Should We Be Suspicious of Free Programs?

A reader had some questions about the free TinyWow site that I recently recommended.

“Cyn, you have long advised your readers that if they use a product/service for which they do not pay, THEY are the product. I have to wonder who is behind this suite of “free” tools, and why such resources are offered at zero cost (when they could easily charge a modest per-use or subscription fee). The answer to that might cause some of us to exclaim, “WHOA” instead of “WOW”. Just sayin’”

Good question. TinyWow is an ad-supported site, so part of the way you pay is by viewing the ads and if you click on them and drive traffic to their sponsors. There is a fairly inexpensive paid version of the site that is ad-free and only $5.99 a month. The free version of the program also requires you to fill out captcha – while the paid version is captcha-free, offers faster processing of images, and offers early access to new tools.

There’s no need to register or give any personal information to the site the way you would have to do if you were downloading an app, and if you use a private browsing mode, there’d be no indication you were ever at the site.

According to their privacy information, since they operate two other ad-supported websites, Alphr & TechJunkie, it doesn’t cost them much more to often these tools.

With ad-supported sites, it’s not always a bad thing to be the product. Ads keep broadcast TV, terrestrial radio, and websites free to use. It’s just important to be aware that sometimes you are the product. But since these are web apps and not downloaded onto a device and there’s no requirement to register, and you don’t need to give any permissions to access your information on your device, using these apps doesn’t collect any more information about you than using the web in general. They also delete all uploaded files within an hour of using.

2 thoughts on “Should We Be Suspicious of Free Programs?

  1. I never heard of TinyWow so I thought I would check it out. That’s not a tiny wow, that’s a HUGE WOW! I can definitely see myself using this web site. What an awesome set of tools to use.

  2. Cynthia, how do you rate free programs such as LibreOffice? I have been using it for years. No charge, and only a gentle suggestion that users can donate, or even help with supporting the program. Instructions and support are good. And no, I don’t know if there is something else from which they get funding. They are good enough I don’t mind supporting them with donations.

    [And while I’m up, I’ll ask where did the website——come from that shows up when I fill out the identification part of submitting a comment/]

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