The Price of Free Online Services

Everyone wants free services but nothing is free in this world. How is then that there are so many free services?

The Price of Free Online Services
Photo by Claudio Schwarz / Unsplash

Have you ever wondered how Google, Spotify, Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp are free and the short answer is that those services aren’t. Unfortunately, we discovered other ways to generate money with a product; cookies, people profiling, micro-transactions, subscriptions, and one-time payments are the more common ways for those big businesses to generate money.

So, nothing is “free”?

No. For example, Gmail, YouTube, Instagram, and Spotify are some examples of companies that define themselves as free product, however, they couldn’t be further away from the definition of “free” than they already are; all those services, profile you and sell this information to eventual interest parties, so if you believed it was just a coincidence that as soon you search for “men haircut 2021” a full wave of fashion product pop for you, I’m here to tell you it is not an accident.

Google is the biggest contestant in running a global, public, ads agency, at the point that it is over 80% of the public internet; their Analytics and AdSense products allow them to sell targeted publicity to you and everybody on the Internet. And very recently, Facebook Inc. entered the space in which Google was never successful, social media.

Note: Facebook Inc. owns WhatsApp, Instagram, and Facebook.

And some other players like Spotify and your favorite phone games outplayed you by running a non-skippable ad every so often. To be fair, at least you allow them to do so.

Am I safe if I pay?

You’re not. Even if you pay, that does not mean your activity is not being harvested; the difference here is that your data stays within the Service Owner, however, for the product to be better and have an advantage over their competitors they need to collect user usage patterns to create product functions that help you (and them) to remain with the product.

A few examples here are Netflix, Spotify Premium, and Apple Music; the recommendations are based on your previous like/dislike/related content consumption; They are so on point because they profiled you, they help you discover new related content, and they help themselves by keep pushing new features, so you remain a customer.

Subscriptions follow the same route, and I think it’s the future, especially in the Entertainment and App categories. The revenue stream that subscriptions generate outweighs the old existent models, pay once never pay again; however, it’s also the hardest game to be in as they need to be forever innovating their product, and this is expensive.

So, there are no options?

Yes! But if you believed subscriptions, one-time payments, or “free” as we track every move you make was expensive, then you know nothing.

There are a few services that will not profile you, however, they are expensive or at least double the price compared to more mainstream products/services, and frequently, some level of technical understanding is required to set those up.

Those services also, in most cases, required some level of technical understanding that the average user does not have, such as server installation, security, and data encryption.

In the end, it will depend on what sacrifice you decide to make. Would you just give up your information to Google, Facebook, or Twitter; or would you pay for all the services so at least your data is private, or you’re an adventurous person and will create your server with your own (open source) code?

Fortunately for you, I have decided to be part of the last group; I will not give my readers information to Google, Facebook; or any other similar business whose privacy policies are questionable. So, from now on, my blog will use or Fathom to have some level of understanding about which post type people like the most and or Hyvor Talk so you can post your comments on or with no social media account.

This post contains referral links in which a commission may be earned if you decide to purchase any of the above mentions.