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May 26, 2011

How much would you pay for search?


A really interesting essay by Kevin Kelly on this subject.

Long story short: he says he'd gladly pay $500 a year.

Me too.


Excerpts from Kelly's piece follow.

How much would you pay for search if it were not free? Let's pretend it's an alternate world, or maybe sometime in the future, and there is no free search. You have to pay for your Google, or Bing, or whatever. How much would you be willing to pay?

I would pay up to $500 per year. It's that valuable to me. What about you?

Would most people pay a dollar per day for search if they had to? Maybe. They might pay a dollar per search, which is another way of paying.

We can ask the same question about other free services. How much would you pay for Wikipedia, if it were not free? Since Wikipedia entries often appear at the top of Google searches, it is hard to unravel this question from the last. But I would, in theory, be willing to subscribe to Wikipedia for at least the cost of a subscription to the New York Times or the Economist, which is several hundred a year, or maybe $15 per month.

Ditto for Google Maps, or Yelp. How much time would it take to get the same service by other means? I probably save several hours per day. The differential is so great that I could simply not do it if it had to be done by other means.

This is the great gift of the free web. It has made some goods so cheap to acquire — like answers, encyclopedia facts, directions, weather reports, recommendations — that we generate entirely new realms of activity by doing far more of them. More is different. We ask so many more questions than before that this ask-and-answer is something new. Have you ever wondered where all our questions were before search engines? We didn't even bother to ask them.

I don't think the zero-price option (ZPO) will go away. We'll always have that choice, probably supported by the interruption of our attention by ads or similar devices. But I imagine the option of paying for search, maybe much better than the free version, will become a choice in the future. And my guess that the price of paid search (and paid Wikipedia, paid maps, paid recommendations) will be close to the replacement costs — about $1 per day.


May 26, 2011 at 04:01 PM | Permalink


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For my personal use - the minute they start charging for it is the minute I stop using it. I'm sick of being nickled and dimed to death by all these web sites / apps.

Posted by: Becs | May 28, 2011 7:32:32 AM

I think it would be related to your income.

$30,000 a year with 2 children, forget it, look for a free search and improvise.

$120,000 a year with no children, whatever it takes.

$300,000+ a year, who needs the internet?

Posted by: Joe Peach | May 27, 2011 5:24:36 PM

I'd be quite happy to allocate an amount of money each month, apportioned among the websites I visit on a proportional basis. Google and it's assorted projects would have a large share of my web visits, but some relatively small, yet high quality sites (Like Book of Joe) would get a stipend each day as well.

Posted by: Tim | May 27, 2011 8:00:00 AM

Quite a few of us pay for access to propriety databases. Trust me, where the business depends upon the information you will pay, and pay dearly, for the information.

Google has made a fortune through the ad model. I can see a $10.00/wk subscription for human-mediated or other premium services, but I rather doubt that we will see a universal subscription system. Micro payments of a fraction of a cent per search would seem the likely path to fee-based searching the web.

Posted by: 6.02*10^23 | May 26, 2011 4:43:04 PM

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