For me, one of the most fascinating elements of the Web 2.0 revolution is the proliferation of free or almost free applications and services available on the internet. I know my last post was on this topic, but bear with me….I haven’t really heard a clear and convincing explanation of the phenomenon until I read this article in the Globe & Mail (a plug for Canada’s best newspaper) featuring an interview with Wired editor Chris Anderson.

Anderson argues that the new economics of the Web – where it is very cheap (and becoming cheaper every day) for anybody to establish sites and reach millions and bandwidth, storage and processing power are increasingly affordable – has fostered a new age of free economics. Anderson suggests that the obsession with finding a way to “monetize” online services and applications may be misguided, and is not a pre-ordained outcome for all companies on the Internet. He posits that the new model is a “freemium” where less than 1% of heavy users can subsidize free use for the other 99%.

I’m not an economist, but I found this discussion really compelling. And from what I’ve experienced, this trend is a definite reality and it’s had a very positive impact on the reach and impact of the Web. The implications for personal users are mind-boggling, but this is also relevant to professional communicators. The move towards freeware provides huge opportunities for those of us trying to build blogs or create and distribute digital content, but as I’ve argued before the concept is anathema to most IT departments, which are inherently risk-averse and susprisingly unfamiliar (from my experience) with social media. It will be interesting to watch when this trend towards free services enters the realm of corporate IT…if ever.

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