The Problem with Free

Nothing in life is free, not even blogs: Numerous bloggers hosted by Weblogs.com are offline and scrambling to find new hosting after blogging pioneer Dave Winer abruptly closed the free service last weekend. Actually this is a serious problem. While I totally understand and support Dave’s decision, I think he should be given a little warning. I agree with Doc on his take on free.

That last point is a critical one that we shouldn’t forget, no matter who we are or how we publish on the Web. I’ve said before that nobody owns anything on the Web. The fact is, we’re all renters here. That means our sites, our blogs, our businesses, live in a commercial marketplace. Our Web presences live at the grace of the companies on which we depend. Companies change, and so do the people that comprise them. Small independent companies (and their customers) are especially vulnerable. But without them, we wouldn’t have blogging at all ?Äî certainly not as we know it today.

That brings me to another issue that often gets overlooked in the religious wars over blogging software, free software and free rides.

But some users protested that they had no warning of the shutdown, and thus were unable to download copies of their sites, including user comments. Winer said he will export a site’s content if its owner makes a specific request, but would not do so before July 1.

As many of you know, I have switched from MT to Word Press, and switching was easy because despite all the brouhaha around MT, it is the only blogging software (maybe Blogger?) which has an “export entries” button that is simple and easy to use. In other words, they are saying, well if you don’t like us, please switch to anything you feel like.

In comparison, switching from Manilla, or Word Press is painful and hard for those who are not blogsavants. (You can export the database or import using a RSS feed, but that is tough for people who just want to write.) I tried to move hosts this weekend and man it was a problem. Had Matt not helped me out, I would have never been able to do it. I guess, that is the penalty of free.

Anyway, this rant has become too long – I am going to say this, sometimes free is not good, and can be a bit of a pain. Weblogs.com users are finding out.

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