Online Currents 2003 – 18(2) 22-24
This article compares several question-answering services on the Internet: the paid Google Answers service, the free Usenet Newsgroup system, and AskNow!, a free collaborative reference system run by Australian state and national government librarians.
During its period of massive growth, from about 1992 to 2000, the Internet was largely supported by unpaid volunteers: hundreds of thousands of people gave up millions of hours of free time to support and encourage others. Although this still continues today, there are indications that the tide is turning and that a cash-for-service expectation is developing. Where a free service and a paid service offer the same results, the economic pressure on the paid service has often resulted in its closure. Paid service providers may mount an organised attack on free services through lobbying; conversely, free service providers may look to find ways of charging for their efforts.