How demanding can a non-paying Web 2.0 user be?
Recent MySpace unavailability, during the July heat wave, provoked criticism of the free-to-consumer Web property:
"All talk of global warming aside, the record-breaking heat wave that knocked out power infrastructures throughout California will probably be best remembered for making MySpace.com look really bad,“ said Caroline McCarthy, in a CNET report:
To make matters worse, MySpace's young user base is a notoriously fickle demographic. If the service begins to build a reputation for inefficiency, glitches or frequent outages, tech-savvy teenagers and young adults could, conceivably, move on to the next trendy site.
My colleague, Dana Gardner, puts forth that:
When the services are free, the investment in back-end performance needs to be higher…when you charge for subscriptions or license directly for services, you can get away with so-so performance. You already billed them and they paid, so let them a wait a while.
Yet as more vendors and providers go to free delivery, ala AOL and its email and portals these days, the provider must now re-engineer their back-end systems to truly live up the the real-time economy.
The notion of needing to provide privileged “free service” to non-paying users, while tolerating "so-so" performance for contractually bound paid customer service relationships, is a new Web 2.0-induced phenomenon.
From a strict consumer rights and contractual “Terms of Service” analysis, companies that charge for their services undoubtedly face greater legal and financial risks when services paid for are not delivered as promised, than a free-to-consumer "as-is" service such as MySpace.
From a prospective lost advertising revenue opportunity-cost analysis, advertising inventory available at a free-to-consumer service such as MySpace does not appear to be mission-critical, at present.
In “Google hits Web 2.0 trifecta: AdSense powering MySpace, YouTube, Digg” and “Google: MySpace savior?” I discuss MySpace’s vulnerability, due to its undesirable advertising inventory:
Listening to the joint conference call for financial analysts and press, however, the lack of enthusiasm for the $900 million deal was palpable. The profitability of MySpace was questioned, as well as the quality and salability of its advertising inventory.
Commenting on the MySpace-Google deal, Google CEO Eric Schmidt said Google would not display ads on every page: “We are not going to cover MySpace with ads.”