Coursera’s business model

As I've mentioned before, the class on quantum mechanics and quantum computing that I'm taking through Coursera seems to be working out fairly well. The material is interesting and the class is well organized. And it's free.

But why is it free?

Coursera has received $16 million in venture funding, which leads me to believe that they plan to make a profit one day. And just like other cases like Google or Yahoo!, when you get something for free, you are really what the company is selling, and they make money essentially by providing access to you to businesses willing to pay for that service.

And although I haven't seen Coursera's business plan, I'd guess that they will eventually end up making money from providing access to the people who take their free classes. So if you take Dan Boneh's cryptography class through Coursera, I wouldn't be surprised if headhunters trying to fill positions that require a background in cryptography end up contacting you one day. After all, nothing is really free, is it?

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