One difference between these sites and conventional companies is that it might not be clear how the site owner will act in the future.
As an example, I don’t make any money from pepysdiary.com at the moment, and people contribute their discussion and find information to help others freely. I plan to keep the site free, and live, for at least the duration of the project (9.5 years) and longer if possible.
But if someone came along and offered me gazillions of dollars for the site, or I realised I could make a tidy living from advertising, there’s a chance I’d succumb and I’d be making money from the freely-contributed efforts of others.
Which is as if Henry Ford got his workers to work, for free, on a vast fleet of community-owned cars and, a year later, flicked a switch that meant people using them had to pay him (or something like that; I hear the sound of an analogy creaking).
My point is that until a site owner decides to start making money from it, there’s no way of telling whether a site will, ulimately, be Good or Bad (to simplify the spectrum).
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