"a fish, a barrel, and a smoking gun"
for 30 July 1996. Updated every WEEKDAY.

Nothing for Nothing


[Hot Mail]

The best things in life are free.

Unfortunately, so are many of

the worst. Not to belabor the

point, but... many things

available on the web, for




You can download the Microsoft

Internet Explorer and have only

hell to pay, as Microsoft has

truly discovered a new price

point, putting the "free" back

in "free market." Netscape

Navigator is free, too. Even if

you aren't a nonprofit, the

price for the initial 30-day

trial period is just a slightly

different sort of hegemony.

After that, if you want to keep

it on your system, there's an

extra charge... the occasional

tiny, tiny twang of guilt.


Some people have never gotten

it through their heads that

commercial software costs money.

These new warez kids (as well as

men, women, and corporations)

shop for upgrades at Shady

Software. But these aren't

hackers, just hacks. Regular

Joes and Janes who feel no

compunction about acquiring the

goods at a five-finger discount,

procuring all the latest apps as

if they were part of some "Buy

None, Get One Free" special.


Although perhaps more popular in

the copyright-happy 1980s (when

cracking the game was often more

challenging than playing it),

illegal copying of software

continues, and not just in

China. Given the difficulty that

software makers have had

persuading the general public

that something is, in fact,

wrong with electronically

pilfering their shrinkwrapped

products, what could make less

sense than for-pay software with

a 30-day waiting period? A

Chinese menu of conditions only

confuses the issue - and makes

you hungry for another free meal

two hours later.


[Ny Times]

Such free-for-now schemes have a

second flaw. Just as slapping

an "annoyware" reminder onto

Netscape would send the hordes

to Microsoft's greener, freer

pastures, a website denies you

eye candy at the risk of sending

you trick-or-treating somewhere

else. And with so many trolling

lines dangling in the water,

only a truly stupid fish could

starve. There's enough bait to

live on for the foreseeable

future, and no need to bite deep

enough to get hooked.


Even those whose tastes are far

too rich to subsist on free web

fare can get away without paying

a penny - just surf those

third-wave sites that are free

right now and plan to charge

"soon." When those waves break,

paddle back out and catch some

others. Of course, some will

seek more sustenance than is

offered by these content snacks.

Perhaps a few content

connoisseurs will even find this

sit-down meal of food for

thought worth the cost - and if

you find out their names,

there's a special "SuckPremium"

we'd like them to see.



Those who surf on $0 a day know

that you don't always get what

you pay for, so it's only fair

that sometimes you don't pay for

what you get. Some web content,

of course, will always be free -

free as the wind blows, and

about as substantial. Other fare

is by nature more akin to hot

news than to hot air, and some

of this stuff is of interest to

deep-pocketed parties who would

rather slap down a regular few

nanobucks per second than hassle

with finding the freshest,

freest sources of content. So,

while purveyors of some content

will struggle to give it away,

some sites will succeed in

charging their users - but the

penny pinchers will charge on,

to the next content-laden teat

of the web.



Of course, if you really want to

dine without a dime, web snacks

won't cut it - though you may be

set for an after-dinner mint.

You'll still have to step

outside and track down some

uniformed marketing minions

offering packets of Craisins and

cans of iced Nescafe. There are

free lunches to be had, without

doubt. Just as it's easy to take

a lunchtime stroll through the

uppity eco-friendly grocery

store of your choice and sate

yourself on the samples, those

who are willing to spend a

little time browsing for

bargains can get away without

spending a cent. And this

chameleon's dish that web

servers serve up always tastes a

little better when you know that

someone else is spending money

on the stuff, whereas you're

just wasting time.

courtesy of The Internick