Congratulations! We’ve ruined the internet

I try to be a reasonable fellow, but things finally came to a breaking point this weekend at TechCrunch when an instant messaging application built for the iPhone was bashed. And why? You’re never going to believe this…

…because they are charging users for their software.

OH THE HUMANITY OF IT ALL.

The earth is eating itself. The sky is falling. And the Big 10 may finally win the Rose Bowl. What is the iWorld coming to that a reputable source of tech news is posting a negative view of a company because that company has an actual business model? Surely, the kiddos at the Crunch must be kidding? As I posted in the comments of that post, I find it to be disgustingly ironic that we American programmers seem to turn our noses up when a software application is not free to use and/or open source. Nothing says socialism like someone putting their idea in to an incubator, doing all the work to build it, and then saying, “ah, screw it. Let’s make it free to everyone!”

Even worse was the author stating that an alternative to charging for the service – in this case $11 – was to insert advertising in to the application. Are you kidding me? Nothing says “technology’s next generation” like turning the internet in to a highway of billboards and marketing materials. As I’ve said before and will say over and over until I’m choking on the words, building something online and plastering it with advertisements is not a business strategy. Pardon my French, but that concept is a chicken-shit way of declaring that you are either too scared or too uncreative to figure out a way to get people to buy your product.

Why does this happen? Simple: developers and reporters with this concept in their heads are terrified of angering the nerdscape at large by actually asking for money in exchange for their software. As such, they don’t want to step on toes, thus they make everything free and put annoying advertisements all over the page hoping to cover hosting costs until Google buys them for an inflated valuation.

In the meantime, developers and companies with actual testicular fortitude ignore the geek-o-sphere and sell their wares to people who don’t give a shit about drop shadows and AJAX. As a result, ad-based companies try and survive with a very low chance of success while sales based companies thrive in the shadows.

Moral of the story: If you want to be a Rock Star, build something and let people use it for free. With a little luck, you will turn out like a real rock star, gaining legions of fans yet still eating raman noodles with no money in the bank, e.g. Kevin Rose and Kris Tate and a slew of other folks who built community and still can’t figure out how to make a dime.  On the flip side, if you want to be a successful businessperson with a successful business, charge people for your software and quit worrying about getting a nod of approval from the Valley. As I’ve said before, your product is worthless if no one will pay for it.

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