The Free Business Model

  1. In his new book, Chris Anderson, Editor of Wired Magazine predicts that anything in a digital format will become free.
  2. This reminds me of the “dot-com” bubble voodoo economics.
  3. I just don’t believe this will happen any time soon in the professional markets.

In a recent Directions Magazine podcast the discussion was focused on the effect of the “free on the Internet” business model and the impact this will have on GIS. Included in the discussion was a reference to Chris Anderson’s new book, “Free: The Future of a Radical Price”. Chris is the editor of Wired magazine. I have not read the book, but I intend to.

I did listen to a short audio interview where he takes the position that anything which is in digital form is destined to become free. Chris is immersed in the digital media world and I have tremendous respect for his opinion. It is obvious that he has done a lot of thinking about this, and I do think he has a valid point of view, but some of the theory tends to remind me of the “dot-com” bubble days where everyone was counting on the repeal of the basic laws of economics.

A comment was made during the podcast about all digital data becoming free. This of course is the result of Google, Yahoo and others making so much map data free, but I think this has as much to do with that type of data becoming a commodity and the online advertising model of these companies. I don’t think Navteq, the company that supplies the map databases for many car navigation systems has any intention of making their data free. Nor do the commercial remote sensing satellite companies, such as Digital Globe or GeoEye.

I would propose that most 3D image data will not become free any time soon, promotional videos and images notwithstanding. I suppose it can be argued that some airborne LiDAR data is headed in that direction, but I think that is being driven by a Freedom of Information argument for the most part.

I just don’t see the free business model being viable at the professional level. Am I missing something?

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1 Response to The Free Business Model

  1. Nice post, perplexing idea, especially for someone like me in the 3D image creation business. I supposed once we’re paid to make the content, whether its maps, pictures, music, movies, books, or even 3D models – who ever then owns it then can do what ever they want – even give it away for free if their business model depends on it. The content creation process, however, will not be free.

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