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Guest KenG

Chewing on the future of Large Sites

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Why I hang out in the Newsgroups is beyond me, but I make the mistake repeatedly, and get sucked into discussions I shouldn't. Anyway, one of the latest threads in one of the newsgroups is the old one about free file access versus pay for sites or in the case of AVSIM, donations. Hopefully we can engage in some thoughtful discussion here about the subject.Here's the latest in that thread that I posted:"> What has been implied by somebody at Avsim is that EVERYBODY will have to> pay to download these files eventually...... this was the comment thatgot> me annoyed.That would have been me. And what I said was:"Well, I have news for you. As a group that spends thousands of dollars amonth on providing bandwidth so that you can freely download, there will bea day in the not too distant future where sites like AVSIM and FS.com maywell be all pay. When that day comes, there is going to be a lot of gnashingof teeth and pulling of hair, but the simple fact remains; to provide alibrary service that contains tens of thousands of files and whose serversaverage over 160 Gigabytes a day of transfers (including our web site,files, forums, etc etc), cold hard reality will sooner or later confront allwho have fed freely at this trough. To get some idea of the cost, check outsome of the hosting services and what you would pay for that amount ofbandwidth consumption a day. I suspect you will be rather taken aback by thenumber."You can be annoyed all you want, but someone has to pay the bill that coversbandwidth, servers, upgrades, tech consultants, etc etc. At AVSIM we arefortunate in that we are able to cover our expenses through our advertisers,store, donations and the like. We don't charge anyone for entry and allusers get equal access. Our pipe is huge and despite the spin from Kev, weget no special discounts for that pipe. We pay full bore commercial ratesfor the equivalent of 7 or 8 T1's. Our daily bandwidth usage between ourthree servers is between 150 and 180 GIGABYTES A DAY. We serve up onaverage, some 35,000+ files a day. While all that downloading is going on,there are many more thousands of web pages, forums, images, and the likebeing served up to the community with very little, if any, delay.If anyone naively believes that large sites can continue to provide thistype of service for free, forever, then I feel sorry for you and your graspof the realities of running sites like these. These are not home computersconnected via a DSL line that resides in my office. These are industrialstrength, multiprocessor based, systems that have the scalability andreliability to allow millions of hits a month and which can grow to servicethe increasing demand on them. To have one serviced costs us $96 an hour.These are not your typical machines that you can pick up for $1,200 to$2,000. The last one we installed, our library server, when all was said anddone, cost us over $6,000 to bring online, and that was with significantnumbers of free labor hours by our volunteer staff. Had we been paying forALL the costs of bringing that system online, it would have been nearer to$14,000 or more.I haven't said that AVSIM will go pay only, or that FS.com will either. WhatI tried to convey is that users with a "It must be free forever" mindsetmight want to consider that at sometime in the future, you might wake upsome morning with a rude shock. Emphasis is on MIGHT. Yes, there will alwaysbe sites that serve up small libraries. But the massively arrayed sites maywell go the way of the Dodo.And the only other point that I want to clearly state is that NO ONE onAVSIM's staff gets paid. All our income is turned back into the system andtoward paying our increasing bandwidth costs. We do pay a UNIX guru on rareoccasions, and we do pay a pittance for a book keeper. All of us on staffare fully employed elsewhere (or in one case, retired). And frankly, I ambeginning to wonder why the heck we do this at all...So, if you are really annoyed enough to act on it, then I would suggest yougo purchase three or four massive servers, find a service that provide youmassive bandwidth on demand, and set up shop. I am sure that all the "Itmust remain free" types will thank you and your overwhelming generosity.If you would like to see the system generated statistics of AVSIM, pleasefeel free. You can do so here:web server stats: file server BASE stats: [link:ftp.avsim.com/webalizer|FTP Server Stats]file database stats: [link:ftp.avsim.com/library/viewstats.php]Library Stats

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Alright, just a technical comment...Please add a http:// to the two last links, my browser will try the FTP protocol otherwise, which doesn't work so well. :)I do appreciate your work on this site, and of course I hope it could be free... However, I realize you don't have much of a choice... That's life, I suppose. :)Cheers,Dave

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Frankly, I wouldn't mind (say) $12/year. I get at least a dollar's worth a month of entertainment alone out of Avsim. :-)

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Tom,If AVSIM does eventually become a site requiring monthly payment, then you can be assured that I will oblige without any argument whatsoever. To be honest, I think that the vast majority of people can count themselves to be extremely fortunate that they have been able to use superb websites like AVSIM for free for such a long time. This is the ONLY place that I visit for forum discussions on flight simulation, and it is also the ONLY site where I have uploaded FU3 add-ons. The FU3 Forum here is easily the best that I have ever had the pleasure of accessing, and I consider many of this forum's users to be good friends.Whatever happens in the near future, I'll still be here.Chris Low,ENGLAND.

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Chris, and everyone....I just want to make it clear - AVSIM has no plans to go pay at anytime. Our model works and we are able to cover the expenses; until such time as that changes, we have no plans or intent to go pay.Having said that, the reason I opened up this discussion was to visit the thinking that "Free or Else" mindset. It is bothersome to say the least that some think it is their inherent right to have free access. I would like folks to start looking at this from a different perspective and consider how fortunate sim enthusiasts have it right now, and may not have in the future.

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Tom,Actually, I had understood that. I think I was a bit unclear, not you. :) Long live AVSIM. :)Anyway, if such a situation would come, one problem is that people uploaded files, knowing they would be freely distributed. Wouldn't we have to ask the authors before making people pay for it? This would be a troublesome process I suppose, but I still think it is the only moral way to go. You see what I mean?Cheers,Dave

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You are quite right. Many of these people don't understand the cost involved in running a website (or in any other computer related activity).They get their Windows 'free' with their PC, IE comes free from their ISP, their ISP provides them with 'free' webspace of 10MB or so, they get other software 'free' online (pirated or otherwise).When someone charges for anything, they think you're ripping them off. They'll then steal your product (software piracy, bandwidth leeching) if possible "to punish you" and scream bloody murder if caught.

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There will always be those who fight evolution... especially if it involves something they get for free today but must pay for tomorrow. It's simply human nature. I agree with your point about some simply not understanding the cost involved. This is clearly a major problem.In the end, some will choose to go and some will accept the evolution and pay the price. And some will leave for other reasons, and some will join anew to replace them.Business is business. The bills must be paid first, and then some freebie issues can be optioned. Such is life.Regards,

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"They get their Windows 'free' with their PC"Is this something that only happens in the USA ? Whenever I purchase a new PC, the Windows OS costs the same as someone purchasing an upgrade version for their current PC. In other words, around half that of a full boxed copy.Chris Low,ENGLAND.

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Chris,On this side of the pond, it is typical that an invoice for a new computer system will not specify an amount for the OS. It is however, built into the cost of the system. The OS is not free and most reputable dealers will not sell you a system without an OS.Doug

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I thought about the day that sites like AVSIM will require a payment for membership and the rality is that with more and more members joining in and tens of files added every day it will probably get to a point where AVSIM will need additional funds. That day scares me but I will not hesitate to pay for membership. AVSIM is my second home.. :-hahI am sure even if that day comes it will probably cost less then most of us spend on FS software in year. Thanks for letting us know where you stand Tom.Take careMike

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From David:"Anyway, if such a situation would come, one problem is that people uploaded files, knowing they would be freely distributed. Wouldn't we have to ask the authors before making people pay for it? This would be a troublesome process I suppose, but I still think it is the only moral way to go. You see what I mean?"This is a good point. I believe it comes down to freedom of choice. Take a site like Flightsim.com that offers memberships. Then look at FSPlanet, which also sells memberships. Some would say there is little difference between the two, but those folks are clueless. The difference lies in the fact that freeware authors can make an intelligent choice before uploading to Flightsim. FSPlanet simply steals the same authors' files.If a "free" site must at some time relent to economic pressure and start collecting revenue from its visitors, the freeware authors can then make a choice about uploading their creations. I believe many of these creators to be intelligent and can readily see the business reality. Evenso, some will not accept the idea of a site charging visitors to download their "freeware" and choose to not participate. So be it, that's their right. But I think most will understand.My primary concern about a site as popular as Avsim charging a use fee is that there will then be many more FSPlanets and airindigo.nets popping up. Their narrowminded rational will be that if a site like Avsim or Flightsim can charge for use, why shouldn't they be able to. They won't care about that all important matter of seeking the permission and approval of the freeware submitters. They'll only see a chance to make a buck. It was this soon to be ugly fact of pirates jumping on the "use fee" bandwagon that prompted me to offer an option of limited protection for the freeware authors to be included in their copyright notices. It involves the author clearly stipulating which sites he/she sanctions to download their creations, all others would be excluded. I believe this practice to be an integral part of the use fee evolution looming on the horizon. Sadly, my idea received only modest support from the authors.Regards,

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:-lol But then we have to pay YOU $ .50 a month for providing some of that entertainment, Herb ... :-lol :-lol :-lol :-outta Francois :-wave________________________Francois A. "Navman" DumasAssociate Editor &Forums AdministratorAVSIM Online!email: fdumas@avsim.com________________________

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Tom,Well, once in a while you can have a decent thread in there....maybe that's why we go back. Of course there are landmines to deal with but people like Tom Gibson, Kenneth Barrett(member of ours) and Bill Leaming leave those explosive jerks de-fused. They rarely make a good case as you have done. What is to become of this? I wish we could say that advertising would solve our woes and keep everybody happy. Avsim is in a sweet position that few sites achieve...yet your fingers need not be moistened to tell the wind direction. Our pockets are holy, for the amount of time we spend with this hobby and never fly, the technical details that everyone takes for granted, the abuse heaped on our shoulders to protect the rights of freeware developers(they get lifetime meberships btw), the never ending search to make things smooth and the personal sacrifice of time and money.On Friday our main Server for free members choked. Maybe its an influx of new networks being added on that day or maybe it was a fluke. In any case we scramble like it's WWIII. Then the complaints start flooding in. We are the Yankee scum to our more valued Eastern members! We're Canadian - but often there is no distinction. We are behind our American brothers 100%.As site operators we develop very thick skin yet feel as we all or were "simmers" duty bound to participate.To end on a lighter note....a user submitted his site this morning and we found the background music quite amusing...http://flyboy189.tripod.com/ We hadn't heard this one yet!!Owain Robinson

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Okay, we all know that people, for whatever reason, feel that software and simming stuff is somehow developed, distributed, and served up (pun intended) for free.That's odd, because my development software alone costs me thousands of dollars - for program writing and flight simming and art - all of which I use for my freebie FS stuff.We know that people think paying, say, $5.00 a month would be outrageous - even if they can DL and use an enormous load of zipped (a good thing) files.But people will pay $50 a month for a dating service site, write to tens or hundreds of women (they are mostly men), and get zip (a bad thing) in return. But they continue to pay $20 to $50 a month for nothing.So here's the thing - the best of both worlds:

http://avsim.com/flightdeck/temp/avsimdating.jpgThe World's Premiere Resource for Simming and Swinging and Online Community!Where people come together to fly!

It's the new trend - like coffee shops and play toys in laundromats.

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