Delicious shuts down: One free web service I use frequently is biting the dust. I joined quite late into the delicious party but after I got used to it, the delicious bookmarklet was the first bookmarklet on my browser. It was really very good and I used to refer back to those bookmarks to find - something which I remember having read but can't remember now - articles. I am really sad to see it go. If you have used delicious and want to atleast back up all the bookmarks you have saved, you can export all those bookmarks here.
Other shutdowns of popular products: I think lot of web services will start to feel the heat and web services which are not able to to monetize may shut down or start to charge for services. Google shut down its notebook service also which I was using. Now evernote has taken that place which has premium accounts and it is rumoured to be making good revenue.Evernote has raised a lot of money and after the growth of the company peaks, it also might want to terminate its non paying customers. Ning a company which provides custom social networks removed the option of free from its packages and all the existing customers were asked to pay up or leave.
Will everyone start charging for services now? There are two ways that a company can continue to provide its services for free, if it is either acquired by a big company - read google or microsoft or if it makes good money either by charging for services or by ads. Lets consider one by one
Selling to a big company : Picnik, Youtube, GrandCentral (google voice) & many other companies acquired by google are still providing services for free. That doesn't mean it will always be like that. The founders of those companies will become rich but there is no guarantee that the services will keep running. Delicious is best example of what will be wrong with this approach.If the new company thinks it is useless or does not fit in with its agenda, it will shutdown. So no company whose motto is selling to another company can be trusted to remain functional for ever.
Money from ads: Companies can make money by serving ads on the site. This is popularized by google. Blogger, Youtube, GMail and all big google properties are subsidized this way. Though there is no danger of these being discontinued in the short term there are some threats to this approach too. Adblocker extension on Firefox and Chrome will block all ads on a web page and you have to whitelist certain sites to enable ads like I enabled google.com to see ads from that site. And how many people will take that pain of enabling those ads? And Facebook is giving a good threat to google. Don't you think with all the facebook connect information can't facebook show ads on the pages which have activated Facebook Connect ? I think it is only a short time before facebook starts federating its ads. If google loses its relevance or lot of people switch to facebook ads, is it possible that Google can keep supporting bandwidth hogs like Youtube indefinitely. This raises a question which webservice can be trusted to run forever? Which brings us to the third way a company can make money
Charging for services: Companies can earn money the old fashioned way by charging for services. Lot of companies already charge for services but I think we will see more and more companies starting to charge for services.
Not everyone will start charging for services. Notably all those places which can attract lot of eyeballs like facebook, youtube or google might always be free because by their nature the more people they can bring they earn more. So they might make more than they use and hence they can be free but more services where it is not possible to be subsidized by ads, the companies will charge for sure.
How different it is from freemium ?
The difference is that you will not get free servies indefinitely. Today even if you will not pay you can use tumblr to host your blog indefinitely. Evernote allows you to save notes indefinitely even if you never pay anything to use it within a limit. But the difference which i see it the services will become time-limited. So you can only try but not really use a service. You have to pay to use it.
I am not saying this is true for news or other data where the cost of incremental stuff is zero but for web services where each new free customer has a cost associated with him/her however small the cost might be.
Update: A cool service call trunk.ly is poised to replace delicious not in the same way but now a days, if we like something we just share it on twitter or facebook, not to delicious right. Trunkly indexes the links we share on twitter or facebook and is searchable.. So grab a spot for this here