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PageFlakes – a cautionary reminder that free comes with a price

This morning Alec Corous tweeted a crowdsourced call for tools for a workshop he is presenting. I responded and suggested a couple of aggregators in Netvibes and PageFlakes.

I am a big Netvibes user & fanboy – it is one of the web tools I could not live without as it is my central dashboard for my online life. PageFlakes is a tool I have used in the past, but hadn’t touched for awhile and when Alec went to check the PageFlakes site, it was down. I started poking around and asking a few questions and discovered that it does look like Pageflakes is gasping it’s final breath. It’s probably not a good sign that the official company blog hasn’t been updated since July 2008, and most of the comments posted on it these days are for male enhancements.

It served as a good reminder for me – a message that I forget until something like this pops up. Not that I am going to stop using these tools, but every once in awhile it’s a good thing that something like PageFlakes dies as a cautionary tale that many of the tools I use and, in some cases, have come to rely on are just a single bad quarter away from disappearing.

Which is why data portability is such a crucial issue, and one that I pay much more attention to when I sign up for a new tool these days.

The other thing I have been paying more attention to when signing up for free services is what is the business plan? Is there a way that this service is making (or can make) money? And is there a way I can pay a few dollars for those services that I have come to rely on. I do this with the wiki service I use. I also pay for my own web hosting for this blog. If there is a way I can pay, then I don’t mind kicking in a few dollars for a service that I truly find valuable. After all, everyone has to make a buck, and I am not adverse to paying for something if it means it has a better chance of surviving in the long run.