Giving It Away For Free

Mar 1, 2022
Because prices move inexorably toward the free, the best move in the network economy is to anticipate this cheapness.

Some of the best businesses give things away for free. And not just freemium services, but truly free services that once cost money.

When done right, this aggregates demand and creates a significant net positive value for consumers – and the business.

  • GitHub gives away free bandwidth and storage. There are hard and soft limits (100GB storage per repository and 100GB bandwidth for Pages), but essentially it is free.
  • Facebook gave away free image hosting when image hosting was an expensive service.
  • YouTube did the same for video hosting.
  • Gmail became popular by giving away large amounts of free storage for 2004 (1 GB!).
  • Replit gives anyone a free computer (but has yet to find the perfect business model).
  • Substack made mass email sending and hosting free (and easy).
  • Robinhood offers zero-commission stock trades (Zecco did it first in 2006 but never found the right business model or timing).
  • Open core companies give the source code away for free.

When things become too cheap to meter, make them free. What's next for free? Dumb (and free) interchange for one.