Thursday, May 12, 2011...9:05 am

Twitpic: the price of free online services

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Apparently Twitter users are cross because Twitter-friendly image upload service Twitpic has changed its terms to allow it to sell on users’ uploaded images for a profit.
Yes – it’s annoying. And yes, it flies in the face of what copyright law intends.
But, you know, that’s what happens when we get used to the idea that all the services provided to us on the web have to be free. Or, “free”.
Delicious users ran up against this in another form recently, leaving people with thousands of bookmarks panicking that they would lose the record of, sometimes, years of online browsing.
Companies have to make money somehow – the question is how. Facebook is managing through advertising – and will doubtless sell on its store of aggregated user analytics. But Twitter? User data will play its part, but its revenue model is far from clear.
Which leaves all those ancillary services floundering, really. How is a company that spends its time uploading millions of images to the web at no charge going to stay in business? When we resolutely refuse to pay for it?
This is the problem with free services generally. Before you commit material that is (a) valuable and/or (b) sensitive to the internet, make sure that you have as much control over it as possible. It’s a pretty good reason for paying for your own web hosting – and making sure you back up your files regularly…

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