"I have had to change my email address to [deleted], as usa.net is no longer offering their services for free, another indicator that internet business environment is not what it used to be."
This is an extract from a "change of address" email I received a couple of weeks ago from a subscriber. No, indeed, internet business environment is most certainly NOT what it used to be. More and more we are expected to pay for access to services we used to be able to get (and expect to get) for free.
Why do we expect so much for so little online? Because that's how internet evolved. Originally a network of computers designed to facilitate an exchange of information and resources between academics, fact that purely academic pursuits were goal naturally meant that it was perfectly appropriate for educational institutions involved to put that infrastructure in place without expecting end users to directly pay for content.
As recent history has evolved, of course, internet has expanded WAY beyond its humble academic beginnings to its current status as a primary medium of exchange of information, products and services for virtually every sector of economy. How often do you see an advertisement, whether print, radio or television that doesn't give advertiser's web address as a matter of course?
Although business has become hugely predominant exploiter of medium, fascination with technology has, until now, somehow kept focus off business basics ... you know, all those minor issues such as actually making a profit and pesky details such as hang-on-a-minute-how-are-we-going-to-pay-for-all-of-this?
So enamored were we, as consumers, with sheer power and brilliance of being able to access, with just a few keystrokes, information on literally any subject under sun that took our fancy, coupled with not-for-profit academic beginnings of internet revolution, idea that someone, somewhere, presumably had to foot bill for all of this was nothing more than some sort of abstract issue we needn't concern ourselves with. It was someone else's problem. Someone else was profiting from all of this and whoever that was should pay. It really didn't dawn on us that we were ones who were truly profiting.
This "free" mentality was a major contributor to downfall of first e-commerce wave. Venture capitalists, probably more caught up in promise of this bright new technology than anyone, were prepared to throw money at this thing with curious blind faith that somewhere, somehow, this new playing field was a source of riches never before dreamed of. So quarter after quarter, year after year, undeterred by red ink dripping like blood off corporate balance sheets, VCs kept sinking more and more money into black hole, holding steadfast to their irrational faith that somewhere in this brave new world was a rich reserve of untold wealth that they would reap if only they drilled deep enough and long enough to reach black gold.
The recipients of this free-flowing cash, of course, had to find a way to make money so they could eventually pay it back. Business models were created that revolved around providing free content (because internet, after all, was a "free" medium) and charging third party advertisers exorbitant prices for privilege of displaying their advertising to vast numbers of site visitors clicking in and out of their websites every few seconds. Perfect! Site visitors receive their *entitlement* of free information and we'll make our money from advertising revenue, these site owners decided.