The many faces of free.

Just what people mean when they say "free" is more than just a bit unclear. Roger Clarke has a web page devoted to the evolution of the phrase. He traces it's origin to Stewart Brand in 1984, though he identifies predecessors as early as 1959. Richard Kaiser, of the National Federation of Abstracting & Information Services enumerates a number of possible intents. The major three of these are
Google finds over 19,000 references to the phrase on the web, while AltaVista lists only about 3,700. The discrepancy is undoubtedly because even when we search for an exact phrase, Google returns more than just the exact phrase. Still, I'm not about to check out even the 3,700 results on the low-end of the search. My guess is that what most lay people understand when they hear or use the phrase is the "free for the taking" option.

Free hasn't fossilized since those heady days of catch phrases. It's been evolving. The direction seems clear - toward payment (which would, I admit, mean that it would no longer be free), but not always highway robbery type payment. There are people out there who are thinking seriously about workable solutions that offer valuable content at a reasonable price. An impressive and very informative Blogger-like web site exists that carries up to the minute reports on this issue. It's worth a read.

Go to: Something for Nothing.