Explain your revenue model to me so I’ll know how I’m paying for this free service
When you find a website that claims to be free for users, we should know to be automatically suspicious. What is sustaining this service? How could you possibly have 35 people working at the underlying company without a revenue source?
We’ve been trained to not think about this, as web surfers, because everything seems, on its face, to be free, until it isn’t, which seems outright objectionable (as I wrote about here). Or is it? Maybe it’s just more honest.
When I go to the newest free online learning site, I’d like to know how they plan to eventually make money. If I’m registering on the site, do I need to worry that they will turn around and sell my data? Is it just advertising? Are they going to keep the good stuff away from me unless I pay?
And it’s not enough to tell me it’s making no revenue yet, that it’s being funded somehow for now without revenue. Because wherever there is funding, there are strings attached.
If the NSF has given a grant for this project, then you can bet the project never involves attacking the NSF for incompetence and politics. If it’s a VC firm, then you’d better believe they are actively figuring out how to make a major return on their investment. So even if they’re not selling your registration and click data now, they have plans for it.
So in other words, I want to know how you’re being funded, who’s giving you the money, and what your revenue model is. Unless you are independently wealthy and want to give back to the community by slaving away on a project, or you’re doing it in your spare time, then I know I’m somehow paying for this.
Just in the spirit of disclosure and transparency, I have no income and I pay a bit for my WordPress site.