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What is Stack Overflow’s business model?

There is no doubt that the Stack Exchange network is vastly recognized through many various communities as the leading source of Q&A information.

Newbies and Oldies alike come to one or more of the Stack Exchange sites to any amount of reasons.

Without sounding like I want a VIP service, why is the Stack Exchange service free? The site obviously needs to support hosting and its services, so why would they go through the trouble of making such a vast and potentially high profit service free?

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marked as duplicate by Toon Krijthe, Pëkka, Tobias Kienzler, Tim Post Nov 23 '12 at 16:32

This question has been asked before and already has an answer. If those answers do not fully address your question, please ask a new question.

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To your comment regarding "The site obviously needs to support hosting and its services", see What is Stack Overflow's business model? –  Aziz Shaikh Nov 23 '12 at 12:11
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Well, I wouldn't be around if it wasn't free. I'm sure that's true for most regulars. –  Yannis Nov 23 '12 at 12:16
    
Thanks, @AzizShaikh –  NewAmbition Nov 23 '12 at 12:17
    
how many users would there be if it weren't free? –  CodesInChaos Nov 23 '12 at 12:23
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Because someone had the vision of a free question and answer site!? –  juergen d Nov 23 '12 at 12:28
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@juergend - Yahoo! Answers is free. Just saying. –  tombull89 Nov 23 '12 at 15:37
    
@tombull89 But one could doubt its "question and answer" nature. –  Daniel Fischer Nov 23 '12 at 15:45

2 Answers 2

up vote 13 down vote accepted

If we weren't free, we'd become http://www.experts-exchange.com/. That site has a much smaller community, and you need to pay to get answers. Not too fun.

Having an open community encourages participation, and it's more fun!

SE gets their revenue mainly from SO Careers and advertising (as well as VC funding). Careers is built upon SO -- users deemed to be "good programmers" (by invite, reputation, or Github/etc activity) can post their CV there. Due to this, maintaining SO as a source of "good programmers" is essential to the working of Careers. The exclusive nature of the site makes it attractive to employers, who pay to use it for hiring new employees.

Ads on SO/SU/SF also give a bit of revenue.

The rest of the sites are supported "to make the Internet better", though they probably shall monetize them if they get big enough.

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And let's not forget that the earliest definition of SO was "anti-experts-exchange". –  Yannis Nov 23 '12 at 13:47

Mainly to differentiate itself from other established sites. I think sites like EE is better in terms of selectiveness and free is overrated, while SE is betting that the input from free users is enough to offset the time wasted on extra moderation and other issues that generate lots of discussion on meta.

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