As I’ve written before, the internet is amazing. It informs us thereby making us smarter, connects us, entertains us and so much more. But I’m noticing that it also spoils us. Once our internet connection is presumably established through WiFi, (often free WiFi,) we expect everything that comes to our screen to be free and with no strings attached. Maybe I’m just getting old, but it’s becoming annoying. In the past, I’ve defended Gen X and Gen Y as not being selfish and I believe the same applies to Millennials. In the online interactive world, every generation feels entitled. When it comes to websites and apps, of which 98% are free, we have little right to complain.
Of course, when a website or app decides to charge for its content, web users complain because they expect it to be free. In a way, this is understandable. The content providers themselves have created this expectation of “complimentary’ism” since they started giving it all away for no money a long time ago. (Ask the newspaper companies if this was a good idea.) But that still leaves 98% of websites and apps that we can use or download for free. Despite the fact that many of these interactive websites and apps, (or W&A’s as I will call them,) lose money, we tend to forget that they are supposed to be businesses. Why would anybody start something up that’s expensive unless they can make money off of it?
Once we get addicted to a W or A, we don’t want it to ever evolve. When the companies make changes to improve usability or to keep up with trends or the competition, complaints arise like lava from a volcano and spread through the internet like a virus. Some grumbles are justified, (like the overwhelming disapproval of the new My Yahoo! with all its glitches and usability issues,) but many are just from curmudgeons who don’t like anything to change. The complaints about the interface changes to Facebook in recent years now seem like a faded distant memory. We need to remember that the W or A is free! You didn’t contribute much to deserve it. If you don’t like it, stop using it! Nobody’s forcing you to use it.
And then, like in the case of Instagram, when they decided that they have the right to sell your photos, people complained again. Shouldn’t the company be able to get something from you since you are getting something from them? It’s only fair. I am weary of changes to Terms and Conditions like Facebook seems to do so frequently. I no longer post my better photography on Facebook because I don’t want the question of ownership to ever arise.
Perhaps a lot of this expectation of free is driven by the fact that many internet businesses are valued highly and invested in even though they don’t make any profits. This doesn’t happen when you make stuff that you can touch or hold in your hand. Nobody will invest in your company if you tell them you will be making cool widgets and giving them away for free for years until you somehow figure out a way to make money by doing so. You can’t give physical stuff away for free and expect to make a company out of it, even if you paint ads on it. As many old guys I’ve worked with have told me, you can’t make up for losing money on a product by increasing sales volume.
Enjoy the W&A we get for free despite ads, changes, the selling of our data or even if the W&A make us addicted to them and waste our time. We should try to hold back the urge to complain, but I’ll acknowledge that it’s easier for those of us who can remember the pre-internet era.