As I was talking about social media with some friends and family the other day, we were bemoaning just how bad it’s become. How inundated we are with ads and unrelated content in our feeds. Worse yet, we were reminiscing on how it used to be. Facebook in the early days, when you saw the content from your friends, and that was it. When you could actually see everything your friends posted, and you knew you wouldn’t miss anything.
When you actually had control over what you saw.
It occurred to me that I would pay good money to have that back, and I wonder why the platforms haven’t tried something like that. (Likely because they make more money the way they’re doing things now.) But it doesn’t seem like it needs to be that complex. A social media platform with different tiers. One could be free, and ad supported. Let people come and post as much as they want, and not have to pay for it. In essence, what Facebook is now. But then there could be another tier where you get no ads, or where you get full control over your feed, or where your data is removed from their databases. (I know. I’m dreaming now, right?)
In fact, you could charge piecemeal for each of those features. You could do a monthly rate, or charge less if you pay by the year. Monetization has been done to death at this point, so it’s not as if they don’t know how to get the most money out of people as they can. I’m just sick of the poor experiences I’m now getting online because everything’s modeled after advertising.
The same thing happens in Google results or Amazon searches. Sponsored content takes up more and more of the top hits, to the point that now you have to scroll a ways on an Amazon search to find anything reliable. Even when you find it, it’s hard to tell if it’s there because it’s a good product, or because Amazon pushed it hard for a month or two, and it sold lots of items because of that.
We put up with it, because that’s the way it’s done right now, but it doesn’t have to be that way. People could make money by selling the product, not selling customers as the product. What would it take for that to happen? First, a viable alternative to each of these offerings. A paid search engine where there are no ads. A paid social media network that gives you control. If the quality is good enough, and the price is right, one of those could reach critical mass, at which point more and more people hop on (for the social media example), and you get to the point where you can actually find most people on the service. I suppose with the others (searches and shopping), you don’t really need other people to use it, but with social media, the whole point is to be social. To have other people on there.
Maybe I’m just dreaming, and maybe if they did come out with something like that, it’d be outlandishly expensive. But strangleholds only seem permanent until something else comes along that breaks it wide open. Google, Amazon, and Facebook each feel like they’re getting to the point where they’re just so focused on making money that someone smaller and scrappier could come along and provide something much better. It wouldn’t be hard to improve the experience on each of those platforms, at this point . . .
Anyone else feel the same way?
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