Charging the minority to benefit the majority

I’ve recently noticed quite a few software services on the Internet charging the minority to benefit the majority.

Trello recently added Business Class (paid) features: Joel Spolsky explains why:

“What we really wanted to do was make a free product that helps millions of people, and then find some way to get paid by the 1% of those people who get the most value out of it. The 1% are delighted to pay.”
~ Joel Spolsky on Trello

It’s not the first time I have seen this kind of thing.

Automattic has been providing, a free, high quality, reliable blogging platform to anyone to write a blog for free for a number of years. They make this available by offering premium features that appeal most to professional users: domain mapping, custom layouts and premium themes to name a few. These paid features are probably used by more than just the 1% of users Joel is aiming for, but I can’t imagine it being more than 20% of users that pay.

Google provides incredibly awesome free email (Gmail) for all personal users, but charges businesses $50/user/year to use this as part of Google Apps for Business. Again, an example of charging the minority to benefit the majority.

I think these examples, and especially Joel’s intent with Trello, is very noble and worth modelling.

Now to work out what service I can build to charge the minority to benefit the majority.

Author: Alister Scott

Alister is an Excellence Wrangler for Automattic.