In the USA we have a capitalist economy. That means people are competing to provide the best goods and services, at the best prices, for the most profit. We also live in a highly technological society. Goods and services can be provided at lower costs, higher qualities and higher quantities. If those goods or services can be offered digitally they can often be provided for free.
What bothers me is that certain things which could very easily be provided for free, are not. This is completely baffling to me. Imagine if there were a service that that just about anyone with skill and desire could provide it with a minimum effort. Now imagine if not a single person in all the world actually did so. It’s as if a million old ladies need help crossing the street, and not one person in the world will help for free. I have found two particular instances lately of this phenomena, let me share them with you.
The first is Skype recording. First, let me say it would be trivial for Skype to allow recording of conversations in their software. Why they do not do so, yet Gizmo does, is baffling. Thousands of podcasters around the world use Skype to conduct interviews, but it is incredibly difficult for them to actually record these.
The solutions range from hooking up an extra computer to installing shady software. The thing is, this shady software is incredibly simple. Any decent programmer with Visual Studio could code it up in a day. Three or four such groups have developed solutions, but not one of them is free and open source. They are all either shareware or are ad-supported. The only reason I don’t code it myself is because I don’t have the Windows development tools. But why is it that not one other person has done it? There are tons of incredibly complex open-source projects out there with many developers. Yet, one simple piece of software for which there is extremely high demand has not been created.
Another thing I noticed which is not free is online dating services. I’m not really a big fan of these things, but every single one of them charges money for complete service. MySpace, Live Journal, Facebook, etc. none of these charge money to stay afloat. So why does every match.com style site charge a fee? In the span of a month or two I could setup a comparable service with all sorts of fancy web 2.0 features. If I chose not to charge money for it, I could blow all the other sites out of the water. So why hasn’t anyone done it? Craigslist does do the job for free, but it isn’t a dedicated dating site.
I’m constantly amazed at obvious business opportunities that aren’t undertaken. It could be a simple software that nobody has made. It could be building a chinese restaurant in a city that doesn’t have one already. Whatever it is, it’s always puzzling to me. Is nobody taking advantage of the opportunity because it’s a bad idea that will fail? Is nobody doing it because nobody has thought of it yet? Or is nobody doing it because they think it will fail, when it will not? If I knew the answer I could possibly quit my job and start up a hot business.
Check out WhyNot.net. It’ basically an entire website dedicated to ideas like the one above. Maybe if you post there, someone will realize how simple it is and do it themselves.