where "word of keystroke" begins

February 15, 2001 -- What free stuff is left and why?

Transcript of the live chat session that took place Thursday, February 15, 2001. These sessions are normally scheduled for 12 noon-1 PM US Eastern Time (GMT -5 when Standard Time, GMT -4 when Daylight Savings Time) on Thursdays.

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Threads (reconstructed after the fact):

Today's Participants


Richard Seltzer -- Hi. We'll be starting at noon US Eastern Time (GMT -5). In the meantime, if you are curious, you could check an almost-live image of me at [no longer online] As you connect, please introduce yourselves and let us know your interests. Today, we want to talk about free products/services on the Web. What's still available, what has gone away. What makes sense to use. And how these business models work. Please tell us about your experiences and preferences. 

Tim Again -- hi ya Folks - Tim Again from New Hampshire here. Am I first in line for the free stuff?

Richard Seltzer -- Welcome, Tim, and also John Watkins. Unfortunately, we don't have any free stuff here, but we do want to talk about what's free and why, and what's changing. What's your favorite? -- Hello everyone- I'm Bob Zwick - independent constultant from Dallas, Texas 

Richard Seltzer -- Welcome, Bob. Glad you could make it. What's your favorite free service on the Web? And what service that's gone away do you miss most? 

John Watkins -- This is John Watkins. I run a small non-profit organization -- Simple Society. I'm a bit at sea about how to participate When I connected to this chat, I briefly saw a list of all the postings anmd then it switched the most current post--how does one get a chance to truly review what has been said in order to respond properly? 

hibbs -- sorry to be late

Ron Rothenberg -- Hello, Ron Rothenberg here.

Richard Seltzer-- Welcome, Ron. What are you up to now? Still taking courses? Or have you started a new company yet? And what's your favorite free service on the Web today? 

Ron Rothenberg -- I was working for a dot-com for a while, but they are on the verge of going under, so I'm free again.

Richard Seltzer -- What kind of position are you looking for? Real estate or Internet? (Recruiters often send me queries asking if I know of people who are available). 

Ron Rothenberg -- i am looking for a programming job -- I didn't make as much progress as i would have liked at the last job -- no one to ask questions of really - very frustrating. My resume is at -- Tim - Are you in the field of education ? 

Tim Again -- no - doing a career change - like to focus on formal Quality management. How about you Bob? -- I'm in the Distance Education (WEB) enabling business and E-Book publishing. 

What's changing

Tim Again -- so --- no free stuff here? hmmm, typically Companies provide free stuff for information. ie opinions, name, rank and demographics.

Richard Seltzer -- Yes, the rationale for free stuff (at least on the Web) has been based on advertising and advertising-related info. If they could get you to sign up for a newsletter or to receive targeted opt-in email, that's a value they could resell. 

Over the first few years of the Web, it seemed like anything that was useful would eventually be made available for free -- from Internet access to Web hosting space to good software. Everybody was looking for "members", "visitors", eyeballs that they could resell through advertising or that they could use to convince investors that they had a good business proposition. With the sharp decline in online advertising, the value of eyeballs has declined, and many free services have either gone away or tried to morph into paid services. 

Tim Again -- really? I feel like more things are "free" rather than subscription based. 3 or so years ago companies were all giving away one month trials but then hitting you with subscription fees.

Richard Seltzer -- Last year, there were more than half a dozen free Internet access companies. altavista, worldspy, freewwweb,1stup, spinway, and bluelight have all gone away. The only two remaining players are Juno (4 million users) and Netzero (7 million). That's typical. 

Such services have been disappearing so fast, it's hard to keep track. 

Tim Again -- Many things are "free" as a baseline with the hope of upselling. ie Ebay's auctions, or imaging hosting.

Richard Seltzer -- eBay's auctions have never been "free." The sellers pay fees for posting their auctions and additional fees based on a percentage of the sales price. And in the last month the fees went up. 

Tim Again -- yes, I know the seller had a token listing fee of 25 now 30 cents. but the use of the data and the marketplace was "free"

Richard Seltzer -- What "data" do you mean? They just blocked off access to the email addresses of bidders, except to the seller of a particular auction. And what do you mean the "marketplace was 'free'"?The posting fee may be "token", but the % of sales is not (and hasn't been). 

Another auction-related example of what's changing, AuctionRover (bought by GoTo Auctions) used to provide a very useful auction management system for free. It made it easy to post your auctions to eBay, Amazon and Yahoo. Starting this month, they charge for that service. 

Tim Again -- regarding access to previous bidders. about a year ago we had a lively discussion about whether skimming was okay, legal and/or ethical. 

Richard Seltzer-- Yes, it was never a good idea to try to grab email addresses from eBay and make contacts out of the auction space, but it used to be possible. Now they are trying hard to slam the door. 

Tim Again -- hmmm, Paypal is now charging for more than causal usage. do they charge a transaction always or only when over a threshold?

Richard Seltzer -- I've made marginal use of Paypal, but I am a member (and have been for a few months). I haven't seen anything from them about a change in policy. I'd be interested in details. (Everybody seems to be pushing back, reducing the free stuff, adding limitations, charging for what had been free, defining a base level of service and then charging for a level of service that is really useful.) -- Richard - do you think it's the "bait and switch" routine or just a matter of making the service pay for itself? 

Tim Again -- hmmm, that's what we need is a P2P napster-like auction site. 

Richard Seltzer -- Yes, indeed, Napster is an interesting example of a free service that is going away. In that case, it's the courts and traditional businesses (with antique business models) that are putting it down, as opposed to the downturn (and the disappearance of ad revenue streams). 

Tim Again -- over the last month or so - i've been researching the Quality field (6sigma, iso9000, certification and such) There is a lot of free stuff (information) out there but to get the complete and usable in a business manner - you need to invest. I have not done so yet but I will - as i am getting tired of partial answers.

Richard Seltzer -- In many cases, a free basic service (piece of software) is offered and you have to pay for a "professional" level -- e.g. humanclick, realplayer, etc.

Richard Seltzer -- Bucking the trend, the free email services seem to be doing fine. Is that the case? Or have I missed something? -- I use on my web site to offer local members free mail. It's great and free. I even get to rotate MY banners in their advertising. 

Tim Again --I bet yahoo mail will not be free forever. as the portal sites consolidate there will be charges "in order to serve you better"

Richard Seltzer-- Yes, I wouldn't be surprised if there were changes like that. But they seem to be coming later and slower with email services than with others. I'm wondering what's different about their business model that makes it more stable/viable. 

Ron Rothenberg -- just announced they are closing feb. 20 

Today's free services

Tim Again -- I just signed up with - I don't have all the details at hand but the basic free service is pretty good for an individual. (not business)

Richard Seltzer -- What does offer? I'm not familiar with them. 

Tim Again -- re ureach - i don't know the techno phrase for it but it provides a 800 number, yet another mail address, you can leave a voice message for me and I can listen to it via the web. 

Richard Seltzer -- Sounds like eVoice. Also, probably bears some similarity to efax. I tried eVoice, but they didn't let you listen to your messages from pay phones, which kind of did away with the utility of that kind of voice mail. As for efax, their trick was that the "free account" they gave you required people to call numbers in Utah. Someone across town might want to send you a fax, but would have to make a long-distance call to Utah to do it. (Some of these offers aren't really as good as they seem at first glance.) Are there any hidden problems with uReach? 

Tim Again -- re I needed to setup a quick file store for some photos - I also wanted to receive faxes. I have not played with it much yet. -- My latest freebie is a free collaboration service that gives 25mb free and options to add space for an "anual" fee. I've implemented a techer intranet at

Richard Seltzer -- What do they mean by "intranet" in that context? And what is it that they provide (aside from Web space)? You can get plain vanilla Web space still at Tripod, Geocities (Yahoo), and Xoom (NCBi) and Angelfire. But I gather that intranets provides some unique services and a unique context. -- Intranet is a private network for sharing doc, discussions, calendar, email, etc. Much more than just a drive like Mangomind. -- Is anyone using the FREE auctions at MultiCity? Wonder if Auction Rover includes thheir auctions. 

Richard Seltzer -- I haven't heard of MultiCity? What is a "free auction"? Do you mean free to post (like Yahoo)? OR do you actually get merchandise for free? 

hibbs -- my contribution: multi city is free for message boards and chat rooms, verynice ones by the way...visit for the message board. visit for the chat room

Richard Seltzer -- Thanks for the info about Multicity. I'll have to check that out. When I think of free message boards, first I think of Delphi and Nicenet. And for email discussion, Topica. And for a combination of both eGroups (now part of Yahoo). -- Multi city is my 1st choice for chat and I also use their auctions. They offer pay for service that is really reasonable too. 

Richard Seltzer -- How do their auctions work? In what way are they free? (just no posting fees?) And what other services do they offer? 

hibbs -- We happen to love multi city...also the text translation service works fine. 

Richard Seltzer -- What languages do they translate? And how does that work? (I'm used to AltaVista's free translation at, which recently expanded to include Asian languages.) 

hibbs -- well, multi city is a free lunch so far. I love their message boards! 

Tim Again -- John - can i get some free advice? Why is Multicity's message board good? I've stayed away from most others.

hibbs -- It isn't free forever but we also offer voice-alert which allows one to make a phone call, record a message, hang up and the audio is instantly uploaded for hearing with those who have real audio plug in 

hibbs -- I think that bob's room is still the cats ass! --:)

Richard Seltzer -- And after all this time, I still haven't tried it. I'll have to soon... (Others, he is referring to a service available at Bob Zwick's site -- Thanks for the plug guys 

hibbs -- do you know about those vignettes guys, learning stuff for free

Richard Seltzer -- Another interesting one I recently heard of but haven't tried is freefind. They provide you with a search engine index of your site. -- I have been using ATOMZ's free site indexing service. Trouble is some of my sites exceed the 500 page limit and I'd have to pay to index more pages. 

Richard Seltzer -- Interesting. I'll have to take a look. 500 is quite a limitation though. (I don't think freefind has such a limit -- I'll have to check). -- Good thing is you can index just sub directories and limit searches that way. 

hibbs -- or are we only talking about application and software, not courses, etxc.? 

Richard Seltzer -- All the above. There are, for instance, sites with free courses. used to one of them. Now they are attenza

hibbs -- for vignettes try Ray Jimenez, Ph.D.

Richard Seltzer-- What kinds of courses are available at Vignettes? 

hibbs -- actually, what is available there is more about what can be seen on line...pictorials and so forth. You have to view it. More about leadership on line than anything...very different..but very smooth and easy to view. 

Tim Again -- I just went off to - wow! i haven't seen how their are going to make money. 

hibbs -- I don't know how Vignettes will make money and neither do they. I have been in contact with them...good guys. 

Tim Again --update on those folks will do okay (if people tire of the partial free stuff. 

Ron Rothenberg -- my favorite free service is travelocity's new search engine -- I can find the lowest fare anywhere, then work backwards to find when it is available, then buy it on the airline site --- I've gone to florida for 4 weekends for $99/ea r/t and gotten 20,000 bonus ff miles. my other favorite free sites are the free sites that tell you about free offers on the internet, like and, etc. for coupons, free offers, discount codes for retailers, etc. 

hibbs -- have you guys talked about free telephony?,, -- HearMe is stiill free but they are undergoing major rebuilding. HearMe is now email/web based and the regular talk chat is under telcopint who is having design problems. 

hibbs -- also, if you ask nicely, we can provide a free telephone room where the callers pay and all can talk. a nice, nice room -- John - I would sure like to know more about the telephone room. I still don't quite understand how it works. 

hibbs -- the telephone room is really simple. I provide a number, in florida, with an extension. All callers you give the number to can call in and talk freely. There is no moderator, so "order" can be a problem. But it works splendly, especially in cases where we transmit by real audio 

Richard Seltzer -- So you are talking about an alternative to conference calls? using an ordinary phone? or talking over the Internet? -- So it's a conference call that can be broadcast to a Real Server ? 

hibbs -- we use it as an ordinary place for ordinary conference calls 

hibbs -- we also use it as bridge to send the audio out for telephony. we also have people who use, say, to telephone into the room for free -- Have you tried connecting the phone conversation to a voice chat room ? 

hibbs -- the best use was last year in gld where we used the telephone room, bridged the audio to (a radio service, free) which webcast the audio to about 50 people before too much congestion 

Richard Seltzer -- Very interesting. (All "gld" stands for Global Learning Day, a project which John Hibbs runs each year). 

hibbs -- this was very nice because people could just listen over the phone, free if by telephony; could talk with other panel members; could listen over real audioi, and all transcribed...and all free except for long distance charges...we had 4 cent a minute rates for North Americans, ten cent a minute for Europeans...not much money when you think about it.

I would love to do more experimenting with text chat room, POTS room, and free radio webcasters or free audio streaming. 

Richard Seltzer -- Likewise (but what is "POTS")? -- POTS - Plain Old Telephone System 

Richard Seltzer -- Thinking of voice chat --- how does Netmeeting work? I have the software and camera and microphone, but have never had occasion to use it. Is it worth experimenting with? 

hibbs -- We have guys in London who use netmeeting and swear by it. If you want to know all about net meeting try Eric Baber <> eric is a brilliant guy teaching english over the net 

Richard Seltzer -- Thanks. What's his involvement with netmeeting? heavy, regular user? I dabbled with NetMeeting but got discouraged. Using the public servers was always ify. 

Richard Seltzer -- Some others (so I don't forget to mention them): anonymizer, onebase (database), AOL Messenger (instant messaging), BigStep (Web business services), Deja (newsgroups, just bought by Google), Tripod (chat), yack, talkcity, Yahoo for voice chat, iSyndicate (free content), allexperts (owned by, mypoints (opt-in email), Befree (affiliate programs) also LinkShare, Coola (palm and mobile), Zoomerang (surveys).

hibbs -- how about all the free on line newspapers?,,, and thousands more? 

Richard Seltzer -- and free personalized news feeds from

Richard Seltzer -- What about photo sites? Sites where you can save/post your personal photos and have folks see them album style?

Richard Seltzer -- Also, speciality content hosting sites like Do you know of others like that? 

Richard Seltzer -- What about sites for broadcasting audio and/or video? I finally have an uptodate PC with lots of disk space and bells and whistles, and also a hosting service (thanks to a tip from Bob Zwick) that provides unlimited disk space and unlimited traffic for $19.95/month ( I'm in the mood to experiment... 

Why does free stuff matter?

Tim Again -- Is the lack of "free" things a problem? We all know 'there aint' no free lunch'

Richard Seltzer -- It's not a major problem. But the "free" always provided you with a way to learn and experiment before investing in paid software and services; and also usually a way to participate anonymously. 

Free was also always good a backup -- if your paid (non-advertising) ISP went down, you could still surf and email with your free services till things went back online. And if you had DSL or cable access at home, you could use a free access service to dialup on the road. Lots of useful variations...

hibbs -- you are right about that Richard! -- Tim - Free and trial ware are REQUIRED in today's world. It's a matter of wether you want to put up with advertising or pay for it when you decide it will produce results for you. 

Richard Seltzer-- Some trials let you go virtually forever without paying (e.g., Winzip). Others end abruptly after a couple weeks and have all kinds of protections to keep you from getting and using another copy (like WebTrends). 

Tim Again -- Richard - i think you are confusing the topic by bringing in the idea of not paying for shareware. That is not free - that is stealing. Using Winzip for the trial period (even if crippled) is free. 

Richard Seltzer -- There's a lot of gray territory. My main interest is services; but often software companies provide free services as an alternative to buying their software. e.g., Web Trends charges over $600 for a license for their excellent Log Analyzer. But they also offer a free version as a service by way of


Richard Seltzer --All, we're nearing the end of the hour. This feels like a good topic. I'd like to glean the links etc. from today's session and send that out by email (as John Hibbs suggest), as part of an invitation to a second session on this topic next week. How would you feel about that? 

hibbs -- fine with me. still like to do more experimenting with incorporating audio with the text chat and page pushing. big need for same, especially if combined with free goods. 

Richard Seltzer -- All -- thanks very much for joining us today. As usual, you can access the raw transcript of today's session by hitting Close (or coming back to the URL you entered here with). I'll try to post an edited version soon. Check Please let me know what you think about continuing this topic next week. 

All, please post your email addresses and URLs before leaving, so we can keep in touch. 

Tim Again -- lots of good links today to play with!

hibbs --, -- Bob Zwick, Home Page, DE Site, Teacher Intranet, E-Book site

Richard Seltzer -- All -- thanks again, this has been very helpful. Hope you can join us again next Thursday. If you have followup thoughts, please send them to me by email and I'll add them to the edited transcript. 

Followup messages

From: Allan Sherman Date: 2/21/2001

Thanks for the useful list.

I'd like to nominate as an addition to the
"free web site traffic tracking and/or statistical analysis" category.

Sorry I can't join the chat...


From: Arnold Reinhold Date: Feb. 19, 2001

I would add HushMail which is a free e-mail
serviced that offers encryption and digital signatures. I think that
sets it apart from the other free e-mail services.

Also has been taken over by google, who promises to restore
the full database and posting capability, but says it will take a



From: Jim Peters, Date: Feb. 19, 2001

Free URLs - there are two types:

The type which redirects visitors to
your web site hosted on a commercial server

The type which redirects visitors
to your web site hosted on your own home computer


From Jeff Pulver, Date: Feb. 19, 2001


Not sure if you tracked free telephony services but at the bottom of there is my list of free services.


From: Steve Ronan, Date: Feb. 20, 2001

free isp info:

  - Steve Ronan

Organized list of links to resources mentioned in this chat

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