We all know that Facebook is free. I mean, it is free, right? On the other hand, we all also have that kind of unsettling feeling that they are doing something with our online identities. Facebook is what made the question, “Why are they showing me this ad?” a common one. We never thought about it on TV or radio but we all have a sense that they are looking at us and targeting specific ads towards us. They’re sometimes way off of course but that is their game plan. There is also the worry about what other companies they are allowing to look at us.
It’s a tradeoff. Facebook has to be paid for somehow. All of the programmers, the servers, the IT guys, the bandwidth, none of it comes for free. Just like radio and TV before it, Facebook decided to go with ads to support the site. TV and radio ads are annoying, but they don’t have the creepy factor that social media sites do. The TV can’t know who your friends are and what all of you like.
So if you don’t like the way Facebook uses our information, would you be willing to pay them directly instead?
I routinely pay for content so that I don’t get ads. It helps that I really only follow one tv show, Dr. Who. I don’t watch it on TV anymore, BBC America is just brutal with the ads. The show is chopped up enough to make it annoying. Instead, I watch it a day later when I can download it from iTunes. No ads, no interruptions.
I also subscribe to several music services. Slacker Radio, LastFM, Spotify, and Amazon Play all cost me money, but it also means that I get to listen to the music I want, when I want it, the way I want it, without ads. Nowadays, I can’t sit through FM radio and network TV. I do the same for apps, I buy them whenever I can to avoid the ads.
App.net is an attempt to bring a paid experience to social networking. You pay them directly and you get the service with no ads and no usage of your information. Almost everything I’ve read says that it is trying to be Twitter so it is bound to fail because it doesn’t have the numbers that Twitter has to make it a viable service. It’s true that the current Alpha release (a release that is not meant for general use, it is for demonstration only. Traditionally software goes through an additional Beta phase before being deemed fit for end users) looks like Twitter but as GigaOm has pointed out, the goal is to be a platform and not just a Twitter competitor. As a platform, app.net could then be used by other application writers to access it and do some amazing things with it including expanding the social aspect of it.
The minimum buy in fee was $50. That would allow you to secure your desired user name plus give you a year’s worth of time on it. Some of my friends have balked at the price and I had to think about it. I realized that I pay that (and more) to other services without even thinking about it. If this takes off, would you be willing to pay 4.25 a month for a social experience that isn’t interested in selling you? That made my decision for me. My handle is IsaacC.
There are plenty of other types of paid vs. free experiences on the web and on our devices. Apps, web development sites, photo galleries, even blogs! Not sure why something like social networking couldn’t be the same. Has anyone else ever tried this? I know of services that are private social sites, but app.net is trying to scale to allow anyone to interact with anyone else if they wanted. I wish them luck and I’m excited to see what developers can do with this platform.