Monday, 25 October 1999
The larger part of the daily flow of mail is junk. Free "information" that goes straight to the waste paper box, most of it unopened. I refuse to spend time on that garbage. Worst of all are the "personal inquiries". Fill in such a form with questions and the amount of "personal information" will double rapidly.

Free, F.O.C, no costs. Get it, come on! That's what they all seem to shout. It looks like everybody in the IT world has gone mad too.

Free Services

Free Software

Free Tools

  • The Netherlands are flooded with free Internet Service Providers.
  • Free email is available everywhere (
  • Free Search Function for websites.
Has everybody gone insane? Well, if there's somebody going mad, it'll be you because of the ever increasing commercials. The whole words $eem$ to get more and more commercial. Are these companies making any profit at all? Yeah, no worries.

You are paying, in several ways.

  1. Pay with eyeballs.

    The most common way of paying is by watching commercials. The advertising costs are part of the product price.

    The ever increasing commercialising of the web causes 'Banner blindness'. Surfers do not even notice most commercials any more ( So, advertising gets more and more cunning. Sometimes it's even hard to recognise advertisements as such. Often 'Free' information are disguised ads. Companies pay for example to stand out in the Dutch Yellow pages (

  2. Cloaked payments.

    'Free' may not be as 'free' as you have in mind. For example, the free internet providers make money from the phone calls you make.

    Another very common way of payment is by providing information. These are the digital versions of the 'personal inquiries'. Subscribe to a free Dutch Internet provider and you'll have to provide a long list of personal details (.../aanvraag2.asp). Select some categories at "Interesses" and the quantity of "personal information" by email will double rapidly.

  3. Lure

    The most cunning way are nice gadgets. Glitters and gimmicks that are not much use. As soon as you want more, like a useful product, the cash-register pops up. This trick is often seen in the category 'Software Development Tools'.

Isn't anything free these days? Well, the sun rises for free, at least for now. And some software contains amazingly good free Easter Eggs (, mostly added illegally by over creative programmers. It's astounding that the quality of those Easter Eggs is usually better than the real software. Apperently enthusiasm is the most important success factor. Hmm, is enthusiasm the reason for the high quality of open source software?

To finish it off, a few advises, imprinted at toddler age: Don't accept cookies from strangers, open your electronic front door only a little bit, and reject questions that are too personal. Kindergarten is the most valuable education to survive the commercial bombardment.

Till next week!

With special thanks to Rob Leinweber and Peter Kraaijenoord for their link suggestions