Free stuff = mindshare

Until quite recently I had used’s free dynamic DNS facility for years to keep track of my home IP address. It was great. Any time I was away I could always connect to services at home without having to do any gymnastics to figure out what IP my ISP had granted me today.

Then things changed… at first they required you to “keep alive” your dynamic hostname by clicking on an email link once a month – a bit of a pain, but I put up with it since I had benefited from their free service for so long, and it worked so well.

And then they stopped the free service. Which is of course their prerogative – why should they keep providing a free service to millions of geeks out there when they have costs to keep down and “real” customers to take care of.

Bad decision. had in one fell swoop thrown away one of their greatest assets – mindshare. A vast amount of it. No doubt their penny-pinchers were pointing to the 99% (wild guess) of their subscribers who weren’t paying and saying “they’re just costing us money!” But 90% of those 99% were probably geeks like me, probably worked in technical positions, and when asked who to recommend for such a service would probably have answered “DynDNS” without even thinking about it. Suddenly we are all looking around for someone else… and of course or one of the many alternatives that have since appeared are more than happy to oblige. They have caused a self-inflicted diaspora.

Another example is AVG. I have been using the no-nonsense free edition of their anti-virus software for years. I imagine a similarly vast proportion of their userbase are freeloaders like me. But, once again, those years of stable service mean that I don’t hesitate to recommend them to someone else, and if I were asked by a small business what anti-virus tool they should invest in, of course I would also suggest they consider AVG.

Oh, actually, I just remembered… I did. 🙂 For a real estate agency that invested in multiple licences for the full version of their product.

In short… free stuff may look like it’s costing you, but it may be the best advertising investment you ever make.

ETA: This was actually a post I drafted quite some time ago, when had actually “recently” changed their policy. For some reason I never posted it… but the opinion is still valid, so here it is.

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