For most of what I do I rely on a bunch of free online applications — I’ve written about it before, so there’s no real need to rehash the story. But today as I was scanning feeds I came across a post at Read Write Web, Google Giveth, and Taketh Away that has me thinking about it all a little bit. The post tells of Google either closing or stopping work on several free web-based services … clearly they aren’t their most popular ones, but with Google Video, Notebook, Jaiku, Catalog Search, and Dodgeball all going away it makes you pause and think about how much a bunch of us are relying on open and free services to do all sorts of things.
I wonder what would happen, if economic times continue to worsen, to other services that more people use? I know I would have a really hard time going back to paying for simple things like word processing and note taking applications — especially ones without the advanced syncing I’ve come to expect. I would also hate to see the innovation going on in the web-based application universe start to die. I am guessing YouTube killed Google Video, but Notebook was loved by many and existed as a powerful add on for FireFox — in other words, it was an app without real competition. My current favorites include Evernote, Google Docs, and LaLa … all free, but with some sort of revenue model sitting there for advanced features. I just wonder how much energy to dedicate to them given they could go poof in the middle of a massive economic downturn. What happens if Yahoo jumps out of the delicious or Flickr business? I (and a boat load of others) would be SOL.
I know it isn’t restricted to free online apps … many of us used HyperCard for years and Apple killed it. Remember Claris Works? Gone as well. I shouldn’t worry too much, but watching the mighty Google just decide to stop offering tools gave me a little pause. What should we be doing?