From Free to Fee

A new blog is chronicling the web's transition from predominantly free sites to an ever increasing number that have established toll booths for access.

The past year has seen an acceleration in the trend toward charging for web content. The earlier model of free content supported by advertising has been largely discredited, and yet the idea of paying for what was once given away doesn't always sit easily with veteran web users.

Most online content providers can no longer afford to give away access to their sites. Nonetheless, charging for content faces numerous obstacles above and beyond user resistance.

"The Start of Fee" is "a collaborative weblog about the transition of online business models from "100% free" to a mix of free and fee." The blog focuses on the tools necessary to manage, get payment for, and bill fee-based online services.

The transition from free to fee will likely have an impact on search engines and searchers. Sites charging for content are erecting barriers to searchers and search engine crawlers alike, effectively voluntarily moving into the realm of the Invisible web. Ironically, what was once a technical problem to be avoided has now become an attractive option for many content providers.

The Start of Fee is produced by Olivier Travers and Research Buzz web search guru Tara Calishain. The blog previously was called "The End of Free," and its archives make a fascinating chronicle of the web's transition from free to fee.

The Start of Fee
A collaborative weblog about the transition of online business models from "100% free" to a mix of free and fee.

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About the author

Chris Sherman is a frequent contributor to several information industry journals. He's written several books, including The McGraw-Hill CD ROM Handbook and The Invisible Web: Uncovering Information Sources Search Engines Can't See, co-authored with Gary Price. Chris has written about search and search engines since 1994, when he developed online searching tutorials for several clients. From 1998 to 2001, he was's Web Search Guide.