Instagram were bought by Facebook, IIRC they were doing good on investment before that but didn’t have a particularly great monetisation model. Facebook have since hit it hard for adverts and data.
Unsplash started as a side project of crew.co and originally made money by driving interest in crew.co but then was bought out by dribble (2017) and I’m not sure the date of this interview (https://www.typeform.com/blog/inside-story/unsplash-steph-liverani-interview/) but it appears they are or have been looking towards advertising as well, though I’m not sure what direction this has taken since.
Essence of where this seems to be going is one or several of:
- they are loosing money unsustainably to gain market
- data / tracking (web based spyware to some)
I would be very interested (less as a user and more as a curiosity) in cases where someone has came up with a way to do free services that go beyond this but personally I haven’t seen much. Thought I have checked or followed anything on pexels