The clearest path to maximum value capture within an industry lies ahead of companies that own a space. The more you dominate, the more money you make, and the less you want someone else siphoning off your eyeballs, affiliate clicks, or active users. So services establish barriers, API limits, etc. – and they ultimately end up as walled gardens, valuable only to those who don't eat apples and are content to frolic inside.
In the long run information may want to be free – but in the near term it's looking for funding via advertising and maybe a freemium business model. Content-based companies must fight to preserve value and most end up living and dying by a simple premise:
aggregate or be aggregated
This concept has roots in the portal wars of the mid-1990s. At the time every internet company's obsession was eyeballs. AOL, Excite, Yahoo!, Lycos, et al. were busy fighting to become your browser's default web page by aggregating the best content.
Then with the rise of e-commerce, comparison shopping engines like MySimon and Froogle fought for attention as one-stop product information aggregators.
These days, social networks have become presence and relationship aggregators. Most sites allow users to cross-publish content and status to other platforms; you can publish Twitter to blogs, blogs to LinkedIn, Foursquare to Facebook, and so on. I believe that while Google may currently be losing at "social" it still holds an envious position over other sites as master aggregator, given its lead in search.
The aggregation battle is shifting to tools, with news coming that Twitter will buy TweetDeck for $40+ million. Tools put aggregation into the hands of users, while providers gain more opportunities to monetize, e.g. place ads around content.
Aggregate or be aggregated. Keep this in mind as you encounter new opportunities to publish and collect your content – and consider how it's being monetized by the company that's helping you out.