To member or not to member.

I am with a company developing a free Web property. Our hook? It will be the fastest, easiest way to create and publish content to a Web site. One of the things that keeps me up at night is looking like all the other membership-driven Web sites. If there are members, then there are non-members and that is exclusionary. Isn’t it counter to the whole Web culture, the roots of which are tied to offering free access to information? Can you say “Open?”
Membership is a data-collection ploy and one designed by and for advertisers to quantify ad buys. In addition, it is also a means by which some site owners can keep information private, which is their right; but the two ideas aren’t mutually exclusive. The whole membership thing, which brings up images of velvet ropes, and gated communities, and cliques, is not right. We can make “non-membership” a competitive issue and advantage, I believe. Part of our brand. Let’s not forget, technology is copy-able, brands are not.