March 29, 2023

The days of free social networks are numbered

Tracy LeBlanc / Pexels

Both Twitter, Facebook and Instagram have announced the launch of paid programs, ushering in a major shift in the internet as we know it.

“If you don’t pay for the product, then you are the product” is a slogan that has already been discussed a lot about the business model of social networks — if we don’t pay to have an account, we pay by providing our data, which is then sold to companies that buy ads from platforms like Facebook or Instagram .

But this free-to-user social network model seems to have its days numbered. With the global economy threatening go into recession soonhis giants great technology they are not immune to the crisis, as companies such as Microsoft, Google, Meta and Amazon have already laid off 70,000 employees by the end of 2022.

The threat of crisis makes the entire market reluctant to invest in advertising markets, which also leads to a drop in platform revenue. Meta, for example, reported a 41% profit drop in 2022 and a 23% increase in its expenses.

the recent ones privacy restrictions by Apple, which allows users to block apps from collecting their data for advertising purposes, is also a headache, prompting Facebook to threaten to force iOS users to foot the bill if Apple doesn’t budge. Meta reveals that this change could reduce its ad revenue by $10 billion compared to 2022.

Google is also proposing a similar change to its privacy policies that will make collecting user data across websites an option, no longer the default setting.

The continued foreshadowing of regulatory tightening in the European Union and the cases now before the US Supreme Court — which may to legally hold platforms accountable from the content users post there — are other factors that paint a bleak scenario for the future of social networks.

The European Union has also banned Facebook from selling European user data to US companies. Despite protests from Mark Zuckerberg’s company, the ban was upheld on appeal to the Irish High Court.

The end of free?

For all these reasons, we are witnessing the beginning of a new era in social media. Our eyeballs and attention are no longer “commodity” enough, and platforms will start charging with certain tools and privileges.

Meta recently announced the launch of the ‘Meta Verified’ program, which provides Facebook and Instagram users they pay $12 a month to have a blue seal of verification, Vox reports.

The new package guarantees even more protections against identity theft, access to a “real” customer service representative and evenincrease in range and visibility’, with user content being more publicly exposed.

This creates a two-tier system, with “primary” users benefiting from greater exposure and more privacy protection than “secondary” users, who opt for the free versions.

Meta’s announcement comes just months after Twitter also started charging $8 a month blue check stamp — a decision that caused chaos on the network and was even temporarily overturned.

Twitter is also preparing to launch its Twitter Blue subscription plan, which it will cost $2.99 ​​per month and will give users the opportunity to block advertising on the platform and organize saved tweets into collections.

Twitter and Meta aren’t alone. In recent years, Snapchat, YouTube, and Discord have introduced or expanded premium products that offer special benefits to those who pay. Snapchat, for example, provides early access to new settings, YouTube removes ads and allows consumption of exclusive content, and Discord provides more customization options in chat groups.

The internet existed before the birth of free social networks. However, its disappearance would represent a drastic change in network evolution. Be that as it may, it seems that we are witnessing a very important change in the history of the internet.

Adriana Peixoto, ZAP //

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