits and all the rest of the depressing greed induced wank.

    I long for a return of the days when 90% of the web was good useful information provided for free by people that care (ignoring the pr0n of course which has always accounted for most of the web)

    These days, its all restrivted, polluted, corporately driven bulltshit (ignoring the pr0n of course which has always accounted for most of the web)
  • How true. A little example from real life- just last night I was reading a Hunter S. Thompson book ("Better Than Sex") in which he mentions Mencken's brutal obituary of William Jennings Bryan.

    One google search got me a few quotes from the obit.

    One more google search with keywords from the quote got me the full text of this famous, scandalous, and essentially truthful obituary, and I read and enjoyed it.

    We are living in an age where any schoolchild could do the same. The slightest curiosity about such a thing (and some good search-engine instincts) can open up a vast, immeasurable expanse of culture. Who would go to the library to try and dig this article out of microfilms? But who wouldn't do two quick Google searches to satisfy their curiosity- and come away with a better historical perspective, and a little bit wiser about humanity itself?

    My only remaining question is: why would it not be just as proper and valid to be able to do such a search for Roseanne Barr's famously bad singing of the Star Spangled Banner- or a clip of Geraldo being attacked by skinheads on television- or the "I love the smell of napalm in the morning" scene of Apocalypse Now?

    The struggle of the Internet is a struggle of public access to culture. The fact that some of the culture is instant, and is still being treated as a product, is irrelevant. In a hundred years, it will all be the background noise of history... unless, of course, we want to make culture and history against the law, or meter it so you can only afford to ingest a tiny bit of the culture you're immersed in.

    And that will be difficult... as difficult as establishing secure mass media formats... because not everyone will, or should, submit meekly to such rules.

  • Capitalism is a helluva lot better than socialism
    or communism. Look at the rest of the world to see
    how well that's worked out.

    I don't think it's "good" for our society to have an entire underclass who cannot access the net. I also don't think it's good to blame people who work hard and make money, or to attempt to force them redistribute the products of their labor, or their parents labor, to those who don't or can't.

    What good is it to force someone to help their fellow man, instead of letting them decide of their free will where and how to help?

    There are students who can't afford pencils and paper to do their homework on, or a full meal so they don't go to school hungry, or running water to bathe so they can go to school clean, or electricty or gas to heat their homes and cook what food they do have.

    To whine about someone not being able to afford internet access or voice mail is absolutely meaningless, and quite frankly sickens me.

    These folks can't afford to buy medical texts to get information either. But they can access the internet and read the texts at most public libraries (just fyi, I'm against censorship and filtering). These millions of kids will be no more disadvantaged than kids who couldn't afford to buy books 50 years ago. I'm not saying it's right, I'm just saying you need to get some damn perspective!

  • Not to be paranoid, but a lot of companies want to restrict your access to free information as well. Take a look at AOL/TW and all the others that want to lock you into their section of the Internet. And there are plenty of plans out there to allow sites to charge for content. Unfortunately, a couple of those are likely to end up working, causing some of the content on the Internet to become fee-based.
  • How much time passed between your first and second orders? There is a time limit on the free prints, something like 60 days. Did you contact customer service, or do you prefer to address customer service issues on Slashdot?

    By the time I got to Shutterfly 6 months ago, the deal was 25 free prints, and I had no problem stretching them out across a few orders.

    This isn't like timeshare real estate or shady little Caribbean calling card companies. Shutterfly lays out its tems pretty clearly in plain language when you sign up. If you're too impatient to read a couple of paragraphs, that's not their fault. And anyway, the free prints are free apart from shipping. They've lived up to the contract as I read it, but then, I did read it.

    And in the meantime, new customers still get free prints, albeit only 15. They've shifted things to create bigger incentives for referrals, which still get you 25 per person. And it's a damn fine service. The prints I've gotten from my digital files, even the 8"x10"s, are gorgeous. And at $3 for an 8x10, what's to complain about? I've heard they don't do great work with film or with hand-tweaked digital files, but those aren't their main line of business, which is high-quality, well-optimized prints from unmodified digital camera images.
  • fair enough to post a URL to the registration-less site... but pray tell, how is a company requesting you register to use their FREE SERVICES a privacy invasion? (For that matter, it's not like they ask that you sign an indemnity stating that all information you provide is accurate upon pain of death.) I find a comment title like "Privacy Invasion" particularly ironic, coming from somebody who lists their homepage in their user info, and on said homepage tells the world - or at least those who use WWW browsers - where he goes to school, who he works for, and has a picture.
  • I have a theory that the downfall of banner ads was that the 'feature' of being able to measure effectiveness through (lack of) clickthroughs. Advertisers were able to get a nice itemized monthly report from or whoever showing them just how innifectual their ads were. They continue to pay for for ads in print media, which are no more effective, because they don't know any better.. Its just accepted. The said fact is that direct marketing (read: SPAM) is probably the best online marketing model around right now.
  • The bottom line is that charging subscribers more doesn't guarantee a higher quality. Take Slashdot - can you imagine a better source for this kind of thing? What good would it do to charge for it - most of the good stuff would disappear. I like reading the opinions of the AC's, and they sure wouldn't pay for the privilege of posting.

    Yes, it's called Kuro5hin [].

  • by Brento ( 26177 ) <brento&brentozar,com> on Wednesday May 02, 2001 @06:15AM (#251166) Homepage
    With charging I think we will see much more real content on the internet and just not "hi, my name is John...bla bla bla" homepages.

    Speaking as someone who happens to have a "hi, my name is Brent...bla bla bla" website, I can vouch for the fact that we'll be here forever. As long as I can get a hosting account for less than the cost of a good steak dinner (or even a bad steak dinner), I'll be showing my webcam until they pry it from my cold, offline fingers.

    And your suggestion doesn't seem to make a lot of sense, either. For example, I can pay fifty cents to get a copy of my local Houston Chronicle paper, or I can get a free copy of the independent Houston Press. Guess which one has better quality? It's a flip - for restaurant reviews, hard-hitting political articles, and what's going on locally, you want the free one. For up-to-the-minute sports scores, good cooking recipes, and national entertainment news, I turn to the - well, I turn to the web, actually, but that's beside the point.

    The bottom line is that charging subscribers more doesn't guarantee a higher quality. Take Slashdot - can you imagine a better source for this kind of thing? What good would it do to charge for it - most of the good stuff would disappear. I like reading the opinions of the AC's, and they sure wouldn't pay for the privilege of posting.
  • by thal ( 33211 ) on Wednesday May 02, 2001 @05:57AM (#251167) Homepage
    I think this article unfairly points the finger at Yahoo!. You can still get a certain amount of mail service for free (something like 5 Megs storage). So, yes, some of the idiot dot-coms with "we will give you free things for branding purposes and then plan to screw you over when you depend on us, but oops, we ran out of money" as their motto have died. But I think Yahoo's committment to free stuff is alive and well. For the time being anyway.

  • you are wrong, i never put any of my personal info for webmail, yahoo. but when it comes to physically free stuff, you need to give them your real address to send it to!
  • by segmond ( 34052 ) on Wednesday May 02, 2001 @07:37AM (#251169)
    The web is free! Is slashdot not free? Is hotmail/yahoo not free? Is google not free? Oh wait, we want physical stuff? puhlez! Is not free? once I got I cancelled my cable. Talk about free stuff, that is free $15 a month in my wallet. The web is mostly free for most things that I am after, information! I mean, what do we want? free breakfast? Shit, without the net, I got free samples via junk mail, I discard any free sample I get, likewise all those free web thingy pissed me off, and I am glad that they are gone. Cuz guess who gets them, little kids and adults who don't know better, giving out their entire information to whoever for free stuff? What is up with people and free stuff? My friend said if McD gave free fries for a sample of DNA, that many people will line up, I am beginning to believe that is true.

  • Well, you could use one of the many ad blocking proxys (Junkbuster springs to mind), or filter out a lot of them manually in you hosts file...

  • >Comments, Suggestions?

    I think it was a well argued comment. I'm going to copy it for posterity :)

  • From the article;

    "As early as next year, Mr. Talbot said, Salon hopes to impose a fee of $75 to $150 a year to read any of its site with ads. "
  • Way back in the early days (c. 1994) I paid 4.95/mo for access to There were no other decent news sites out there at the time. It was also nice cause it gave you search-capability to old news stories. They dropped it cause I guess too many people started finding other news sites for free (as did I).
  • not everything is disappearing. I keep a list of free resources [] on my site. it's not all inclusive, but I try to keep it regularly updated.

    it's interesting that one of the companies mentioned in the times article was yahoo; it wasn't that long ago that yahoo phone did have advertising throughout the service. makes you wonder, when the dot com advertisers disappeared, why didn't they get others to buy the ad time? cripes, with the amount of telemarketing calls and junk mail I get, you'd think someone would want to harass me while I'm checking my voice mail.

  • how is this offtopic? I specifically mention one of the internet freebies that now costs a significant amount. If I were any more on topic, I would be the article submitter. Moderators on crack today, I swear.
  • that there's still plenty of free pr0n.

    and I'm also glad I got in on's free firecracker [] kits [] which now go for 49.99 []
  • by Tackhead ( 54550 ) on Wednesday May 02, 2001 @06:29AM (#251177)
    > 1FREE.html?ex=989985600&en=9b8497cdaccdf05e&ei=500 1&partner=YAHOO

    Newswire: May 2, 2001: Yahoo! (YHOO) stock quintupled today on news that the New York Times had just signed a $2.3 trillion dollar contract with Yahoo! to publish its stories on Yahoo's site.

    One anonymous NYTimes source was quoted as saying: "We just put this story up on how the 'free' model wasn't working, and our web servers crashed under the load of all the people coming from Yahoo's site. Boy, were we wrong!

    Our sysadmin keeps screaming something about slashing dots affecting us, and how we're a bunch of clueless idiots, but our marketing department tells us they're positive the users are clicking on our article because they saw it on Yahoo, and besides, they throw much better parties."

  • by fizban ( 58094 ) <> on Wednesday May 02, 2001 @06:15AM (#251178) Homepage
    The only thing I've ever wanted for free from the internet (and have received!) is INFORMATION. Free tickets, free games, free coupons, free toys, free this, free that.... It's all hogwash and doesn't describe the REAL reason for having the internet, which is the free flow of information. SO, in my estimation the Internet is becoming MORE free than ever with increasing amounts of shared knowledge. The New York times is looking at the internet from the mentality of a consumer. They should really be looking at it from the mentality of an academic...


  • by Bilestoad ( 60385 ) on Wednesday May 02, 2001 @05:49AM (#251179)
    Only now the VCs have stopped picking up the tab.
  • ...Is hotmail/yahoo not free?... little kids and adults who don't know better, giving out their entire information to whoever for free stuff...

    So it's somehow not good to provide personal information for free (physical) stuff but it's OK to provide personal information for "free" Web mail? Hotmail and Yahoo! Mail want your personal info too. So to answer your question, no, they're not free -- you pay with your information, just like other freebies. And unlike a sample of coffee or whatever, once you're locked in to Hotmail and the like, getting out is another story [].

  • This is a great quote. I was going to post here also about it.

    75 to 150 to see the site WITH ads?

    someone at nytimes needs to check copy more closely.
  • hwo the fuck is this redundant?! jesus you fucking moderators are dumb as rocks.
  • by joq ( 63625 ) on Wednesday May 02, 2001 @06:23AM (#251183) Homepage Journal
    Lets be realistic about whats free on the Internet. Everything has a price as we all know, so why are many things harder to find then they normally were? The answers are simple.

    Before the tech sector stocks took major dives, we had drones of companies offering everything short of their mothers for free. An influx of companies who never had a definitive game plan for their businesses who thought that by offering X service for free, they'd be the ones and only to capture that segment of the market.

    Venture Capital firms went bonkers thinking that by these companies getting users they'd eventually end up having that company convert revenue by turning around, after a set quota of users were met, and offering something for pay.

    Well people didn't want to pay and the companies should have clearly seen that from the beginning. If someone is signing up for a free service, what makes you think they'd want to pay for something they can move to the next competitor and get for free?

    Aside from that, many people bitch about the freebie services they already have and turn around and abuse it entirely. eg. All those spammers who open up a new Hotmail account daily. So its no surprise the number of companies have declined. How do you expect them to pay bandwidth, colo, equipment fees, with .03 cent click throughs? its unfeasible. For those who have done IT budgets here we all know how much a mid sized cage can cost in a colo. Its a miracle many survived as long as they did.

    Hardcore crypto []
  • I have to admit, I am not terribly surprised by the trend to get rid of the free stuff. Most products and services are not inherently suited to be sold over the Internet. I'm not going to support that statement too much, except to say that the difficulty in finding a viable business model is a sign of this. But, education is the one thing that I can see as being really good over the web. Obviously I'm not talking about teaching a Drama class :) But I am talking about that part of a discipline which relates to history, theory or criticism. And in many more intellectual disciplines, the practical aspect can also be effectively provided. The one thing that many dot-com internet businesses failed to take advantage of is the inherent interactivity of the Internet. And it is this inherent interactivity which makes education such a good Internet play. The one big hump that businesses and schools who are doing e-learning will have to deal with is that now old saw "information wants to be free". They have to move beyond selling their content. Sell academic credit - the report card - instead. Now here comes the blatant self-promotion... One site which does all this is called Oomind []. It is, as far as I know, the only truly open educational system. Anyone can be not just a learner, but also an educator and an accreditor. The whole point of Oomind, is to democratize education (and make a little money doing it). Please check it out.
  • Send them money [] even if they don't ask for it through PayPal, Ecount, or Yahoo PayDirect. If you use my <plug>tip bookmarklet []</plug>, you can send money to the owner of a website with a few clicks and just typing a password. (The bookmarklet only works with Yahoo PayDirect, since the other services don't provide a URL template to send money to a specified e-mail address).
  • At the time I tried them, I found no such language on the site. Yes, it may have "timed out" as you describe.

    I didn't contact customer service because it wasn't that big a deal: they sent a coupon and I got a couple free prints. I didn't feel entitled to more free prints, but I did wonder why the promotion wasn't as they described it.

    I did raise this on Slashdot. Last I checked, I could talk about it wherever I wanted. That goes for recommendations and reservations both. Timothy mentioned Shutterfly, I responded. Get off your high horse.

    As for their quality, that wasn't the topic raised. Yep, they are a solid bureau. They spend lots on those cute vellum envelopes and extra 'thank you' inserts in each shipment, which are both impressive and overdone. They lived up to their contract: they said they'd charge for shipping and materials, and they gave me the finest shipping and materials my money could pay for.

    The prints themselves are awesome. If you don't want to be bothered with printing it yourself, then Shutterfly is a great bureau to save you the effort. They take care of their inks and paper stocks, where the home hobbyist would not. However, I've found that my $150 HP Deskjet 932C printer and some high glossy photo inkjet paper can rival the results, with a turnaround of ten minutes instead of four days.

    If I have a dozen prints I want to send to my computer-phobic mother cross-country, I'll load up the Shutterfly client software and use their service again.

  • by Speare ( 84249 ) on Wednesday May 02, 2001 @06:13AM (#251187) Homepage Journal

    Yep, I wanted to see what the print quality was, so I got two prints done by Shutterfly. They sent the two, and then erased the rest of my "free" prints.

    Nowhere on the site could I find any language that suggested something like "up to 25 free prints in your first order." They also charged for the postage materials and service, so I know it wasn't an attempt to save themselves from 25 separate envelopes.

    A newspaper in San Francisco last week (forget which one) had a front page teaser discussing the liberties taken with calling card rates. Sure, 100 free minutes for $2, but each time you dial it's a minimum of 25 minutes.

    The more granularity they can force, the fewer transactions they really have to process. It's all a scam.

  • ShutterFly [] []

    Does anyone have comments on these two services? I just bought a digital camera and was wonder which to use. I like Zing's online storage and photo albums....very sweet stuff. Price seem similar, except Zing charges $0.50 more for S&H. If this is off topic then mod me down. I'm just looking for feedback on these sites. (BTW, Zing's photoalbum is free for unlimited storage and pictures -- that's not offtopic.)


  • by TomatoMan ( 93630 ) on Wednesday May 02, 2001 @06:54AM (#251189) Homepage Journal
    As more and more of the "prime-time" sites float subscription fees, this will divert more and more traffic to the free sites, which will crunch them even more through increased bandwidth costs. I know I won't be paying to read Salon or Yahoo or anything else; I'll keep surfing for the (dwindling) free sites and keep driving their costs up. And since I run a couple myself, seeing my own costs go up as more people give up on the pay sites.

    Lovers of free information might wind up inadvertantly killing a lot of it off just by trying to access it. This is a real problem.

  • Before the tech sector stocks took major dives, we had drones of companies offering everything short of their mothers for free.

    Obviously, you never went to []! She cooks, she cleans, she nags you about the games you play on the computer!

    (Disclaimer: I have no idea if its a real site, and I CBA to find out, click at your own risk :))

  • by Kreeblah ( 95092 ) on Wednesday May 02, 2001 @06:51AM (#251191)
    You can bypass all the registration nags by editing your hosts file (/etc/hosts in UNIX, %WINDOWSDIRECTORY%\hosts in Windows). Add the following lines:

    That's the IP address of (the story server), which, coincidentally, is mirrored across the other servers (even the images they use, although in the stories, they use another server to host them), except for the main server. Plus, you can get directory listings. Can anyone say recursive wget?
  • by nharmon ( 97591 ) on Wednesday May 02, 2001 @05:43AM (#251192)
    that such business techniques were unprofitable, and would eventually crumble?
  • The SI swimsuit calendar has dates on it? Huh... I guess it does. Never noticed that before...

  • The lack of possibility to fund good/hi class content providing has made the internet filled with almost 100% crap.

    Closer to 90% crap - then again everything is 90% crap (the internet is not an exception to Sturgeon's Law).

  • I really dont find the voice ads that annoying. They are only a few seconds long and play only once before each call. You can talk as long as you want on each call too. I really hope they can manage to stay free the way they are because I relly on them for my longdistance service now :) It's great to be able to talk to my girlfriend, who lives across the country, for hours and never have to worry about the bill.
    =\=\=\=\=\=\=\=\=\=\=\=\=\=\=\=\=\=\=\=\=\= \=\=\=\
  • While the article says it's harder and harder to find those free internet phone call site there is still a good one around. is still free for calls in the US. I'M pretty sure it's a windows only program though, but i'm not sure.
    =\=\=\=\=\=\=\=\=\=\=\=\=\=\=\=\=\=\=\=\=\= \=\=\=\
  • Yeh dude! I canceled my cable too, but then the modem stoped working. What's up with that? Oh well, that was $45/month I didn't have to pay anymore.

    I hear you on that french fry thing. I once gave a girl a DNA sample and she came back with a whole person that looked LIKE ME. Talk about recombinant DNA techonogy and free stuff, wow.

  • by Sir_Winston ( 107378 ) on Wednesday May 02, 2001 @10:50AM (#251198)
    It's about the fact that the entire cultures of the Web and also of USENET are changing. Content providers aren't just not offering freebies, which as you point out is economically understandable; they are also putting in absurd "copy protection" mechanisms, digital watermarking, etc.

    As an example, the number of sites I run across with stupid and ineffectual but nonetheless annoying "anti-copy scripts" is increasing exponentially. Usually they try to disable right-clicking to get a context menu, by throwing up an inane message about not being allowed to copy content. Naturally, the scripts can be disabled by any competent person, or can be bypassed by simply right-clicking and pressing return to get rid of the box and right-clicking again fast enough. But they represent an altogether alarming shift in attitude. No longer are people sharing information, data, resources--they're "displaying" those resources, but not allowing them to be "used" and reused.

    The most obvious examples are images and multimedia. If I go to a website, sometimes I see a nice background pattern or image I'd like to save to use on my desktop. But, oh, wait, someone has disabled right-clicking. Bah. I can get around it easily, but most average net surfers will not be able to. Ditto for images--for example, my father was on a website with tractor images, and for some godforsaken reason he actually collects antique tractors; he saw pictures of the same model tractor he has, but in a beautiful already-restored condition, and wanted to save them. Bang, disabled. What would it possibly hurt him to have those images available locally? And of course RealMedia and the Microsoft asf/wmf formats exist mainly for the purpose of streaming video or audio without the user being able to save the clips.

    I don't know about you, but I don't like what that represents. The sad part is that even podunk personal sites are getting into the act and restricting content from being copied to a local disk. This is just not in the spirit of sharing and goodwill and community; it's extending meatspace limits on property into the digital realm where those limits are entirely artificial and do not belong. If you release something into the digital webbified world, you should expect people to want to copy it, and you should welcome that as the result of a cyberworld where copying items has virtually no cost. Otherwise, release it somewhere else, not on the net.

    To make matters worse, this is a very short-sighted attitude. Web sites disappear all the time, and if no one can copy their content locally, that content will disappear along with the website if the content was copy-protected and view-only.

    Plus, the whole attitude behind that is just selfish and contrary to the principles the Web and USENET were founded on. Just think of the recent story about gaming sites closing right and left--this didn't involve copy-protection, but it does involve that attitude of not being part of the community so much as being a business first last and always. Many excellent gaming sites had worthwhile, even unique content, and were forced to close. Yet I can't recall a single one making their resources available to the rest of the community, say by giving a free licence to host any of the dead site's resources on other more successful gaming sites, temporarily at least. Funny, I thought gaming was such a community thing, and that gaming sites are an outgrowth of that community. Yet no one seems to share like a community; if a site dies, usually all its unique content dies with it, never to be seen again.

    Another issue is the artificial restrictions and dangers created by digital watermarking. Today watermarking is used almost exclusively on images, but the applications for the future are unlimited. Today, it is most commonly membership sites that insert personally identifiable UserID and date and IP information into images, so that if those images turn up elsewhere, someone particular can be blamed and kicked out. But with the technologies companies like Microsoft are pushing, even non-membership sites could watermark content and persecute people for noncommercial copying of it. Watermarks will turn up in audio and video streams, background images, every kind of data. And when that happens, there will be no community on the Net; resources will never again be shared; the rules of meatspace will effectively have been artificially grafted onto cyberspace.

    Even today watermarking causes problems. For a very long time USENET has been a place where people noncommercially share not just chat and other text, but any sort of data and information they are mutually interested in. There's a group my dad can post to about tractors, and even post pictures of his tractors or get images or video involving tractors. You can find groups which post high-res scans of photographic art. You can find groups for freeware and groups for pirated applications, groups for start-up sounds and groups for full mp3s, groups for pr0n and groups for bird photography. The spirit of USENET was always the spirit of noncommercial sharing of digital content, both original and borrowed from the Web and scanned from meatspace.

    But, companies from the Web feel free to spam USENET with ads for commercial websites, causing my service provider costs to skyrocket, and then complain when their content is posted for free to USENET. They shouldn't spam USENET users if they don't want their stuff to be posted onto USENET. I think it's rightfully open season on content providers who spam us without our consent; we damn well should reproduce their content without their consent. Tit-for-tat.

    Yet, a few days ago I was scanning through some groups and ran across a poster who was not only told by a commercial website to stop posting their images, but this commercial website posted the man's name, address, and telephone number to USENET based on matching the digital watermark in the images to a UserID and billing information in their database. He repeated the message several times. I could not believe it. They published his personal info for all to see, for posting a few images he got from them after they spammed USENET with ads. That is a violation of the highest order. And this is the sort of attitude some arrogant content providers are getting. We're not in for a rosy future.

    That's all I really have to say about that, except to say that the site that published this man's personal info was and I hope there's a script kiddie or haxor out there with his name on them. The USENET article in question is--aw hell, my crappy news server expired the original articles, but some message-IDs that are related are kaTH6.49361$ and many others you'll find in the stated group, to corroborate the story.

    In addition, does anyone have information on how to remove various types of digital watermarks? I can post the images in question somewhere, if you can't find them in the group but would like to look into the particular watermarking these abusive privacy-breakers used; but perhaps the images in the preview section of their site have similar watermarking.

    I'm not really interested in these clothed pictures of late teens and twentysomethings; I'm just interested in getting back at someone who's violated internet privacy in a very real and annoying way. Comments, suggestions?

  • It's a popular business model. Some is addictive, or well-designed/useful enough that you would pay for it. Or you come to rely on it.

    Of course...there's always the privacy thing too. I consider that part of the price.


  • You can still get a free webpage at [] or []


  • Ideally, all the big businesses will fail, too, and the Internet will become the domain of small, specialized businesses and hobbyists/nonprofits who offer things for the love of it. That will build a virtuous, Jeffersonian cyber-yeomanry that will help make the Internet an interesting and liberating place.
  • If you had a company with a (possibly) viable business model that involved actually charging the customer, you were screwed unless:

    A) NO ONE else had your technolgy/service. Because if they did, they would just give it away. Why pay when I can get it for free?
    B) You are the Wall Street Journal or eBay.

  • Ok, so commercial TV provides us with good high quality content? Why is it, that I see so many soaps and poor commercials there?
  • by Aceticon ( 140883 ) on Wednesday May 02, 2001 @07:48AM (#251204)
    ... just the other day i saw a page with loads of links saying things like "click here for free naked teenage pictures"
  • There are only two exceptions to Sturgeon's Law : Sturgeon's Law and crap

    Oops I just recursed up my own arse

  • Go here [] to not get the silly Yahoo ad at the top of the page. Anyone know how to get rid of the other ads on the page?
  • by BitchAss ( 146906 ) on Wednesday May 02, 2001 @06:27AM (#251207) Homepage
    I haven't gotten anything free off the web in a while. The last time I got something was about 4 or 5 years ago when I got a mug from a RAID company (I didn't know what a RAID was at the time - I just thought the mug was cool). Anyway - about a week later I started getting phone calls (I wasn't smart enough to not put my real phone number on the request form - I figured if I put a fake number, I wouldn't get the mug) from the company asking if I liked the mug my employees ordered for me (I had a growing staff of 20) and if I had a chance to look over their catalogue. I had said we already owned a couple of their products and we were using them in our NT servers. By the 3rd call I was quite annoyed so I asked the guy to hold on a second, put down the phone and started yelling at my 'co-workers' what did they mean the RAID controller just went down? When I picked up the phone again, the guy wasn't there and he never called back again :)
  • by warnerve ( 149076 ) on Wednesday May 02, 2001 @07:14AM (#251208)
    Check out [] my free SI swimsuit calendar that I signed up for on a website and you'll know why it is free. Can't believe they jacked up the number of days in April...
  • username: slash2001
    password: slash2001

  • by Lostman ( 172654 ) on Wednesday May 02, 2001 @05:48AM (#251210)
    The article points out how freebies are disappearing... and then started to list incredible give-aways that are no more.

    Now, I am not trying to seem a little cross here but how long can someone give away real products like keyboards and such as a business model? It was a good thing while the companies didn't have a clue (/me pets my pretty keyboard) but it is obvious that it would fail.

    Then again, there are still a few free things on the web: I regularly use Net2Phone... it gives me free long distance from computer to phone.. sure, they cut it down to 5 minutes now but I doubt they could have lasted while giving infnite amount of time (5 mins per call, inf call now).

    This is like the crunch. Those businesses that are giving away huge items for "looking at a few webs" have an unsafe business model anyway -- we should not expect them to continue after they GetAClue(tm). Some businesses stop offering free services -- of course.. all businesses? I don't think we have reached that level yet.
  • One day at work i got Very bored and started hunting sites that offered free items like this.
    I found a ton of them, but not very many came through after filling out forms and what not.

    Some of the ones that came through i thought id share.

    For that special someone (Or as an office gag) n.asp

    And on a totally different note, the best jelly beans in the world (IMHO),

    There are others out there i just dont have URLs handy for.

  • Actually, it applies to Sturgeon's Law just fine:

    "Sturgeon's Law: 90% of everything is crap"

    1) Sturgeon was far from the first person to make this observation.
    2) It's not really a Law.
    3) 90% is really just an estimate. It could be just about anywhere between 89% and 91%.
    4) Since it does not apply to "crap", it does not apply to "everything".
    5) Sturgeon actually said "crud", not "crap".

    That leaves the words "of" and "is"... and the fact that it is generally true. The rest is crap.

  • by wytcld ( 179112 ) on Wednesday May 02, 2001 @07:17AM (#251213) Homepage
    This morning artists who haven't specifically signed off on the current version of their user agreement got a notice (the first notice about this) sent at midnight on the 1st saying their CDs will be removed from if they don't sign on and accept the new agreement by the 4th. 48 hours! And this in a notice to musicians who are often on the road and away from e-mail.

    But the real kicker is when you go to log in insists you've forgotten your password. And when you go to have your password says "There was a problem verifying your account. Please try again in a few minutes." So, either sign the new agreement or get your music yanked, but you can't sign the new agreement because their login mechanism is broken, so it's your own fault when your music placed there for free (but's been making money off of both advertising and CD sales) disappears in 48 hours.

    I imagine artists who've signed up to pay $20 a month aren't facing this. But at least could be honest about its tactics. Or have their ept staff left, and the systems are really failing?

  • Sure we lose money on every sale. How do we survive? 1 word: Volume

  • by Alien54 ( 180860 ) on Wednesday May 02, 2001 @06:58AM (#251215) Journal
    As it says in the article:

    "We had five 500-pound fat guys showing up at the smorgasbord and stuffing themselves all day," Mark R. Goldston, the chief executive of NetZero. He said 12 percent of NetZero's users accounted for 53 percent of its network costs. Cutting back their use, or getting them to find another service provider altogether, will save the company $20 million to $40 million a year.

    Of course, I have not seen many people say much about this. This is the problem behind the thing all along. You get users who know how to abuse the system. It is like a water well where everyone can use the water. it is fine until sompeople start to hog as much as they can.

    The traditional location of the Garden Of Eden is souteastern Iraq. Archeology bears this out, at least to the degree that it used to be a fertile and lush area. Don't look now, but it has been a desert for a long time. The natural result of typical human behavior is the creation of a desert.

    Now imagine this as applied to the Internet.

    Check out the Vinny the Vampire [] comic strip

  • While reading An Introduction to Microsoft HailStorm [], I came across this interesting section, titled The HailStorm Business [] that describes Microsoft's commitment to profiting from their <sarcasm level="extreme">wonderful</sarcasm> service by charging both users and developers rather than continuing with the free service methods used by hotmail.
  • There's lots of services that are provided for free, and they can run with very little maintenance, with just server costs and that sort of thing. The busier sites realize they aren't able to profit, or at least make enough to pay the bills. They're then changing their strategy and business model, by charging for, at least, some aspect of their service.

    What about all the people using these free services? What do they contribute back? Well, as free services disappear, people will start to learn that they need to replace these pay-sites with free sites. Almost everyone on the internet has some leftover webspace they can donate.. and many people have broadband and run linux, turning any computer into a server where services can be hosted.

    Free services won't go away, they'll just be replaced with more smaller services linked together. This is no different from real-life communities (or, those of the long forgotten past) where people volunteer their time and efforts to make life better for everyone else. This is all the excitement of peer-to-peer, but it goes deeper when you realize, not everybody is out to make money.

    if the rain comes, they run and hide their heads. they might as well be dead.
  • This is good, though. A year ago, the "internet business model" was to give away money. A few months ago, it was to give free things away. A few weeks ago, it was to give free services away.

    Pretty soon one of these companies is going to figure out that a company is allowed to make money.

  • I had a similar setup with my site [], except that my site was too small for the ad networks. Then I opened up another site (Jason's Toolbox []) on the same server dedicated to some applications I wrote. I made them freeware, but put up a Paypal form so people could pay whatever they thought they were worth if they so chose. In the month that the site's been online, I've recieved enough money through Paypal donations to keep my site running for 5 months. (Some people gave as much as $20 for a program that I would have only charged $5 for, had I made it shareware.) I'll need to get a few more months under my belt to see if this is a fluke, but it is promising.
  • Yes, ironic that this lamentation on the lack of freebies should occur today. It's free ice cream day. No, really, check out or and see for yourself.
  • But I only would pay slightly more than the equivalent of what they would make if I was a user of their site who did see them. Anything above $10 to access a site without ads for a year is too much for me.

    On a slightly off-topic note, one major problem with online pay-access systems is that they are single points of failure. All the databases (UMI, ProQuest, etc.) that libraries only a few years ago had CD-ROMs of are now purchased as web services. Granted, this allows them to be constantly updated, but only to those with constant subscriptions. Should an online only service go out of business, and their purchaser decide not to salvage their data, even its ex-subscribers would lose a signficiant amount of data.

  • by onion2k ( 203094 ) on Wednesday May 02, 2001 @05:53AM (#251222) Homepage
    Yeah.. I'm still waiting for my cash from GET CASH NOW!, a free holiday from Disney and Microsoft, and that new kidney for the kid in Florida.
  • "Naturally, the scripts can be disabled by any competent person..."
    step one: left-click and hold
    step two: right-click and voila!
  • I guess the consumers really disappointed some of these "free ISPs" who thought that people would be clicking away at the floating adverts like lab monkeys looking for a cocaine fix. Since that didn't happen, looks like they're scrambling for a way to pay for all that hardware and promotion.
  • My first rock was free, my second was not much, now he wants an arm and a leg!
  • The cost of disseminating information may not technicly be free, but it sure is damn close. A usable webserver can be purchaced for under $1000. The OS is free. I read once that the cost in elecricity to run a computer 24/7 for a month is only a couple bucks, lets say $100/year. That leaves bandwidth- if I wanted to I could run a server off my dsl line which costs me $40/month, or $480/year. Assume you can use the server for at least two years without replaceing it, total costs looks like $2160 for two years. Assume 5 page views every minute (my dsl line could easily handle 10X this assuming relativly light pages)and we have 5,256,000 page views over the course of two years. Or in other words, 2,433 page views per $.01 Even if the hardware owner wanted 10000% ROI, each page view would still be well under a penny. This is virtually free.
  • Hey man, it's my business. It's what I do. That'd be like asking the typical Slashdotter to stop talking about computers!

  • Actually, the porn industry is giving away more free content than ever before. There are many more free sites than there were several years ago, and many of the free sites are not offering EXCELLENT content. I guess the adult industry is ahead of the Net business curve again...

  • And now that we were geting used to all the free stuff, comes the pay services, I suppose I'll simply go back to not using the facility.

    And that's what many people are going to do. That could be both good as well as bad, the initial slump may be a little harsh but when you are left with only serious users you can plan accordingly.

  • Network TV and Radio have free models that are paid for by advertising so some internet sites will be able to do this as well. The biggest problem is that so much crap is on the Net, I mean who would pay a fee to visit The Onion []...honestly. Sites with only niche appeal or low quality content, or products and services oriented sites without a strong value proposition and no loyalty driver will always fail...just like poorly written magazines, TV shows, or a resturant in a strip mall that only make a so-so sub sandwich.

    A fee based model isn't such a bad idea for sites like on-line magazines, but for sites like [] and others trying to sell products on the web, they have to provide a product or service that's cheaper, or easier to buy, or not found elsewhere or they won't retain customers and their business model fails. In any type of retailing, clicks or bricks, you typically make 80% of your revenue off 20% of your customers and these are customers you have to retain year after year. A retail model can't be sustained through acquisition.

    But I've digressed a bit. The point is that the Net's not going to become one big fee based world where every site you visit will only be accessible via login or cookie that was bought for a $20 annual fee. Some sites like The Motley Fool [] and others will survive with a free or a blended approach offering basic services & content free and premiums for a fee. That's not such and bad thing. It's all about supply and demand and we all know what the Net has the biggest supply of and what's in the greatest demand...PORN! Maybe or Freeworks should have spent more time browsing porn sites and doing some best practices benchmarking prior to launching their ventures. Who knows, they might have been as successful and Jenna Jameson's Official Site [], one of the most successful porn sites on the web.

    If you build it...they will come...but only if it's worth a shit.
  • Yes, it's Windows-only. But they've got some nifty instructions for those of us with Linux firewalls.

    They've got voice ads (and I'm not sure how effective those are - they sort of annoyed me) that sometimes play over your speakers before you make a call. They also sell headsets and phone cards and long-distance calls to other countries. It looks like they haven't put all of their eggs into the advertising basket. I wonder how well that works?
  • So what? I can't get free stuff anymore? Boo hoo. I didn't expect that to last very long anyway.

    What I can still get for free is information. I get well over 75% of my information at work on the Internet. I have yet to find for-pay information that I couldn't get somewhere else for absolutely nothing.
  • by gdyas ( 240438 ) on Wednesday May 02, 2001 @07:26AM (#251233) Homepage

    The following section from the NYT article cited has been refuted by Salon. They've said they have no such plans & that David Talbot was completely misquoted.

    "A lot of our audience pays $300 a year to join National Public Radio and they don't have to pay anything," he said. As early as next year, Mr. Talbot said, Salon hopes to impose a fee of $75 to $150 a year to read any of its site with ads. Why not just impose the full fee now? "That's jumping off a cliff with no net," Mr. Talbot said. Sites that have imposed fees, like Yahoo Auctions, have experienced declines in volume of as much as 90 percent. And the biggest subscription content site, The Wall Street Journal Online, has 574,000 subscribers at $29 to $59 a year, one-tenth the monthly audience of the largest free financial news sites.

    Guess the NYT just ain't what she used to be.

  • The demise of lots of free stuff on the internet isn't a bad thing. It's capitalism in action.

    So you are suggesting that capitalism is inherently good? Those sweatshops employing children are yet another example of capitalism in action. I suppose you admire that, too.

    Oh, no! That means the digital divide is getting bigger, and poor people won't be able to afford paying $7-20/month for dialup, or, worse yet, if they can afford dialup, they won't be able to afford voicemail! It used to be free! WAAAH!

    So you think that it is good for our society to have an entire underclass who cannot access the Internet? Millions of kids who will be disadvantaged when trying to study for school, do their homework, etc.? You think that making medical information on the Internet unavailable to the poor is desirable?

    It's people like you that make me proud to be a Democrat.

  • Capitalism is a helluva lot better than socialism or communism.

    Who said anything about socialism or communism? You claimed that people losing access to free "stuff" on the Internet was inherently good because it was capitalism. So things like Linux, GPL, etc. are bad because they are not capiatalism?

    What good is it to force someone to help their fellow man, instead of letting them decide of their free will where and how to help?

    Because in your system, only the generous and the poor suffer. In effect, you are paying people not to help the poor. Greedy money-hoarders can rely on someone else to help the poor.

    But they can access the internet and read the texts at most public libraries (just fyi, I'm against censorship and filtering). These millions of kids will be no more disadvantaged than kids who couldn't afford to buy books 50 years ago. I'm not saying it's right, I'm just saying you need to get some damn perspective!

    I hope some day that you can have the pleasure of waiting in line for some limited access, net-nanny filtered, public library Internet PC. Maybe you can look up information on erectile dysfunction while those in line look on.

    I have some perspective: The loss of free Internet access used by many unperprivileged families is not a good thing -- even if capitalism is the cause of it.

    Again I ask you: Are sweatshops a "good thing" because they are "capitalism in action"?

  • If you don't have problems with bugs and slow load times, free content does exsist. Be it pron, opensource, other things, itdoes exsist. I play in a few M:eT Larps [] and I had some cards made for my char at VistaPrint [] for free, I think it comes under the 'Show em what you've got, and they might buy more" model.
  • by BenSnyder ( 253224 ) on Wednesday May 02, 2001 @07:34AM (#251237) Homepage


    "Others have written to us wondering whether today's Premium is simply a nose-in-the-tent kind of deal, preparing the way for an entirely subscribers-only site in the future. (An erroneous media report misquoting our founder, David Talbot, outlining such a plan helped fan such suspicions.) That's not our plan."

    The rest of the article can be found here: mium_progress/index.html []

  • I get free stuff all the time from [].
  • They should really be looking at it from the mentality of an academic...

    ... where "free" means that someone else (the university, the feds, the MacArthur Foundation, or even mommy and daddy) pays for it. What most academics who demand "free" information seem to forget is that while the cost of the information may be "free", the cost of disseminating it (printing journals, conference rooms, bandwidth, buying and maintaining servers) isn't.
  • I would be willing to wager that the readership here consists primarily of '500-pound fat guys' when it comes to ISPs. I know that my father pays about the same that I do for cablemodem service and uses
    If everyone who used cablemodems/DSL was responsible for the same amount of traffic I am (about 200 MB downstream weekdays, probably closing in on 1 GB fri sat sun) we would all be paying 150 bucks a month for broadband instead of the 50 I pay now.

    Just a little thought that popped into my brain when I saw the fat guy remarks.
  • OK economists - if I remember my (one) microeconomics class correctly (from a few years back), doesn't an increased granularity actually increase the deadweight loss? So, in fact, they would have less profit than if they, for example, charged on a per-minute (or per-second) basis...

    Of course, I guess that this wouldn't matter if the consumer didn't know about the 25 minute minimum; but I'm sure they'd figure it out after exhausting the first card, which leads back to my original point.

    But this is starting to drift off-topic... But if anyone can confirm or deny this, please do so!

  • Actually!

    The lack of possibility to fund good/hi class content providing has made the internet filled with almost 100% crap.

    With charging I think we will see much more real content on the internet and just not "hi, my name is John...bla bla bla" homepages.
  • Actually I think the general thinking within the dot-com business has been that market-share is everything and profit is something we will think about later down the line.

    This is a problem because now they have made the public used to not paying for anything witch of cause is impossible in the long run.
  • "Speaking as someone who happens to have a "hi, my name is Brent...bla bla bla" website, I can vouch for the fact that we'll be here forever."

    There is nothing wrong with homepages, that is _also_ an interesting part of the internet.

    My remark was towards the professionally produced hi-quality content that was supposed to be spread to all over the world. It hasn't and will not happen until it can be funded somehow.

    "Take Slashdot - can you imagine a better source for this kind of thing? "

    Yes, I could :) Anyway, in slashdots case it works because it's the readers that provide the content. It's what this site is about and that's why it can be free and that's fine. If you hire a bunch of professional writers witch you have to pay salaries you need to have revenue, it's as simple as that.
  • For channels that give you huge amounts of commercials, much soapoperas and programs that is cheap to produce you don't have to pay anything. Just watch the commercials.

    If you want good quality programs you usually have to pay for them. Sure it sucks to pay, but on the other hand you get quality service, right?
  • ...the NY Times admin/tracking meeting in a week. 'Strangest thing happened.. Somebody was just loading this one article over and over again from several hundred thousand IP addresses..'
  • What? You're providing a service on the internet with the full knowledge that you're not going to make money? I suppose you're doing this because you like it? :-) It's sites like yours that are what makes the internet worthwhile for me. You have some knowledge that you are willing to share with the rest of the world, and you are happy to do it without needing to make a buck. True, you've got some ads to try and defray some of your costs, but you're not trying to make a living off of them. It's the big companies who are going in and really trying to make money with poor business models that will always fail. The only ones that seem to be surviving are the ones who got in early with something innovative that actually works, or brick-and-mortar companies who are using the internet as an extension of themselves - kind of like an online catalog store.
  • Thanks for the compliments.

    or brick-and-mortar companies who are using the internet as an extension of themselves - kind of like an online catalog store.

    Luckily I am employed by one such company...
  • by Tyler Eaves ( 344284 ) on Wednesday May 02, 2001 @05:45AM (#251249)
    It's damn hard to break even doing freebies. My site [] offers a free service to roller coaster enthusiasts. The web hosting runs me about $30 a month, and I *just* barely make that back in advertising. Any service that has actual overhead and material costs is NOT going to break even, because generally it is now possible to make about .2c per add view. If your expenses thus exceed about 1 penny per customer visit, you can toss your dreams of any providing it at cost out the window.
  • by nilstar ( 412094 ) on Wednesday May 02, 2001 @05:48AM (#251250) Homepage
    I remember when I could order online and get free shipping, so I ordered from one site.... then I'd get a freebie from another site, so then I'd order from there.... then the cycle would go on.

    But the thing is, not a single one of these stores offered anything compelling for me to actually go and order from them again. After all, isn't online shopping a "commodity service"? (or at least it has evolved into that)
  • that nobody has mentioned that Linux is still something useful that you can get on the internet for free. :)
    I've actually never received anything more than "opt-in" junk mail to a h0tmail account from those "Get free stuff" websites. I really have better things to do with the internet anyway. Like :P
  • by redcup ( 441955 ) on Wednesday May 02, 2001 @06:15AM (#251252)

    Right now, there is tons of advertising and no privacy, but the sites are free.

    With subscription service, we will have at least as much advertising, less privacy, and it's no longer free.

    The quality of the content and services will have to improve before more than a very small percentage people are willing to pay.

    I liked the suggestion of paying users getting ad-free content, but it is only a matter of time before companies "supplement" the subscription revenue with advertising.


  • The internet boom was based on companies advertising one another and with very few actually turning a profit, there simply wasn't enough money to pay for advertising on other sites and pay the operating costs. It works on other media such as the TV, newspaper, radio, but only because they are ads from businesses that generally have a good viable model of business and are turning profits. Giving away services free is a good thing, but without some other way of generating revenue, or having sponsors who are turning profits, you will end up operating at a loss. Maybe there will be more freebies again when there are better sponsors turning profits through good business models rather than advertising for other companies with the same business model. Advertising is good, but you need actual profits in at least some companies to supplement it.
  • Ask your users for tips and micro-donations! It works with Shareware it can work for Content sites too.

    It is as easy as putting an address where they can send a few bucks to using something like Pay Pal or Honor System.

    If you set reasonable goals - like covering your web hosting, and use basic fundraising strategies you should be able to make some additional money.

    Full Disclosure - We just set up a site called The Donation Project [] where we provide some strategies and ideas for webmasters seeking to start taking donations online.

    The Donation Project
    support independent content producers - dammit
  • by Lothar+0 ( 444996 ) on Wednesday May 02, 2001 @05:51AM (#251255) Homepage
    The failures of many of his [Netzero] competitors, he argued, simply means that only the largest and most efficient free providers will survive.

    So "free" service means that only the biggest will survive, that they'll eventually become bigger, bloated, and more inefficient (as large companies with little competition tend to do *cough*Redmond*cough*), and that sooner or later they'll face either competitive or legal demise. Thus the cycle completes and begins anew. Everyone say "oohhhmmmm".

"An open mind has but one disadvantage: it collects dirt." -- a saying at RPI