Who knew I’d find a valid(ish) reason to use that word. Hopefully I’ve not stretched it too far.*

For a good few years now I’ve been giving most of photography away online for free. I now have well over 300K downloads from two sites alone. People often say to me “you should charge for those, if you got £1 a time…” etc. And my answer is always the same. They’re not ‘worth‘ anything.

Which is a poor answer. They are ‘worth‘ something, just not money. I dabbled in selling images on stock sites and you find that it is a whole different (and challenging) world. To even qualify for sale images have to be of a very high standard and, to get noticed at all, you need to upload a ferocious amount. Filed under “too much effort – not enough time”.

So, floccinaucinihilipilification: according to the Oxford English Dictionary “the action or habit of estimating as worthless”.

There are countless free resources on the web. Some aim to monetize at some point in the future, but most are simply provided entirely free with no intentions of future wealth.

No obvious value can be put on these. But, to some extent, they fuel a large part of the life of the Internet. Look at it the other way, what if they didn’t exist? What would happen if no one gave away their photos/services/information for free.

As as example, check out these three searches. These show where my photos have been used on three large content websites:

This is just a small glimpse. Free stuff permeates the entire Internet in this way.

What would these writers have done without access to free content? Would they have bought images? I get many emails of thanks for providing good quality free photos. Many people say that their work would be difficult/impossible without such resources. Whether it is freelance writers/designers, charities etc they all need free resources to function.

Another example is the LazyWebTools page refresher, something I built for myself to keep up with football scores. I put it online for free and am amazed at how much it is used. Before long it was driving insurance sales, being used in a Florida newsroom and used extensively by the Washington DC fire department (to name but a few, we’ll ignore the hip-hop gang DoS attacks).

So, can we estimate the value of these ‘worthless’ resources? Do we have to? Can we assume that these free resources will always exist and therefore considering their worth is pointless?

I have a feeling that people will always be happy to exist in the underworld below the paid resources. Whatever the individual motivation, the free internet will always exist and therefore questions about its value are moot. But it’s worth should not be underestimated. I’m sure you could pay an analyst some money to work out the value to the various industries. I doubt they ever do much for free.

In case you’re wondering why I give away stuff for free. I’ve maybe got a better answer (although it may not make sense to everyone). Soon to appear on a T-Shirt:

“Will work for cheapies”

* look out for next week’s post on antidisestablishmentarianism