Re: Another one bites the dust
I remember when dial-up ISPs used to give out free Internet access, and then complain when you used it all the time.
And I think it's very much that the consumer knows the deal exactly - and doesn't care. They got to have huge amounts of storage for nothing, and now if they haven't used it, well who cares about the change? And if they have used it, they'll go elsewhere or say "$1.99 a month? Sure, I used it enough to justify that".
So long as you think of these things as long-term free trials, not lifetime free unlimited storage, then you're fine. And I imagine there are thousands of people who got a Google account as a student, then kept it because it was free, and it saved them having to pay for the basics for all those years and may now be in a position to pay or move elsewhere.
I've had a Google account since they were a tiny, tiny company that nobody had heard of. Same way that I had a Hotmail when it was still HoTMaiL. At one point Hotmail went non-free, and I looked at it and said "Yeah, I use you enough" and paid for it. The fact that later the paid tier became inferior and wouldn't let you collect your email via POP3/IMAP was what made me move away (I assume they've reverted that). I moved to GMail, but I've never given Google a penny for that account that I've been using for all those years as storage, document editing and email. If they said "It's no longer free" tomorrow then I'd probably hop straight on their lowest paid tier. If they raised prices stupidly, then no I wouldn't and I'd seek alternatives.
It's not that people are falling for it. People are taking advantage of it while it's free.
When I moved out a few years ago and had to live on my own for the first time, I was totally strapped for cash (you know it's bad when you have to knock up a spreadsheet with checkboxes and see what you can afford to keep paying and what you can't). Pretty much, there's nothing IT on that spreadsheet beyond an Internet connection and a phone, because everything else was unnecessary.
And that first year was TIGHT... so I signed up for a bunch of trials, free accounts, etc. I got free TV for a year (TVPlayer). I got free Netflix for six months. I got free promotions for everything from laundry detergent to combs. I started free trials of computer games and then cancelled them before the end of the trial period and play through the entire game in that time. I did everything I could to "abuse" free offers, coupons, discounts, trials and freebies. The time spent doing so was well worth it and my entire "entertainment" budget pre-moving disappeared off my spreadsheet for over a year.
Now that I'm settled and don't have huge moving expenses etc. to pay off still, I've paid for the things I wanted to keep, and let the rest fall by the wayside. I replaced TVPlayer with a Raspberry Pi and a DVB-T hat with tvHeadend. Does a better job, but cost me £50 or so and a few hours to set up. I turned off Netflix entirely, I didn't use it much.
People aren't stupid. They know free services aren't free forever. But while they are, you can use them - and whether you're skint, or just very careful with money, or even find it enjoyable to do whatever you can to save money, they can be a great boon. The companies aren't stupid, they know most people won't pay, and they know they can't offer a free service forever. But if the free service operates only as a "Hey look, our services are great" and then even 1% of users pay for them later, it's probably profitable. It doesn't cost Google that much to store a few million free accounts, and it introduces companies etc. to them because people get the free account at home and then say "I know what we can use".
I'll be honest with you - my email actually is on a hosted domain that goes to a dedicated server that I rent, that filters all my email for 20-year-old business and personal domains and then passes it onto an email account of my choice. That used to be my Hotmail. Nowadays it's my GMail. If they suddenly start charging, that will go elsewhere. I'm paying for the rest of the system, but not the end destination. And if it really came to it I can set up dovecot and a SquirrelMail in about an hour. I just can't be bothered.
Free services have their function. It's just not something to rely on permanently. But I don't think anybody really does.