The internet economy continues to fascinate me. There are sites and services that have become hugely popular, but haven't been able to translate that popularity into cash flow.
Take Facebook. It claims 250,000,000 members, yet nowhere near the income that matches its ubiquity. If not for the infusion of money from investors and venture capital funds, the company might fold under its own weight. Skype has become the brand for VOIP phone calls and video connections but, if it hadn't been bought by eBay, probably would be in the same financial boat (even now, eBay is struggling to come up with a way to generate income with it). Twitter is enjoying the brilliant spotlight of a mega-hit application, but because it's free to use, where's the money?
Some developers of these sites and services try to hang on until they can find a buyer or investor with deep pockets, but that call doesn't always come, and when the money gets tight, they have to turn out the lights.
One such site announced this weekend that it has stopped offering its services. The site is tr.im, a URL-shortener that's become useful to those who use Twitter, where space is at a premium because of the 140-character limit, making it necessary to cut down long URLs for links. Tr.im hardly had the field to itself. Sites like tinyurl.com, memurl.com, and doiop.com do the same thing, and apparently, the Twitter community has shown a preference for yet another one, bit.ly.
That was bad news for Nambu Network, the company behind tr.im. This weekend, the service was replaced by this announcement on their website:
"tr.im is now in the process of discontinuing service, effective immediately. Statistics can no longer be considered reliable, or reliably available going forward. However, all tr.im links will continue to redirect, and will do so until at least December 31, 2009. Your tweets with tr.im URLs in them will not be affected. We regret that it came to this, but all of our efforts to avoid it failed. No business we approached wanted to purchase tr.im for even a minor amount. There is no way for us to monetize URL shortening -- users won't pay for it -- and we just can't justify further development since Twitter has all but annointed bit.ly the market winner. There is simply no point for us to continue operating tr.im, and pay for its upkeep. We apologize for the disruption and inconvenience this may cause you."How much longer will bit.ly be around? No one knows, but if you have a lot of money you won't need anymore, or a way to generate revenue from a service they're literally giving away, I'm sure they'd like to hear from you -- to avoid being tr.immed forever.