Why you should pay for online services and platforms

By Michael Anckaert - published on - posted in General

A couple of days ago I openen trackr.sh to the public. You can read all about it in my announcement post. In this post I'd like to write down some thoughts on why I believe you should pay for online services and platforms.

A couple of people asked me why didn't offer a free version of trackr.sh. The reason I choose a subscription for model for trackr.sh, without a free plan, is because I want to create a business that respects the user.

In my opinion, Free services are ultimately not realistic. Either way the user pays with something, money or data. There is no way that a company can offer a free services without gaining revenue from somewhere else. Either advertisements or some other form of selling data pay the bills. A free service makes the service operate at a loss and ultimately close or sell user data.

A Freemium model where a free tier is supplemented by plans where you have to pay for extra features can be a solution. But I have yet to see a business where such a model works out. The vast majority of users will stick to the free plan. The idea that the revenue from the paying users will offset the cost of the free users (and generate revenue to invest in the business) does not hold up in my opinion.

So in essence a Freemium model is the same as the Free model, it doesn't create a sustainable business that can respect the user.

I want the user to be able to rely on the service, the business model should provide the user with something he wants for a reasonable price and allow the business to keep it running at that price point for... well forever.

Taking the user's side is about respecting their privacy and also making sure the service will be there in X number of years. For me a user is a partner, a long time connection where I enjoy building something he likes using and he will know the service will be there for the long run.

At the moment this point of view is a bit radical, especially with the proliferation of free services and startups offering just about everything for free. But I am confident that will change over time. Sustainability is important, the current excess of capital being dumped in the technology sector creates a really distorted image of what a business is and how it should operate.