When something is free, pretend you paid for it

Chris Brogan lost all access to his Google accounts today. He can’t check his email, his calendar or even use his Android phone.

We need to learn how to evaluate free products.

When we pay for something, we tend to read the terms and conditions, make sure there’s support, compare it to other alternatives, etc. When it’s free, we go “oh, cool, thanks.”

But free web services aren’t like free pizza. You come to depend on them and you give them your data and control of your life. Shouldn’t you know what agreement you have with them?

From Google’s Terms of Service:

4.3 […] you acknowledge and agree that Google may stop (permanently or temporarily) providing the Services (or any features within the Services) to you or to users generally at Google’s sole discretion, without prior notice to you. […]

I think the responsibility lies with users to evaluate the terms of the software they are using. Google provides a lot of great services. It’s up to us to figure out how best to use them and to demand better terms if we want them.

So when you sign up for a free web service, pretend you are paying for it. Read the terms. Raise your concerns.

Disclaimer: I use a lot of Google services and in general I’m quite happy with them.