Is the Age of “Free” Internet Fading? This Might be a Good Thing!

Posted on February 20, 2023 by Aywren

For a good while now, we’ve all been used to getting a number of our most-used Internet services for “free.” Social media sites like Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, Instagram, etc. as well as the apps that serve them, have all been available to us seemingly at no cost (aside from gathering our personal data and having ads shoved as us on every scroll).

It’s been this way so long, folks who were too young to remember the old web have only known this sort of “free” Internet. We’ve all learned how to tune out the ads on the side of our browsers, or have installed plug-ins that do it for us.

A Shift in Free Net Services

There’s a new wind blowing through the Internet lately, much of it triggered by all that’s happening over at Twitter. We’re starting to see a push for these previously “free” services to ask for money - for premium features, API cost, even features we’ve always taken for granted (SMS two-factor auth)… the list is starting to grow longer.

It’s not just Twitter, however. Meta… Facebook… whatever… is getting on the train as well. I suspect that we’re going to see a shift towards this mentality in the coming future in general.

There might still be a free option available, but it may become stripped of the functionality we’ve enjoyed up until now. This is nothing new to gamers. We all know how it is for F2P players in MMOs that offer a paid option – you can log into the game, but it’s just not as robust or convenient as it is for paying players.

I feel like we’re witnessing a change in the Net’s attitude towards free services. I’m not sure that there’s much we can do to stop it, other than decide where we want our money to go.

Put Your Dollar Where Your Heart Is (As Best You Can)

The truth is, nothing hosted on the Net is free. Not social media data, not free WordPress, not free image hosting – and on, and on. Somewhere, this data has to exist, and there’s a computer with data space, hardware, bandwidth, and electricity serving it up.

We’ve enjoyed the illusion of free. I’m not sure how much longer that’s going to last.

So, if the Net is going to become less free, it’s time to decide what your money supports in terms of Net services.

I’m no stranger to this. After I left Geocities back in the late 90s as a webhost, I’ve always paid a monthly fee to host my websites – and almost never saw that money returned to me – it was a labor of love. Be that at Hostgator, and later also, I’ve always paid something for my sites to exist online.

I’ve currently moved off of both of those, to Neocities - a small HTML-based host and old web community. Not only have I saved money, but I’m now supporting a host that is giving modern-day hobby website designers a taste of the old web. I’m all for that.

Note – There is an actual true free account for Neocities (without any ads) – but this is made possible by those who support the service through premium accounts.

In terms of social media, I’ve chosen to move from Twitter to Mastodon. However, it’s important to remember there’s a person behind running every Mastodon instance out there – these instances are not services that are free. Someone is supporting the cost of every toot you make.

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I find it a much better use of my money giving to my local Mastodon instance’s Patreon than lining Elon Musk’s pockets by paying for Twitter Blue (not that I’d even consider that for a moment). It not only keeps the lights on, it also supports the kind of community I want to see.

If you’re a part of a Mastodon instance, I highly encourage you to reach out to your admin and see if there’s a way you can help support the cost of the structure, even if it’s a dollar here or there. I know – paying for your social media service may seem foreign to us, but it’s the right thing to do (if you have the means).

The same can be said for blogging platforms. already has tightened its belt around its “free” account offering – we almost saw them seriously gut the whole free option last year. Don’t to be too complacent with them – they rolled back last year’s attempted changes due to massive negative feedback, but you have to decide is this a host that you trust for the future?

Instead, I’ve given my money to support other platforms. For quite a while, I was a monthly donor to Pillowfort, hoping to see it become a strong contender to Tumblr. While it’s still hanging in there, and I still wish it the best, as of this past weekend, I’ve decided to move those dollars into supporting (post about that coming in the future).

I’ve been very impressed with as a platform – both in the functionality it provides connecting Fediverse, WordPress, Tumblr, and just about any site that has an RSS feed (including this blog!). I’m also impressed with the constant forward development and the presence of those developing and running the service. They also have a WordPress and Tumblr import system… just sayin. ; )

Due to that, I’ve already chosen to make my Tumblr/Pillowfort replacement going forward, and will be putting my money into supporting the development of that platform. For me, $5 a month (or $4 a month if you pay yearly) does not break the bank, but again, helps create a community I want to see.

What are your thoughts on the current crazy shiftings of the Internet? What do you think about paying for services that you feel will help create the communities that you want to see?

*|* {February} *|* {2023} *|* {Internet} *|*