I just recently discovered this post by Manton Reece, creator of Micro.blog. The post is titled “The Way Out” and details four parts to fixing the mess we’re in with existing social networks.
One piece he mentions around content ownership is something I care and think about often working for Automattic/WordPress.com. As much as I would like to believe they do, I doubt the general public cares as much about this kind of ownership. They’re comfortable sharing their content on platforms like Facebook or Instagram without considering what would happen if the service shutdown.
I do think his ideas around smaller social networks are interesting:
Many people are looking for “the next Twitter”, but it’s not enough to replace Twitter with a new platform and new leadership. Some problems are inevitable when power is concentrated in only 2-3 huge social networks — ad-based businesses at odds with user needs and an overwhelming curation challenge.
Large, free social networks like Facebook and Twitter are in an interesting spot. On one hand, users want (or, at least, claim to want) privacy. On the other hand, these services are largely free, and the companies need to make money somehow. I often wonder how many of privacy-conscious users would volunteer to pay $5/year to keep their data completely private. In the absence of paying users, ads/monetizing user data is the obvious path to profit.
Back in 2014, I wrote a post titled “Buy the Internet You Want to Read.” If you want quality publishing and you don’t want an ad-filled reading experience, you should be willing to pay for it. In thinking about social networks, the same might be true. If you want an ad-free Twitter experience, are you willing to pay $10/year to support the service instead?