Smart.fm and the Death of a Free Learning Tool

I haven’t been on it for a while, but smart.fm used to be one of my favorite websites to study Japanese. One I’d been meaning to return to recently. But it looks like that is not to be. Smart.fm is switching over to iKnow.jp (which it already was before, I think) and charging a monthly fee at the door.

Free, the site seemed invaluable, but for ¥1000 a month it seems superfluous. It is an annoying shock to see that the service is just going behind a pay-wall with nearly no warning. More or less it seems they’ve basically abused the goodwill of a community of language learners who’ve spread the word in addition to contributed content and ideas. ¥1000 a month may not seem like a lot, but there are far better ways to spend ¥12000 a year (around $120 USD) on language learning.

The move seems as boneheaded as it is heavy handed. Why not introduce premium services to maintain a large user base? Why not give current users more than a couple months to check out the new site, especially when the site is (by their own admission) buggy? In one stroke they’ve turned a former user and cheerleader into an alienated and upset loudmouth.

Interestingly, smart.fm seems to be keeping & profiting from the user generated content:

Very importantly, the perception of some users is that the majority of content studied in Smart.fm has been created by the user base and that the move to iKnow! is somehow an attempt to take all of this user created content and profit from it…

We appreciate the work that many users have put into creating content and we’re certainly not going to delete it…

Check back for some free sites and methods to study Japanese, along with suggestions where to better spend your $120 USD a year.