Why Free Works And Proprietary Monocultures Don’t

Blogger and software developer Marco Arment notes that Google Reader’s upcoming shutdown and Mailbox’s rapid acquisition have reignited the discussion of free vs. paid services and whether people should pay for products they love to keep them running sustainably.

However, Arment says users aren’t the problem, observing that when a free option is available in a market of paid alternatives, far more people will [sensibly – Ed] choose the free product, often by an order of magnitude or more, and noting that asking people to pay unnecessarily is asking them to behave irrationally and against their own immediate best interests, even if its probably worse long-term.

And when the free product is better in some ways, which as Arment notes is often the case when a tech giant or well-funded startup enters a market previously occupied only by small and sustainable businesses, the others don’t stand a chance, observing that free is so prevalent in the IT industry not because everyone’s irresponsible, but because it works, and if you try to play by traditional rules and regulations, you run the risk of getting steamrolled by someone whos perfectly willing to ignore them. The best thing we can do, says Arment, isn’t necessarily to try to pay for everything, which is unrealistic and often not an option, but rather to avoid supporting and using proprietary monocultures.

Listening, Apple? – Ed.

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