It is commonplace to believe that most things we use online – services, applications, etc. – are free. They are free for a very good extent, and quite some people, like me, prefer using a free application which may have limited usage, and/or advertisements, than a paid application or service with unlimited usage or wider use options.
Best Example - the 'Zilla
I’m happy that my browser is an ecosystem in itself, which has millions of useful applications/widgets that can put Android smart-phones to shame. The most interesting aspect of this ecosystem is that all these applications are available free of cost, and it works quite in sync with my browser and keep getting updated periodically.
Developers of these applications request users to make a small donation (in US Dollar terms), to help them continue with their programming and update activities of the 'add-on' widget. I haven't met anyone who has made a donation for their add-ons, yet. Honestly.
Recently I decided to make such a donation for a particular application I have been using since the past few years. I wouldn't call this application a life-saver, but it has definitely made my office life a little easier. When calculated on US-Dollar terms my measly donation would only look like peanuts for the developer, but it is almost equivalent to what the 'pro' versions (unlimited usage, ad-free promises) charge.
The Million Dollar Question
If I need to pay for an application myself, then why not go ahead and buy one from the millions of paid and 'pro-' applications, instead of downloading a 'free' one and then paying donations to the developer? My answer is "time". In simple words, it gives me the freedom to use the app when I feel it necessary and make a payment of my choice when I think I can pay.
Applying Newton's Second Law of Thermodynamics to Economics, I think that there can't be a system that can generate ideas /applications/concepts for free and let it run forever without a fuel (reward/profit) to sustain it's working. Hence I sometimes make payments for free resources such as Wikipedia, and some of my favourite and most reliable applications because I want them there.
Image courtesy: Aart van Bezooyen
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