Today’s Obsession: What Business Model?

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Remember me talking about Xmarks shutting down? Well, it turns out now they’re kind of not. Seems like their userbase was willing all along to pay for the service. So, okay, that’s good, and I’m glad to see a business being able to keep part of itself alive. But another sync company, called Fruux, is now trying the same sort of thing—directly asking their users to pledge a (smallish) amount to keep their service online and growing.

Now, while I like the idea of Fruux—it’s a preferences pane for Mac users to let them sync two machines, just like one does with MobileMe, but on a local network—it’s kind of disturbing to see more than one young business in this sector reveal in public that the business began more or less accidentally, never gained a profitability model, and is now hoping to get one by riding the coattails of another crisis unfolding in exactly the same way. A bloodless assessment, but true. It leaves me to wonder just how many of these services began and are operating this way, simply coasting along on Chris Anderson’s assertions that free is the future, never mind that it’s not working for a lot of people, and hoping something works out. Seriously, is this how the internet’s doing business? C’mon.