When Does a User Become a Liability?

Lately, I’ve been thinking about monetization of web applications.  The web 2.0 movement has been characterized by the proliferation of web applications that are designed to make life easier, the web more manageable, and information and people more easily accessible.

One reason this phenomenon has caught on is the fact that many of these applications are free.  The “freeconomics” model has enabled many people to focus on building great products and accumulating loyal users which is in itself a good thing.  However, as time gets tough and companies start to burn through cash, at what point does a user become a liability rather than an asset?  With no plans to monetize, probably sooner than people think.

The first lesson I ever learned in sales is not to be afraid to ask for the order.  Sure tons of users are great, who doesn’t like free stuff, but your work is worth something.  I fear that until many companies and developers of web-applications are confident enough to stand behind their product and ask for the order, we will forever live in web 2.0 infancy, a utopian fantasy of a digital economy where everything is free.  When the web 2.0 user is no longer a liability, the real web 3.0 movement can begin.

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