Re: Have they tried...
"14 years and the users aren't amazed that the site is still there, might just need a little moola and 'free' has limits?"
I only recently discovered a BBC 5Live show called "Outriders", a now defunct tech magazine show. I downloaded all the podcasts and listen in the car. Every now and then there's something particularly interesting and the interviewee gives a URL. Once I get home, or pull over for a break, I have look and most of the sites are now gone or something quite different to what was described on the show. IIRC the show ran from ~20011 - ~2014, so not that long ago.
One that especially comes to mind is artfinder.com. According to the interview, it was to be the art equivalent of an MP3 download/streaming site with as much as possible being free ot low cost downloads of images of artwork. Looking at it now, it's little more than an online shop, nothing is free and none of the images are of any decent resolution and are made as difficult as possible to access.
Like many interesting and altruistic projects, they rarely last long with their original intentions, either because the funding model was badly formed in the first place or because they growed and growed enough to become attractive to the money men (and women)