No business model is the new business model

After much shopping around for online to-do lists that I like, I have settled on one called tasktoy. It’s not very flashy, and it’s not very professional looking, but it works well, and it has a few features that I absolutely must have. The most important is that I can post new items to it using a URL rather than having to go to a special web page and click on a special button. Clicking on buttons is so 2004.

The site’s creator is Toby Segaran, a Boston-based New Zealander who made tasktoy not as a business opportunity, but merely because it scratched an itch for him. And since he found it useful (here comes the fun paradigm-shifting part) he thought, “Say, while I’m at it, why not make this available to everybody in the entire world?”

One reason being cited for all the recent proliferation of hot young Web 2.0 companies is that the cost of launching a business has plummeted since Bubble 1.0. Some cheap hardware, a handful of open source software, and a good idea can take you pretty far these days. But if making a company is dirt cheap, then so is not making a company. I read some recent musings by Toby Segaran in his blog, and the following passage hit me on the head like a figurative heavy thing:

A number of people have emailed and asked me how I’m making money from tasktoy and lazybase. Others have said, somewhat critically, in blog postings and forum comments that they just “don’t see the business model” for such applications. The truth is that I don’t make any money from these applications. They were never intended to be a business. I wrote them because I wanted them, it was an opportunity to learn something new, and like most people I love creating things.

I determined that for less than I spend on coffee, I could put them online and share them with everyone.
… There is no business, and there is no business model. Think of something that you would do anyway and imagine being sent thank-you notes from all over the world just for doing it, and you’ll see why there doesn’t have to be.

I added those italics, because that’s the part that really knocked me on the head. For less than he spends on coffee, he can run a service that adds significant ongoing value to my life and the lives of hundreds of others. Tasktoy is a service I would pay for. At any other time in the history of mankind, it’s a service that would absolutely demand payment or subsidy. This kind of new age gifting is bound to have a significant economic impact over time. Software gets more interesting every day.

2 thoughts on “No business model is the new business model”

  1. This is exactly the argument used for open source art… i make something pretty and share it and don’t expect to make any money. I am very pleased to see the utility crowd saying the same things. Cool post.

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