How long can free internet-based services last under a COVID-19 pandemic?

Under the COVID-19 stay at home orders I’m thinking people are using free internet sites like BoingBoing BBS, Facebook, Zoom, Google Search Gmail and other more than ever. How long can these services last as usage goes up but the economy slows down and there are fewer advertisers (and fewer products being made to advertise) to pay for ads that pay for these services? Will there be a free-services crash?

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As long as package delivery can still happen, a lot of online ad companies will keep paying out. A lot only pay out when people buy stuff: if it’s a digital service, there’s no problem. If it’s a physical product, it’s also no problem as long as it can get delivered.


The decline isn’t evenly distributed. Sites focused on news are seeing massive increases in traffic, while advertising overall is shifting categories.

Boing Boing’s own advertising partner released an article just a few days ago on this topic:


It has been a long time since I don’t see ads (I think they only appear occasionally on facebook until the filters from ublock are updated), so I might not see the right picture, but most of the advertising served to me were from online services, like programming schools and some other digital stuff.
So, maybe they will take a share of the physical products advertisement, since people have much more “free” time to spend on online platforms.

I’ve been thinking about this as well, browsing the web is one thing but there’s so much high bandwidth in use. Netflix are already dropping their bitrate and then you have steam which just broke the record of over 22 million concurrent users, 7 million of those in-game.

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