Should Flickr (And Lots of Other Web 2.0 Sites) Pay You?

Rob Hof

37Signals' Jason Fried riffs off a post by SixApart's Anil Dash, asking whether Flickr shouldn't be sharing some of the ad revenue it gets. The photo-sharing site, now owned by Yahoo!, runs Google ads with the photos people post--and it just added the ability to print them, too. Jason wonders if, before long, the people who contribute to Flickr will come to believe they should share in the monetary spoils, not just get free hosting of their photos and maybe a little social capital.

At first, I thought, well, aren't users getting a pretty good deal just by getting to use a free service? I mean, whether it's MySpace or Google or Second Life or Skype, you're getting something of value by contributing, even if it's not cold, hard cash in your pocket. Maybe, in Flickr's case, as cofounder Caterina Fake notes, you're also getting the good feeling of contributing to something worthwhile, the benefit of attention by admirers or even the attention of potential paying customers. All good stuff, maybe better than the relative pittance you'd probably get from any kind of revenue sharing.

Then, just as I'm writing this post, I get an email from a new search engine, Anoox. It's pitching itself as better than Google, of course, but the wrinkle that caught my eye is that it's promising to share the ad money that it generates, as long as you use it as your main search engine.

Michael Parekh may be right when he suggests that the Web 2.0 companies that find a way to share their revenues with their users will have the best chance of becoming Web 3.0 companies.

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