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Researchers calculated how much the average person would need to be paid to live a year without services like email and search engines. Here are the final numbers.

Ben Winck , Business Insider US
 Oct 14, 2019, 03:06 PM
Koichi Kamoshida/Getty Images
  • 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.
  • For more stories, go to Business Insider SA.

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.


Timur Emek / Stringer / Getty Images

Median yearly valuation: $155 (about R2,200)


Median yearly valuation: $168 (about R2,400)

Social Media

Cole Bennetts/Stringer/Getty Images

Median yearly valuation: $322 (R4,700)


Median yearly valuation: $842 (about R12,000)



Median yearly valuation: $1,173 (about R17,000)


Business Insider/Lisa Eadicicco

Median yearly valuation: $3,648 (about R53,000)


Getty Images

Median yearly valuation: $8,414 (about R124,000)

Search engines

Median yearly valuation: $17,530 ( about R259,000)

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