I was wondering when this would happen. Many of the “free” online applications that we’ve come to take for granted are now coming with strings attached. I guess they have to make money some way, but this week two tales of monetization have really taken the Web 2.0 world by storm. Here’s the scoop…
First, there’s Pandora, the break-through online music website. In the past couple of weeks I’ve noticed changes. First there was the advertising. It’s much more overt, and you can’t bypass it. In the last week I’ve noticed that the advertising has actually been inserted into the broadcast stream, so it’s even more annoying. Also, the pop-out window for the Pandora music player is now only available for paying customers.
None of that made much difference. I could ignore the ads, and I could just minimize the Pandora window and browse in another. However, the latest monetization scheme from the company is a little more difficult. As long as you keep it under 40 hours per month, you’re OK. However, if you go over that you need to subscribe to “Pandora One” at a price of $36 per year. Still, that’s not too bad for an excellent music servce, and lot’s cheaper than XM radio. You also get premium services, such as no ads and the pop-out player.
Then there’s Google. This past week the link for the free Google Apps suddenly disappeared. The world was abuzz that now everyone would have to sign up for their premium services. Google admitted that there was a “glitch” and that the link to the free version has been restored. However, there’s a catch. Google Apps is free for individuals. However, if you’re an organization with over 50 users, it will cost you $50 per user. I guess they’ve got to recoup the cost for all that innovation some way.
You can still sign up for a free individual account. However, the link to the free version isn’t as obvious as it used to be. The default is for the pay version.
Which leads me to wonder: what’s to keep an organization for requesting that its members sign up for free accounts on their own? I guess there are ways around the charges, but I’m of mixed opinion on this. Both Pandora and Google have sunk a ton of money into R&D, and they have come out with some outstanding products. I don’t begrudge them from trying to make some money off of this. However, once you’ve provided a service for free for quite awhile, it’s always a pain when the charges have to start rolling in.