Kodak and the free photo storage trap
Those who have used Eastman Kodak's (EK) Kodak Gallery to store their photos have discovered an ugly truth about 'free' internet services; they don't always stay free. According to the AP, users have been informed that they will have to spend some money on Kodak products to maintain access to their snapshots. Low volume users will be required to spend at least $4.99 each year, higher volume users, $19.99.
With the popularity of photo-sharing sites such as Flickr, Photobucket, and now Facebook and MySpace, many of us have gotten out of the habit of maintaining copies on our computers, especially when we upgrade to a new PC. The current recession-driven drop in online advertising revenue has sent many of these free sites scrambling for other ways to maintain revenue, so I wouldn't be surprised to see more of them begin to charge for what are now free services.
I'm probably more at risk than most in this regard, since I use a slew of free services. I use Gmail for my email. Google Pages hosts my personal web site. Evernote is where I keep my notes for blogging, fiction writing, and personal interests. I keep spreadsheets on Google Docs, photos on Flickr, IM on Meebo, and my blog on LiveJournal. While I don't expect Google (GOOG) will start charging soon, the others could go at any time.
Recognizing this, I'm going to make sure I'm backed up on each of these services, so that I won't be handcuffed to any sites that decide to start charging for service. I suggest you do the same.