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my favorite emerging business model......free

LinkedIn and Facebook are the next blockbuster IPO candidates. LinkedIn's recent equity investment valued them somewhere around $2B an (on reported revenues of $200M). Facebook is worth around $35B based on a recent private transaction on revenues less than $750M. So with eyepopping valuations resembling the late 90's, guess what is most startling to me ?

The fact that LinkedIn has $200M of revenues. Or Facebook makes a dime on the topline. How ? Where does linkedin make money? It's not from me. I dont know anyone that has a premium membership or even knows what services it provides. How many web marketing people that you know pay for advertising on Facebook ? Profiles and chats and most of the useful marketing tools are free. Even for corporations. Really ? $200M?

As i've watched web businesses mature and the market move from internet bubble to web 2.0, i've wondered how all of the things we use most are..well free. As a consumer, its great. Ten years ago, i could never have imagined all of the information and services I have at my fingertips -- all real-time, and all free.

GPS? No need to attach one to your car thanks to Google. Mail ? Gmail and FTP sites. TV ? Justintv. Product Reviews? C-Net. Stock quotes? Name your site. Found my house on zillow. Movies and Music ? Uh - my attorney won't let me answer that one :). Just think of all the tools you use on a recurring basis and how much money you spend on these items. My guess is that you won't need both your hands to count the outflows.

Craigslist was the first to puzzle me. How in the world could they displace the entire classified ad industry (which was actually the only place newspapers made money) for free ? It took down most of the local newspapers and really got nothing in return. Ebay bought a stake years ago, tried to make money, and Craig and company sued them. They actually sued them for trying to make money! EBay backed off.

Wikipedia. I have no idea the level of accuracy that Wiki offers, but I don't think it matters. It's the most used reference source in the world. No need for encyclopedias. No reason to pay for some specialized website to attain what you are looking for.

I love it. It still never ceases to amaze me. But to all my readers out there (because i have so many), this is the best its going to get. Get ready to reach for your wallets. NBC, part-owner of Hulu.com, implied they are going to start charging for content. Google and Verizon are in talks on how to priortize net traffic (see my post on net neutrality). Facebook and LinkedIn will get some serious pressure from either private or public investors to monetize their huge membership base. Google will start charging for some of its services once their near-monoplistic search ad rates come down.

But until then, let's consume as much free content and services we can. If only there were a free site that turned my stock portfolio into something recession-proof...

Disclosure: no positions