By archive December 13, 2006
Okay, maybe that’s an overstatement. But I was very excited last night when I read the Flickr Blog entry that said they removed the upload limit for pro accounts. They also upped the free accounts from 20MB to 100MB per month. The change was brought to my attention by a friend who uses a Nikon D80 and regularly runs out of upload bandwidth. He often complains about the 2GB limit and was thrilled to see the change.
I bring it up here, not because I think everyone will be as excited as I was, but because it’s another example of the trend in Web development: Encourage the user to participate and remove their constrains. This new bread of Web sites doesn’t moderate it’s users, force them to give up personal information, or limit them in other ways (such as storage quotas). It allows them to explore and interact to whatever degree they want and only reach out for contact if and when they are ready.
It’s discouraging to see businesses who continuing to push very hard to keep general information private. The most common way is by making a user provide some amount of personal information in order to either ensure they aren’t the competition or to create an opportunity to reach out to the customer. By now it should be clear that the customer only wants to be contacted on their terms, if at all. Look at the backlash against SPAM or the Do-Not-Call registry as examples.
These businesses want to know who’s accessing their information and why. They are deathly afraid that the information might fall into their competitors hands. They don’t understand that the competitor is going to get the information anyway (if they don’t already have it) and in the process they are pushing away ten-fold or a hundred-fold legitimate users (potential customers). Instead they should be focusing on letting everyone have as much information as they want about the products and creating the next innovation instead of keeping the current one private.
While many small-ticket B2C manufactures get this, the purchases with a more involved sales cycle are still stuck in an outdated model. The company will argue that if they don’t capture that information and follow up the sale will be lost. What they don’t realize is the number of sales that are lost because the customer wasn’t ready provide that information and simply moved on. Given the opportunity they would have continued to investigate the product and would have eventually reached out for contact. Not to mention the fact that the customer would have been much better educated at the eventual point of contact and further along in the selling process, creating less work for the sales person.
When a company is really able to do that, I think it’s a win-win for the company and the customer.