The free use of social media platforms may be on the verge of disappearing. Twitter is considering a premium service called “Twitter Blue” while Facebook is still threatening to charge iOS users unless Apple changes its privacy controls.
Since the inception of social media, the default business model sells user information to third party companies for ad targeting. And, frankly, this model has proven itself. Twitter, for example, was launched in 2006, but managed to generate $ 3.7 billion in revenue last year.
But, with Google and Apple tightening the screws on access to user data, could the way social media services – and the Internet as a whole – work change?
Twitter is working on a new $ 2.99-per-month subscription service called Twitter Blue, according to renowned blogger and scoop researcher Jane Manchun Wong.
Twitter is calling its upcoming subscription service “Twitter Blue,” priced at $ 2.99 / month at the moment, including paid features such as:
Cancel tweets: https://t.co/CrqnzIPcOH
– Jane Manchun Wong (@wongmjane) May 15, 2021
The news emerged, albeit without much fanfare, when Twitter acquired Scroll – a software company that provided users with cleaner, ad-free versions of news websites while promising publishers more money. Twitter, it seems, liked the company’s ability to remove ads so much that it decided to try and integrate it into its main application.
However, this ad removal feature will not be the only unique treatment for Twitter Blue users.
Jane Manchun Wong, again, claims that Twitter will also offer a new “Collections” feature to paying customers. This will allow you to save and organize your favorite tweets, making it easier for you to find them at a later date.
Think about all the times you’ve seen a tweet – maybe it was a link to a recipe or a story. But, when you try to find it later, it seems almost impossible to find it. This new collections feature would make this a thing of the past.
But why would Twitter abandon a proven business model? For starters, the company’s revenue growth is declining. From 2017 to 2018, the company increased its turnover by 25%. The following year, it fell to 13% before falling back to 9% between 2019-2020.
Creating a diverse and more defensible business model with the new Twitter Blue could give Twitter another chord in its business arc.
Facebook and Instagram charging Apple users
Likewise, Facebook and Instagram have started sending notifications to iPhone users who have upgraded to iOS 14.5, claiming that their ad personalization tools keep the services free.
“Help keep Facebook free” pic.twitter.com/mOB9WJpz9A
– ashkan soltani (@ ashk4n) April 30, 2021
With iOS 14.5, Apple released a new privacy framework called App Tracking Transparency, which plans to give users more control over how their data is used and online activity tracking.
When opening an app, users receive a prompt that reads: “Allow [app] to track your activity on other companies’ apps and websites? “
Users can then select “Ask the app not to track” or just “Allow”.
We’re not sure exactly how many users are choosing to allow tracking or not, but it’s clear Facebook feels threatened by the move.
For what it’s worth, Google has stopped tracking third-party cookies on the Internet and offers a similar privacy solution that will make tracking user behavior on different sites an opt-in decision, rather than the default setting.
Before 2019 – and long before iOS 14.5 hit the radar – Facebook posted a notice to new users saying, “It’s free and always will be.” If the company renegs on that promise, regulators could argue that users who signed up before 2019 were cheated.
As it stands, Facebook hasn’t made any concrete plans to start charging users. However, these new reviews certainly show that Zucerkberg is concerned about the continued profits of its social media giant – it seems unlikely that users, when given a choice, will consent to being followed on the internet.
The European Union has also blocked Facebook from selling data collected from European users to American companies. And, despite Facebook protests, the ban was upheld by the High Court of Ireland.
Obviously, this is another blow to Facebook’s ad-based business model. Maybe the writing is really on the wall for Facebook.
What would paid social media look like?
The Internet existed before the emergence of many free services in mid-August. However, if free social media networks were to disappear, it would represent a radical change in the evolution of the internet.
The greatest danger, perhaps, is that a two-tier system will emerge with exclusive paid apps available for the wealthiest members of society and free apps, even nonprofits, for everyone.
For what it’s worth, the end of aggregating and selling user data for targeted advertising is, in our book, a good thing.
The decline of these vast free-to-use services could even provide a check on the power accumulated by the world’s biggest tech companies and prevent disinformation and prescription ban debacles. It might even provide some sort of solution to the online culture wars that have dominated much of the political landscape for the past decade.
Either way, it looks like we are at the start of a very big change in Internet history.