- Free online services “have unquestionably become increasingly ubiquitous” in everyday life, but the rapidly expanding sector isn’t accounted for in key economic metrics, MIT economist Erik Brynjolfsson wrote in a research paper.
- Brynjolfsson and a team of researchers surveyed Americans to find how much people value free digital goods.
- Search engines were deemed the most valuable service on average, and music was the least valued.
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The internet brought countless free services to the masses, but many of its quality-of-life benefits aren’t accounted for in critical economic data.
A team of researchers sought to find how much value average people gain from free online services like Google,Facebook, and Wikipedia. Online services are “increasingly ubiquitous and important in our daily lives,” MIT economist Erik Brynjolfsson wrote, yet the sector counted for the same fraction of gross domestic product in 2016 as it did 35 years earlier
The metric leaves out many relatively new digital goods due to their lack of upfront cost.
The researchers concluded that free digital goods “provide substantial value to consumers even if they do not contribute substantially to GDP.” Search engines were the highest valued service on average, and music was the least valued.
Here’s how much the average person needed to be compensated to give up the following eight popular online services for a year. They’re listed in increasing order of cost.
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Median yearly valuation: $US155
Median yearly valuation: $US168
Median yearly valuation: $US322
Median yearly valuation: $US842
Median yearly valuation: $US1,173
Median yearly valuation: $US3,648
Median yearly valuation: $US8,414
Median yearly valuation: $US17,530
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