The Freaky Land of Free

March 17, 2008


   Chris Anderson’s popular Wired article, Free! Why $0.00 is the Future of Business, covered the various characteristics of free in relation to our ever-growing technology savvy society. One of the areas discussed stated that the question surrounding infinite storage was not if it would happen but when it would happen. And the answer is that it is already here, it’s just not all online services choose to embrace it. However the ones which have choose to embrace infinite storage, like Yahoo, are profiting from cooperation and collaboration with what their consumers want and will find a way to get. Other increasingly prevalent obstacles to the digital environment today, like free music, bandwidth, and processing power, are being considered by dominant firms like Google and in-turn are profiting the most from the predicament. It may appear to be free to the user, but someone else is picking up the tab; whether it is the company offering the “free” product, or the rule of 1% which claims that 1% of users support the remaining 99% through advertisements. Companies are no longer specializing in selling products, but selling advertisements or cheaper products which entice the consumer to purchase something else located in their store.

         The first example I came across of a company, other than Yahoo, offering unlimited mail storage to its clients, was Verizon. Verizon Communications Inc., an internet service provider, announced it now plans to help its users download shared files quicker by collaborating with file-sharing software makers. This will increase download speeds for peer-to-peer files by an estimated 60%. Before most internet service providers would ban, block, or greatly slow down peer-to-peer file sharing, thus discouraging it, but as Chris Anderson’s article suggests, the companies which embrace supporting free products will profit the most from it. Another aspect to create benefits for Verizon, is to alter the method which the files shared are delivered. Traditionally only 6.3% of the shared files would come from other users within close distance to the user. Verizon hopes to change this system to 58% locally derived files; through a system they are calling, P4P. This P4P trial would save the company money because when files are transferred from far distances like the remaining 93.7% of files, the ISP’s long distance carrying costs are higher than local.  Verizon is hoping to show ISPs that there isn’t a problem with P2P file sharing, but that it can be used to their advantages. File sharing accounts for 1/3 of all internet traffic, and by working with and not against the file sharing, Verizon hopes to create an advantage for themselves amongst the numerous internet service providers and set an example for other ISPs.

        In relation to infinite storage, I came across an alternative method to store your music files on a music server, instead of keeping the files on your computer. I think this is a great idea and definitely pertains to this topic. Let your data be stored digitally on a lone hard drive, or on an external drive, instead of your main computer drive. Creating your own private music server not only stores all your physical music saving shelf space, but also increases accessibility. You could access your music all over you house or connect the server to the internet and have access all over the world. Now this sounds a lot easier than dragging boxes of CDs around the world. A full version of the steps to creating your own music server is posted here.

        And it can even be done with the music in your iTunes library! It’s like serving up your own personal iTunes library, without iTunes.  I think the example of creating your own music server is an indication of potentially how music could be also distributed in the future. Companies selling digital music over the internet could take this finding into consideration, because if people are able to serve up music on the internet, its possible as another method of obtaining free music they could distribute it this way too.

In closing, I think Chris Anderson brought up a lot of excellent points regarding free; the most predominant being that it is only a matter of when free products will become globally acceptable and companies will stop fighting the consumer by embracing free and reaping the benefits already gained by some.

 Also as a side note…It seems that Radiohead is going to try and continue to ride the wave, requesting that fans create their own music videos for the In Rainbows album. Who needs to pay for making a video, when someone else can do it…for free. (actually, I lied…Radiohead plans on giving out a prize of $10,000) Here’s a link to an interview with David Byrne and Thom Yorke on Radiohead’s distribution strategy and what other companies and artists can learn from it. 



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