Is "Free" the wave of the future?

Open source programmers–this formless, nameless group of bright minds out there hacking on the side and creating interesting software applications that people can use for free–are now being wooed by the likes of eBay, Amazon and now Google. Write programs for Google and get public recognition for your contributions, says the giant search engine company.

I recently started contributing to a project that reminds me of this. BlogCritics.org is a communal project that works closely with Amazon. Contributors, who write for free, can receive free music CDs, free concert tickets, free books and more in return for reviewing them on the site. Amazon gets tons of free publicity, all the book and music publishers get free reviews, and the reviewers get free merchandise and free publicity.

What is the world coming to? The free exchange of services and products to benefit both people and companies? A bartering model made global by the Internet. Hmmm. Maybe when inflation and joblessness reach epic proportions, we’ll be more ready to handle it than we thought.

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