Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Better than free

If copying something is free, and the internet is a giant copy machine, what is valuable if not the thing (like software, music, images or information) being copied? Kevin Kelly in Better than free lays out eight ideas by asking "Well, what can't be copied?":
  • Immediacy
  • Personalization
  • Interpretation
  • Authenticity
  • Accessibility
  • Embodiment
  • Patronage
  • Findability
Of course this is extremely interesting for Magnolia, a business on the forefront of the "free" economy.

From my experience, I would add:
  • Responsibility
This is not the same as Authenticity. Maybe it fits in the Embodyment category. We embody the free software called Magnolia. But probably it really is something else, and can be sold. Magnolia is responsible for the free software, which is why we can charge for the Enterprise Edition even though the mere fact of making it available (the copy) is essentially free. Following the above ideas, we know why we can in fact give away the Community Edition (CE) for free. Think:
  • Immediacy: we could make Magnolia CE non-immediate by not providing a download (compile yourself). In a sense we make it non-immediate by not providing support, meaning if you need support, you need to get the Enterprise Edition first.
  • Personalization: we don't personalize the free CE for you. We do with the EE. And this goes a long way, for instance, we certify your platform, i.e. we garantee that Magnolia works and will work in the foreseeable future on your platform. No way we do this for the free CE.
  • Interpretation: we could restrict access to documentation to EE users. We do restrict access to us (as interpreters called "support") to EE users.
  • Authenticity: we provide access to authentic bug fixes and the authentic compiled and certified Magnolia Enterprise Edition. You just know it is not some malware you download.
  • Accessibility: we provide access to the EE, any version. You do not need to keep copies around. We could go further and back up your customizations for you, or even your data.
  • Embodiment: we come to your place to talk and to work with you if you pay for EE. We essentially don't talk to you if you are not a EE client.
  • Patronage: you can pay for the CE if you wish (only one person ever did, that was a 5 dollar donation 4 years ago).
  • Findability: being able to charge for the EE allows us to make Magnolia findable in the first place - through branding, public relations, marketing and even advertisement.

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