Lots of free stuff out there, isn't there?
Free books, free games, free video. Games that are free unless you want premium content. It seems that a lot of our media – at least that we can get electronically – has an awful lot of free stuff.
It's also good free stuff. I've been continually impressed with what I can find for free online or via DLC.
Being who I am I like to speculate on why we got so much free stuff available because . . . well this is me, culture, economics, and geekiness. It's sort of what I do. It's my thing. Plus I'm curious.
The reason we have so much free stuff? It's a legacy of previous work.
The Word Processor that lets you develop a free novel is the result of decades of evolving word processors to the point where, for a reasonably fee, you have one now (or in some cases it's a free word processor). Your ability to publish it free is the result of some innovative publishers whose technology is – yes – based on other technology and work that has developed over the years.
The game you make uses development tools that are the offspring of those of decades past, in some cases tools that let people build other tools. The open source technology you use is the result of years of work and teams of people making distributed development possible.
Think of all the decades of work that went into making what we use now to deliver free things. Think of the investment of time and money people have put in to make your novel, game, or website possible. Even companies and individuals that made money on these tools can do so because of the legacy of previous works.
All this free is the result of previous work paying off.
It's a strange, heady realization. All those who went before us (and are still going) have made it so we can create works for free. That investment you make in a few development tools doesn't really phase you, and that lets you deliver a lot of free content.
So when we look at free things available to us today, let's remember all that went before that made it possible. It'll help us appreciate it, it'll make sure we don't take it for granted, and it'll help us set the foundation for other works that can assist more people.