UPDATED 10:50 EDT / MARCH 10 2009

Free Ride Era is Ending

imageThe free ride of Web 2.0 is coming to an end. As entrepreneurs are scrambling to make their startup or idea profitable, the user of the free services are outing them.

Yet another questionable business practice: charging users to be "featured"?

I don’t actually remember asking about becoming a featured user on TwitterCounter, aside from trying to learn how it works. Well, now I know: you pay for it.

Pretty sketchy approach, I think.

While it’s not a crime to try to get your users to pay for something that has been free all along, or asking them to pay to be featured, it takes better marketing skills to convince users of your service to do such a thing. While the pay to be featured model may be one services attempt to make some profit, bigger more established services may do something like what Yelp is doing.

This was reported in the Chicago news and here, apparently is up to it’s tricks again to make a bit of cash. The official line of course is total denial of any wrong doing, and I’m not accusing them of such, just putting the facts out there as they are being reported currently.

Yelp’s CEO Jeremy Stoppelman has been taking his side of the story in this controversy to the Web, the media and even Twitter.

In a conversation with the Tribune, Stoppelman denied the allegations, saying, "I guarantee that there is no link between" review placement and advertising. He said that the people selling the ads have no access to the architecture of the site and so cannot influence placement or review content.

"While it’s possible that there is a game of telephone going on and certain people misunderstood what was being offered, I think we have so many safeguards and rules in place that people should know what they are getting into."

Some services figured out correctly that the free model just wasn’t going to work forever. Those are the businesses that will more than likely survive into the next era of Web 3.0 as outlined in the great post yesterday.

While I have laid out 3 different services with 3 different approaches to the end of Web 2.0, what are your thoughts? What other services out there are trying the same tactics right now, the ones that haven’t been outed? Do you feel that services should be more engaging with their user base before attempting something that is viewed or could be viewed as shady? What would you do differently?

ie: charging you for something that has been free, sending you e-mails with a price to receive a service that you didn’t ask for, or promising a better ranking for your service/site if you pay some money or do some back scratching, or anything that appears to be a bait and switch like tactic from free to pay

Leave some thoughts to this growing issue that I feel will only become bigger, or you can always ping us via twitter: siliconANGLE, John Furrier, Mark "Rizzn" Hopkins, Rex Dixon.

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