Biz Stone, one of Twitter’s co-founders, has recently offered his opinion on how Facebook should run its business. Writing on Medium, Stone revealed that he had taken a lengthy break from Facebook, for the most part due to the fact he had become “overwhelmed” by the “thousands of settings, features and choices” continually being added.
On the topic of what he’d recommend Facebook do, the former Twitter man suggested that a paid, premium version for the Facebook die-hards who can afford it, would enrich their user experience by removing the ads and sponsored content.
“In general, the ads on Facebook don’t seem particularly useful or engaging. However, ads on the service are universally tolerated because that’s what makes Facebook free and free is nice.”
You can see his point, although I’m not sure how many people would pay $10 a month (the arbitrary figure Stone attached to paid Facebook usage in his blog post) just to save some scrolling time.
There comes a point in every consumer/vendor relationship where both parties must agree to a mutually acceptable exchange currency, or the transaction will cease. At the moment, users are happy (although some may not like to admit it – if they’re not, then they wouldn’t still be on Facebook) to pay for their usage of Facebook with their own private information. In turn, Facebook is happy enough to be paid in data by its users, and to then market that fertile selling environment to advertisers who will willingly pay good old-fashioned money for the opportunity to show their products to a mass audience.
Perhaps Biz Stone is looking to the no-so-distant future when users will be happier to pay money for a better experience, with the added kickback of not surrendering their personal data to a third-party. Our data may have been anonymised and only ever viewed by clever algorithms, but accidents happen with databases, and so do orchestrated attacks.
The question then becomes two-fold: are you happy with someone else holding all your personal data to ransom for the advertisers?; and what price would you put on taking control of your content again?
Are you happy to carry on trading your personal data for a free Facebook or if not how much would you pay for the service?