Recently, Kyeli was upset because her installation of AVG told her that she had to upgrade to a pay version or else she wouldn’t be allowed to use her free version anymore. She was angry, and felt like she had been betrayed by AVG. It turned out to be a false alarm, but some of the hurt feelings persisted.
The same thing would have happened even if AVG had had a disclaimer on their site for years, saying “We are giving this away for free, but as of July 2008 we will begin charging.” Enough users wouldn’t read it, wouldn’t know about it, or would forget about it, that their feelings would still be hurt.
Kind of like the Zero/One/Infinity rule, there’s a big difference between free and non-free. People are far more likely to be upset by a change from free to pay than by a price increase. This is something we’re currently talking about a lot for The Usual Error. We want to give a lot of the material away for free via lots of media, and we also want to make The Usual Error be our career. And so we may end up charging some nominal amount for certain products or services that we might have otherwise given away for free, just to avoid the AVG Effect.