The end of free?

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The new decade has only just started and already we’re seeing significant changes in the virtual meeting/classroom market.

Yugma

First of all Yugma changed their terms and conditions to reduce the service offered on their free accounts. Previously the free account allowed you to host unlimited meetings for up to 20 people, albeit without some of the features of the paid for version. Now you get access to all of the features of the paid version, but meetings are limited to three participants and 15 minutes.

In effect, the free version has been replaced by a limited trial.

I’m not sure of the logic in this move when the Webex Meet and Elluminate vRoom services currently offer much more for free.

DimDim

This morning I received and email from DimDim to announce that the company has been taken over by Salesforce.com. They are no longer accepting new registrations, although existing accounts will remain active until they expire. DimDim as a service will no longer exist as Salesforce made the acquisition to add real time collaboration features to their Chatter platform.

DimDim was unique in offering an open source version of their software, which will remain available on Sourceforge, although Salesforce have already stated that they will no longer be contributing to its development. The code available is very out of date, and only time will tell if there is enough interest in the open source version for it to survive.

The end of free?

It doesn’t surprise me to see this happening, as there are so few companies that seem able to make a commercial success of free B2B services. The likes of Google can only offer so many free consumer services because the data it produces feeds the commercial services they offer.

As already mentioned, there are still some free services still available, but there’s no guarantee they’ll remain that way. Webex Meet is described as ‘free while in beta’ which gives them scope to charge as soon as that beta is over, should they so wish. Elluminate’s vRooms are part of the free LearnCentral offer, which is described as ‘sponsored by Elluminate’; will they continue that sponsorship indefinitely?. On the plus side, it has seen continued development since the merger with BlackBoard.

What do you think? Will 2011 see a continued shift away from free services? Did you rely on these services, and if so what effect has it had on you?