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Web Services and Their Users

I've been reading with wonder and fascination the comments about Yahoo buying del.icio.us. So many of the del.icio.us users seem to feel that because they used the service (for free), the service owes them something. This is, of course, absolute bullshit.

As I've noted before, services are different from physical products. If a better service comes along, people will quickly switch to it. How much do you owe former search engine king Altavista? Nothing. Had a better bookmarking/tagging tool come along, all these gripers would have moved their del.icio.us bookmarks over to it, no question. Services by their nature are ephemeral; they change and mutate over time. Don't like it? Make your own service that you can maintain yourself forever.

Users of web services should remember that, unless you are paying for the service, you're getting something for free that really isn't free. Someone else has footed the bill for server space, bandwidth, development time, maintenance, etc. The service owners are paying for that, and the users, no matter how invested in the service they are, are not the owners.

This is not very Web 2.0 of me, I know, and perhaps I'm tainted by seeing what it takes to set up and a run a web service. It's not easy and it's expensive. Services like Flickr and del.icio.us, in order to scale, often need the resources (money, bandwidth, developers) that only a Yahoo or its ilk can provide to keep the service running well and to add or improve features. Imagine if Starbucks coffee service tried to serve millions of people with four people. For free. It doesn't work. This is the nature of services, for good or ill.

Originally posted at Saturday, December 10, 2005 | Comments (1) | Trackback (0)

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