Make Free Stuff

When I first fell in love with the web, it was a radically different place. Aside from the many technical improvements that have been made, I feel like the general culture of the web has changed a lot as well.

Growing up with the web as a teenager meant having access to an infinite treasure chest of content. A lot of that content was spread across blogs, forums and personal websites.

The overwhelming motivation behind it seemed to be “I made something, here it is”. Sharing things for the sake of showing them to the world. Somebody had created something, then put it online so you could see it. Visit their website (wait for the dial-up to finish), and it’s yours.

Follow any link on the web today and you’ll likely be met with a different scenario:

  • Cookie consent pops up, intentionally confusing.
    (You're tired - just hit "Accept All".)
  • App download banner asks you to install the native app.
    (Dismiss.)
  • Newsletter modal blocks the site, asking for your email address. (Close it.)
  • Start reading a few paragraphs, before another modal requires you to create an account. (Leave site, frustrated.)

Notice how everything about that interaction is designed to extract value from your visit. The goal here is not for you to read an article; it’s to get your analytics data, your email, your phone and your money.

It’s the symptom of a culture that sees the web purely as a business platform. Where websites serve as eloborate flytraps and content as bait for unsuspecting users.

In this culture, the task of the self-appointed web hustler is to build something fast & cheap, then scale it as much as possible before eventually cashing out.

  • You see it in email bots, spamming blogs for link placements and sponsored posts.
  • You see it in Twitter accounts where grifters try to monetize their “communities” with useless ebooks.
  • You see it in crypto, burning the planet for quick profits.

web3 and NFTs are the latest evolution of this culture. The latest attempt to impose even more artificial locks and transactions on users, to extract even more money.

This is the web as envisioned by late-stage capitalism: a giant freemium game where absolutely everyone and everything is a “digital asset” that can be packaged, bought and sold.


Don’t bring wall street to a web fight

Sure, the web has changed since the 90s. It has “grown up”.

Of course there are lots of legitimate reasons to monetize, and creators deserve to be compensated. It’s not about people trying to make a buck. It’s about those treating the web simply as a market to run get-rich-quick schemes in, exploiting others out of pure greed.

We’ve gotten so used to it that some can’t even imagine the web working any other way - but it doesn’t have to be like this.

At its very core, the rules of the web are different than those of “real” markets. The idea that ownership fundamentally means that nobody else can have the same thing you have just doesn’t apply here. This is a world where anything can easily be copied a million times and distributed around the globe in a second. If that were possible in the real world, we’d call it Utopia.

It’s also a world that can be shaped by the consumer:

This “mashup art experiment”, as Mia calls it, is what made the web great in the first place. It’s the reason it became a global phenomenon and much of it is centered around the idea that digital content is free and abundant.

Resource Scarcity doesn’t make sense on the web. Artificially creating it here serves no other purpose than to charge money for things that could easily have been free for all. Why anyone would consider that better is beyond me.

Freedom of content

The online game Wordle recently took the world by storm. To the utter shock of many, it is just a free piece of content. A free and open web game millions can enjoy, no strings attached.

Its creator, Josh Wardle, originally built the game for his partner and put it online. “I made something, here it is”. Despite its success, he had no intention to monetize it through apps or subscriptions - and the world is richer for it. When questioned about it, he said this:

I think people kind of appreciate that there’s this thing online that’s just fun. It’s not trying to do anything shady with your data or your eyeballs. It’s just a game that’s fun.

Because the notion that monetization is the only worthwhile goal on the web is so widespread, this is somehow a very controversial take. You can actually stand out of the crowd by simply treating the web platform as what it is: a way to deliver content to people.

Despite what web3 claims, it’s possible to “own” your content without a proof of it on the blockchain (see: IndieWeb). It’s also possible to create things just for the sake of putting them out into the world.

The best growth hack is still to build something people enjoy, then attaching no strings to it. You’d be surprised how far that can get you.

Make free stuff! The web is still for everyone.

👉 Update: On Feb 1, Wordle was eventually sold to the New York Times for upwards of a million dollars. Josh Wardle claims the game will still remain free to play for all.

Webmentions

What’s this?
  1. This resonates very strongly with me. Free games, free entertainment, and free educational content were the best parts of the internet for me as I was growing up. Can't imagine what any of it would've been like if it had all been locked behind a paywall.
  2. Markus Heurung
    💫 mxb.dev - make free stuff mxb.dev/blog/make-free…
  3. Quentin Bellanger
    Totally share the vision of @mxbck: make free stuff! It's so sad everything has to be "monetized" nowadays. mxb.dev/blog/make-free…
  4. Elias
    Resource Scarcity doesn’t make sense on the web. Artificially creating it here serves no other purpose than to charge money for things that could easily have been free for all. Why anyone would consider that better is beyond me. - mxb.dev/blog/make-free…
Show All Webmentions (111)
  1. Roni Laukkarinen
    Make Free Stuff (by @mxbck) mxb.dev/blog/make-free…
  2. Hidde
    “This is the web as envisioned by late-stage capitalism: a giant freemium game where absolutely everyone and everything is a ‘digital asset’ that can be packaged, bought and sold.” NO, says @mxbck, make free stuff instead! mxb.dev/blog/make-free…
  3. "[the current web is ] the symptom of a culture that sees the web purely as a business platform. Where websites serve as elaborate flytraps and content as bait for unsuspecting users." @mxbck - mxb.dev/blog/make-free…
  4. Mantish
  5. Adactio Links
    Make Free Stuff | Max Böck mxb.dev/blog/make-free…
  6. Andy Bell
    Bloody brilliant article by @mxbck mxb.dev/blog/make-free…
  7. Buíoch do @Linda_Keating as m'aird a tharraingt ar alt @mxbck mxb.dev/blog/make-free… An cheist ná conas féachaint chuige go bhfuil an teacht isteach ag cruthaitheoirí chun go mbeidh siad in ann cruthú! Tá múnlaí ann a bhraitheann ar deonú airgid ar ndóigh; bíonn scála de dhíth
  8. Sara Soueidan
    "The best growth hack is still to build something people enjoy while attaching no strings to it. You’d be surprised how far it can get you. Make free stuff! The web is still for everyone."⁩ — I share ⁦⁦@mxbck⁩'s entire sentiment in this post. mxb.dev/blog/make-free…
  9. Dr. Viviana Menzel
    "The best growth hack is still to build something people enjoy while attaching no strings to it. You’d be surprised how far it can get you." @mxbck Great article! mxb.dev/blog/make-free…
  10. Martijn Frazer
    "Notice how everything about following any link on the web today is designed to extract value from your visit. The goal here is not for you to read an article; it’s to get your analytics data, your email, your phone and your money."
  11. Craig Butcher
    Spotted via @hankchizljaw and it’s refreshing to know. The web is for everyone. mxb.dev/blog/make-free…
  12. Michel Bozgounov
    So true, unfortunately! :(
  13. Manuel Matuzović
    “Make free stuff! The web is still for everyone.”
  14. Matthew Howell
    “I made something, here it is” is some kind of simple, beautiful mission statement for the web. Read @mxbck on the web in the age of “late-stage capitalism” mxb.dev/blog/make-free…
  15. Brad Frost
    This is a powerful and important read from @mxbck: mxb.dev/blog/make-free…
  16. Jeff Siarto
    Pretty much everything @mxbck said here: "This is the web as envisioned by late-stage capitalism: a giant freemium game where absolutely everyone and everything is a "digital asset" that can be packaged, bought and sold." mxb.dev/blog/make-free…
  17. Eric Bailey
    Max nails it.
  18. Aurooba Ahmed
    This post from @mxbck is so good. #foss mxb.dev/blog/make-free…
  19. Christian Cito
    I'm sure there'd be lots of people calling it a threat to profit margins... Thanks for the rant, Max! I feel the same in many ways.
  20. NickiTheNoodle
    "...the web as envisioned by late-stage capitalism: a giant freemium game where absolutely everyone and everything is a “digital asset” that can be packaged, bought and sold." It doesn't have to be this way. mxb.dev/blog/make-free…
  21. Bryan Robinson
    I love the way @mxbck thinks and writes so much! mxb.dev/blog/make-free…
  22. Max Böck
    Thanks for sharing Bryan!
  23. Michelle Barker
    Wow Max, it’s like you read my tweet or something twitter.com/MicheBarks/sta…
  24. Ben Ramsey
    This is such an important read. When folks are telling you they’re working to realize the full potential of the Web, if it involves money, it’s not even close to the potential of what the Web was designed to be. mxb.dev/blog/make-free…
  25. juan olvera
    This mentality is what made the web so great. It's most likely that the coolest things you own run on free software. mxb.dev/blog/make-free…
  26. Marc-André Boivin
    "Resource Scarcity doesn’t make sense on the web. Artificially creating it here serves no other purpose than to charge money for things that could easily have been free for all."
  27. Rici86
  28. Tobias Ljungström
    We vibe on the same frequency here. I love websites that just are. No ads, no tracking, no connected to anything. It's like finding a quiet oasis in the wasteland of hustle.
  29. Jeff Knaack
    All I want to do is build free stuff that’s cool and useful and makes the web a better place.
  30. Max Böck
    That sums it up pretty nicely 😅
  31. Juha Liikala
    "The best growth hack is still to build something people enjoy, then attaching no strings to it. You’d be surprised how far that can get you." This, 100% 😊
  32. Maëlig
    yes ❤️
  33. Benet Hitchcock
    #MaxBöck is sooo on the money here! I guess I arrived on the scene at a similar time as him. mxb.dev/blog/make-free… "Notice how everything about that interaction is designed to extract value from your visit. The goal here is not for you to read an article; it’s to get (1/2)
  34. Jinsu Mathew
    Yup, Wordle is a fine example of what web/internet used to be, free and fun to share. What made us all fell in love with the internet. #web3 doesn’t feel the same, just false promises so far. Still there is time to turn around and make it right!
  35. Tom Preston-Werner
    Love this. Building neat stuff and giving it away is such a pure delight. A future of less scarcity and more building and sharing with no strings attached is what I'm here for.
  36. Alexis Deveria
    Max perfectly describes my feelings on the web and latest trends. ❤️
  37. Pablo Lara H
    🆓 Make Free Stuff by Max Böck @mxbck #webdev #freedom #content mxb.dev/blog/make-free…
  38. @onno_bos
    Freedom!
  39. Juan
    Une lecture courte et essentielle à celles et ceux qui ont connu le Web de jadis, et se demandent si l'avenir qu'on nous dessine avec le "Web3" (lol) est le seul chemin à prendre mxb.dev/blog/make-free…
  40. Stefan Vermaas
    “Resource Scarcity doesn’t make sense on the web. Artificially creating it here serves no other purpose than to charge money for things that could easily have been free for all.” mxb.dev/blog/make-free…
  41. Arpit
  42. Ankit K
    "you can actually stand out of the crowd by simply treating the web platform as what it is: a way to deliver content to people." "The best growth hack is still to build something people enjoy, then attaching no strings to it. You’d be surprised how far that can get you."
  43. Saptak S
    This is so true! Everyone should go and read this article by @mxbck
  44. Alfonso Sánchez
    Muy buena lectura: mxb.dev/blog/make-free…
  45. Lesezeichen
  46. Raül Fornell
    Comparteixo força les reflexions d'aquest article sobre com ha canviat internet des dels 90 mxb.dev/blog/make-free…
  47. "Resource Scarcity doesn’t make sense on the web. Artificially creating it here serves no other purpose than to charge money for things that could easily have been free for all. Why anyone would consider that better is beyond me" mxb.dev/blog/make-free…
  48. Fernando Mateus
    Straight to the point 👊 Hate all those pop ups, accept all cookies, etc. 99% of the time I just close the tab and never go back to that site again. mxb.dev/blog/make-free…
  49. David Bernegger ✨
    A excellent read, underpinned by great moral values. @mxbck has written not a rant but a loving manifesto, advocating the web as a platform for all, without resource scarcity, exclusion of minorities and value based extraction of personal data. More of this 👏
  50. Anna Santiago
    Make free stuff! mxb.dev/blog/make-free…
  51. ILIKESCIFI
    Hey Max! Maybe you like my game then :) Its free :) store.steampowered.com/app/1386940/UE…
  52. Max Böck
    a pixel-art adventure that involves shooting nazi zombies and guitar power ballads? yeah that's a good bet. 💯
  53. Leslie DuPree
    100%
  54. "When I first fell in love with the web, it was a radically different place. Aside from the many technical improvements that have been made, I feel like the general culture of the web has changed a lot as well.“ mxb.dev/blog/make-free…
  55. Martin Grubinger
    "Make free stuff! The web is still for everyone." I finally got around reading @mxbck article "Make Free Stuff" – and so should you. mxb.dev/blog/make-free…
  56. César Couto
    "When I first fell in love with the web, it was a radically different place. Aside from the many technical improvements that have been made, I feel like the general culture of the web has changed a lot as well." mxb.dev/blog/make-free…
  57. Julien Leicher
    Wow mxb.dev/blog/make-free… ❤️ ça me rend quelque peu nostalgique
  58. Make free stuff, build something people enjoy. mxb.dev/blog/make-free…
  59. Max Böck on web3, Wordle and the radical concept of building things for free. mxb.dev/blog/make-free…
  60. Opeyemi Obembe
  61. john johnston
    Liked mxb.dev/blog/make-free… (mxb.dev) Despite what web3 claims, it’s possible to “own” your content without a proof of it on the blockchain (see: IndieWeb). It’s also possible to create things just for the sake of putting them out into the world.
  62. Kid J. Sparrow.
    Make Free Stuff | Max Böck mxb.dev/blog/make-free…
  63. Ben Walker
    Make free stuff. ✨ mxb.dev/blog/make-free…
  64. Rafe
    this is what I was trying to say, but better and with more words mxb.dev/blog/make-free…
  65. Bastien Calou
    "This is the web as envisioned by late-stage capitalism: a giant freemium game where absolutely everyone and everything is a “digital asset” that can be packaged, bought and sold." mxb.dev/blog/make-free…
  66. لقمان
  67. Holger Bartel
    This is THE read for everyone working on the web. I have so many thoughts on this… Do yourself a favor and take the time to read it. mxb.dev/blog/make-free…
  68. Max Böck
    Thanks for sharing Holger, appreciated! 🙌
  69. Nathan 🥑
    I grew up with the free Web mxb.dev/blog/make-free…
  70. Kristina Podnar
    The promise of Web3, which empowers creators & reduces their dependence on large social media platforms, may become a reality very soon. But just because it will allow content ownership tracking via blockchain, don't anticipate content to stop being free. mxb.dev/blog/make-free…
  71. James
    Resource Scarcity doesn’t make sense on the web. Artificially creating it here serves no other purpose than to charge money for things that could easily have been free for all....This is a world where anything can easily be copied a million times and distributed around the globe in a second. If that were possible in the real world, we’d call it Utopia. This post articulates exactly what I've been thinking about the web for a while so much better than I could. Make free stuff! The web is still for everyone. ✊
  72. James Van Dyne
    Fantastic post by @mxbck. It articulates exactly what I've been thinking about the web for a while so much better than I could. Make free stuff! The web is still for everyone. ✊ . mxb.dev/blog/make-free…
  73. Roy Tang
    Shared via pocket: Make Free Stuff mxb.dev/blog/make-free…. roytang.net/p/c5wu18vt/
  74. “Resource Scarcity doesn’t make sense on the web. Artificially creating it here serves no other purpose than to charge money for things that could easily have been free for all. Why anyone would consider that better is beyond me.” mxb.dev/blog/make-free…
  75. Make Free Stuff | Max Böck mxb.dev/blog/make-free…
  76. Nat
    @mxbck Thanks for this nice read at my morning :-) mxb.dev/blog/make-free…
  77. hahnsinn
    Make Free Stuff mxb.dev/blog/make-free…
  78. Matthias Ott
    “Despite what web3 claims, it’s possible to “own” your content without a proof of it on the blockchain. It’s also possible to create things just for the sake of putting them out into the world.[…] Make free stuff! The web is still for everyone.” 👏 @mxbck mxb.dev/blog/make-free…
  79. Anton Sten
    Loved this Max and just posted too :) antonsten.com/the-web/
  80. Max Böck
    "I’m longing for the day when the web grows up and turns into the fulfilling, self-respecting adult it has the potential to become." 💯 this!
  81. Vince
  82. really fascinating to read this (very good!) article in the context of wordle getting bought today
  83. Vincent Will
    Make Free Stuff - A nice article by @mxbck on creating free stuff instead of trying to monetize everything ✍️ mxb.dev/blog/make-free…
  84. Roxane Ben Sedrine
    A really interesting article that resonates a lot with my view of the internet these days. Thanks for the article 🙏
  85. Winson Tang
    Make Free Stuff mxb.dev/blog/make-free…
  86. Friday Front-End
    Make Free Stuff, by @mxbck mxb.dev/blog/make-free…
  87. Adrian Sandu
    Own your own little piece of the internet with stuff you make. A little app, a tribute website, the options are limitless. And if you need some motivation, read this article by @mxbck mxb.dev/blog/make-free…
  88. manoi
  89. Chris Collins
    "You see it in Twitter accounts where grifters try to monetize their “communities” with useless ebooks." All the fucking time. If you pay $19 (discounted from $199 for a limited time) for a 4 page listicle PDF, you've been ripped off. mxb.dev/blog/make-free…
  90. Crystal Camarao
    "The best growth hack is still to build something people enjoy, then attaching no strings to it. You’d be surprised how far that can get you.” mxb.dev/blog/make-free…
  91. Eco Web Hosting
    "Resource Scarcity doesn’t make sense on the web. Artificially creating it here serves no other purpose than to charge money for things that could easily have been free for all. Why anyone would consider that better is beyond me." - @mxbck, mxb.dev/blog/make-free…
  92. Xavier Simó
    This, a thousand times this 👇mxb.dev/blog/make-free…
  93. Yan
    The web today. - Cookie consent pops up, intentionally confusing. (You're tired - just hit "Accept All".) - App download banner asks you to install the native app. (Dismiss.) - Newsletter modal blocks the site, asking for your email address. (Close it.) mxb.dev/blog/make-free…
  94. Furthermore
    Recently we're seeing more and more people talking about web3, NFTs, and how to further commercialise the web. So it's exciting to see people still advocating for an open, "indie web". Let's try and keep the web weird. Make free stuff - from @mxbck mxb.dev/blog/make-free…
  95. James Sinclair
    “Make Free Stuff” by @mxbck mxb.dev/blog/make-free…
  96. Evan
    A great post and with healthy views about #NFTs and @twitter users. Just added @mxbck to my #RSS feed! mxb.dev/blog/make-free…