The Fluctuating Future of Free

(Yes, I'm still analyzing Free, Freemium, et. al).

So as I've noted many times – and as can be noted elsewhere – giving things away for free builds trust and you can make money with Freemium.  Building trust with free items is an old technique that sadly seems to need to keep being relearned by people.

Free as is rather obvious, is common now with free game demos, free comics, free online books, Freemium games, etc.  We're awash in free things.

That of course sounds great, right?  Free things.  More try-before-you-buy.  More exercises in trust building.  More commerce.  I'd say this is all good.

However after analyzing Free and Freemium this week (as you've noticed from my other writing), I also recall when I wrote previously that we have been able to create so much free stuff due to the legacy of other's work.  That's great, but then I began wondering . . .

. . .  what if Free becomes too easy or too commonplace?

Right now giving something away for Free builds trust – you are giving someone the results of your effort with no charge.  They can then support you in other ways, such as additional purchases, paying Freemium prices, etc.  But Free suggests you make some kind of sacrifice or effort on people's part.

If Free becomes too easy to do, then I wonder if it may start losing some of its social and economic value.  If it's too easy to make a game, too easy to make some fluff novel to get attention, too easy to make free reports the result of scan-and-scrape scripts, then where's the value in Free?  All these tools, all this power, makes Free seem a lot less impressive – and less valuable.

I also wonder if Free could become something people are used to and it looses its value in that way.  With free books, comics, games, etc. on the internet, Free just doesn't look that impressive anymore.  It can even become expected culturally, and thus its value pretty much reaches zero.  What is seen as a sacrifice becomes expected.

So Free is important.  But I'm not sure its importance is going to stay the same in the future.  I don't have any answers, but I do want to see what happens.

We might someday have to ask what comes after Free?

Steven Savage