So the dominos continue to fall in the force-march to reality that is the current economic crisis. Surprise! Companies can’t give away stuff for free, even to educators. This week, two popular Web 2.0 tools made announcements that will impact educators who developed classroom activities based on these tools. Bubbleshare.com (free photo sharing) is closing. Wet Paint Wikis announced they will no longer provide ad-free wikis for educators for no charge.
Every day there are more announcements about companies pulling the plug on free services. (Techcrunch runs announcements in what they call the “deadpool.”)
Last year I posted some rules for deciding whether a Web 2.0 tool is worth investing in for the classroom, and these are still good strategies..
…don’t assume that their business model will stay the same, and that your use won’t be affected. A few will just disappear without a word. But there is no doubt that all these companies will have to make money off these services to survive. Don’t expect them to send out a memo, these people are fighting for their lives. When you find Viagra ads embedded in your “free” videos in the middle of a class project, that’s when you’ll find out how they decided to monetize their service.
At the end of the day, using a free tool is a gamble. If it’s just you as an individual taking a risk on a free tool, that’s one thing. But if you are recommending these tools to others, spending money and time implementing them, planning lessons, or shifting your “business” to them, you really need to think about it. You may decide instead to use tools you can really own, like a do-it-yourself open source implementation, or tools from a company you can trust. They might cost a little more time or money up front, but give you peace of mind as bubbles burst all around us.