Here’s an unpopular opinion: we should pay for more of the Internet. By ‘we,’ I mean the people who use it.
Let me put down a bit of foundational work:
- Facebook only makes $4.01 / year off of you.
- Google makes about $10.09 per user.
- Twitter’s average earnings per user are $4.92.
- More on user valuation (including a lower estimate of Facebook’s earnings per user)
Advertising leads to tracking
My argument is this: I would rather pay Facebook, or Google, the money myself, rather than have them collect data on me and target ads. Further, think of the resources that these “engines of innovation” are dedicating to tracking us and serving ads, when they could be dedicating them towards solving problems.
For a savings of $20/year, I have abdicated the ability to be the final customer of Google, Twitter and Facebook, and instead became the product.
That alone would be a reason to consider paying for websites and leads me to what I think is a bigger point.
Advertising prioritizes eyeballs over experience
These tech companies are keeping their customers happy, but we’re not the customers (see above, but none of that is really a new idea). But I don’t think people emphasize enough the social costs of this.
Ask yourself, if the cost was $5/year for a Twitter account, would there be 48 million bots on Twitter? Further, what if Twitter spent the energy they now invest in finding advertising customers and serving ads in actually cleaning up the user experience? The could have actual people and not A.I. checking abusive tweets. That alone would be a step up.
Further, imagine the user who has already paid for a Twitter account. Most trolls have a separate account only for trolling. Maybe they still would, but how often would they pay the $5 registration fee after being banned for abusive behavior? In most cases (I’m willing to wager), a warning that “if this behavior continues, this account will be suspended” would be enough. After all, Twitter wouldn’t have to try and figure out if there were duplicate accounts, allowing users to create a second (or 48 millionth) account after suspension would be equivalent to a $5 fine for abusive behavior.
Would people still get trolled? Sure. Would trolls become more subtle? Yes. But, would the total level of trolling go down? I think so. And the customers — the users — would be much happier about it.