Still no free lunch 2.0

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. (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.


4 Replies to “Still no free lunch 2.0”

  1. I agree with much you have written here, however, predicting which online tools will persist and which will not is difficult if not impossible… all things can come and go – take the end of Bubbleshare, the fact that it is a Disney product led some to believe it might last, the “deep pockets halo or protection” is apparently a myth.

    All data needs to be backed up – both locally and remotely.

    Most tools can be replaced, but not so the valued data.

    We will need to learn that there are costs – time, advertising, or subscription… and none of these is a guarantee of longlife or stability.

    Thanks for your nicely written and well-thought-out post!

  2. @Harold – I think it’s more than just data, but that’s a big part of it

    @Gail – I did some attempts at predicting in my previous post (linked from the main post), but you are right, it’s never a sure thing who will stay around or not. However, I think if you look at history, Disney has gotten in and out of educational ventures pretty regularly. and has been cutthroat about cutting non-essential business. It’s not an entertainment product, it doesn’t connect with their brands, so I guess I’m not surprised.

  3. You make a good point, but I guess I’m just not as cautious. Yes, your data needs to be backed up if you will need access in the future, but unless the learning curve is very steep, I can’t see much downside to using the tools and instruments that are currently available for free now. Sure, you may have to change your m.o. next year, but that’s the nature of our world. Students will certainly have to live with an ever-changing digital landscape. I don’t see an impetus for NOT using what’s available now, and using what’s available tomorrow, then. Will there be less available tomorrow? Perhaps. But perhaps my experiences with the previously available tools will make it easier for me create and adapt to the new landscape. Just my .02

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