26 votes

Would you pay for social media platforms and search engines if it meant they would not have any advertising or data collection?

(Someone posted a thread like this but for triple-a videogames rather than software and people said no so I wonder if software is gonna be different.)

If you would or not, why? I'f you would, how much? What would be the side effects of this change if it was applied on a mass scale? What would be the potential drawbacks?

Edit: Can also apply to video-sharing platforms or forums or instant messengers any software as long as it serves a general purpose and complies with what's mentioned above.

33 comments

  1. [15]
    Happy_Shredder
    Link
    No. Social media isn't problematic just became of privacy/ads etc, it's problematic because it's unhealthy. I don't need the pressure to present the best story of myself, to constantly compare my...

    No. Social media isn't problematic just became of privacy/ads etc, it's problematic because it's unhealthy. I don't need the pressure to present the best story of myself, to constantly compare my life to other people. I don't need constant Skinner box reinforcement.

    I much prefer fora like here, or IM.

    Search engines... Maybe. Paying could provide a perverse incentive.

    27 votes
    1. [11]
      bloup
      Link Parent
      Could it be that this is the form that social media typically takes these days solely because that happens to be what is most profitable? You can't imagine a social media platform that actually...

      I don't need the pressure to present the best story of myself, to constantly compare my life to other people. I don't need constant Skinner box reinforcement.

      Could it be that this is the form that social media typically takes these days solely because that happens to be what is most profitable? You can't imagine a social media platform that actually tries to account for the unhealthiness?

      8 votes
      1. [9]
        CALICO
        Link Parent
        I can't. By its nature, or maybe our own, people seem to do this thing where they'll share their ups and not so much their downs or the mundane. If your contacts are sharing nothing but their best...

        I can't. By its nature, or maybe our own, people seem to do this thing where they'll share their ups and not so much their downs or the mundane. If your contacts are sharing nothing but their best moments, that inevitably leads to comparison between them and yourself. And if you're like most people, most of your moments are probably mundane. This can lead to unhealthy perspective on your own life—I wish MY life was as exciting as Bob's—or you may begin only sharing your best moments, maybe embellishing, as way to compete socially. This of course invites others to compare themselves with your highlight reel.

        Humans are social animals. Anything that allows for competition in this space has the potential to be dangerous. Most of us want to fit in with our peers, or climb the social ladder if we perceive ourselves to be too low on it.

        I'd be interested to see if something could be done that negates this factor, but in a post-Facebook world I think any adopters of this potential new model would be coming in with a poisoned mindset, making its job all the more difficult.

        10 votes
        1. Sahasrahla
          Link Parent
          Not only this, but the opposite can be dangerous as well: The woman who tracks 'dark' Instagram accounts (BBC November 2019)

          people seem to do this thing where they'll share their ups and not so much their downs or the mundane

          Not only this, but the opposite can be dangerous as well:

          Ingebjørg is currently keeping track of around 450 private Instagram accounts - ones that need approval from their owners before you are allowed to follow them. Most of these belong to young women who post about their darkest feelings, though there are a few boys as well. It's a secretive world of private thoughts, images and confessions, governed by an unwritten "no snitching" rule.
          ...
          There is a reward for posting extreme thoughts and images - the darker the thought, the deeper the cut, the more likes and attention you receive, she says. They can foster a sense of competition, and act as a how-to manual for ways to harm or even kill yourself.

          "I think the communities make people worse because they give you ideas on how you can kill yourself, how you can starve yourself, or get rid of the food you eat, and how you can hide your illness from people," Ingebjørg says.

          The woman who tracks 'dark' Instagram accounts (BBC November 2019)

          7 votes
        2. [7]
          bloup
          Link Parent
          But I guess why are people staying online for such long periods of time, so concerned with what others are doing? I mean, maybe like 20 years ago when your mom wanted to pull out the scrapbook all...

          But I guess why are people staying online for such long periods of time, so concerned with what others are doing? I mean, maybe like 20 years ago when your mom wanted to pull out the scrapbook all the children would groan, but now somehow we are all addicted to what is basically scrapbooking? Personally, I chalk it up the fact that billion dollar corporations like Facebook hire literal scientists to come up with mechanisms to monopolize your attention span.

          7 votes
          1. [6]
            CALICO
            Link Parent
            Likes and attention give us dopamine hits, and whichever finger presses that button most tends to be what people gravitate towards. Even though there's an absurd amount of money behind optimizing...

            Likes and attention give us dopamine hits, and whichever finger presses that button most tends to be what people gravitate towards. Even though there's an absurd amount of money behind optimizing that, the theory behind seems pretty simple; we're addicts looking for our fix.

            6 votes
            1. [5]
              bloup
              Link Parent
              Alright, so here's a crazy idea: get rid of likes

              Alright, so here's a crazy idea: get rid of likes

              4 votes
              1. [3]
                archevel
                Link Parent
                It seems inevitable that it would be replaced by thumbs-up emojis in comments or similar... or do you mean that social media platforms get rid of all interactions between their users? Would it...

                It seems inevitable that it would be replaced by thumbs-up emojis in comments or similar... or do you mean that social media platforms get rid of all interactions between their users? Would it still be considered social media in that case? What would distinguish it from blogging platform?

                5 votes
                1. [2]
                  Wolf
                  Link Parent
                  You could take away all public forms of interaction - leave it all in private messages. No more news feeds either - just messaging and group chats. Edit: But I guess at that point it wouldn't...

                  You could take away all public forms of interaction - leave it all in private messages. No more news feeds either - just messaging and group chats.

                  Edit: But I guess at that point it wouldn't really be social media anymore.

                  1 vote
                  1. Kuromantis
                    Link Parent
                    In that case it would be an instant messenger like whatsapp or messenger.

                    But I guess at that point it wouldn't really be social media anymore.

                    In that case it would be an instant messenger like whatsapp or messenger.

                    2 votes
      2. Happy_Shredder
        Link Parent
        Maybe. I'd like to argue that any site which demands constant personal posts with positive feedback from users will have the same problems.

        Maybe. I'd like to argue that any site which demands constant personal posts with positive feedback from users will have the same problems.

    2. [3]
      Adys
      Link Parent
      People have different definitions of social media. Tildes is social media tbh, especially if you consider Reddit to be social media. Maybe you just mean Facebook? In which case the question is...

      People have different definitions of social media. Tildes is social media tbh, especially if you consider Reddit to be social media.

      Maybe you just mean Facebook? In which case the question is different.

      3 votes
      1. Litmus2336
        Link Parent
        In Tildes I have no incentive to make my friends think I'm cool. In fact, in Tildes I mostly engage in quality conversation™, something that is infinitely less fun on regular social media.

        In Tildes I have no incentive to make my friends think I'm cool. In fact, in Tildes I mostly get into political fights engage in quality conversation™, something that is infinitely less fun on regular social media.

        3 votes
      2. Happy_Shredder
        Link Parent
        Sure. I draw a line based on the following principle: in social media the focus is on the interactions between users; in fora or link aggregators the focus is on content. Of course the line can be...

        Sure. I draw a line based on the following principle: in social media the focus is on the interactions between users; in fora or link aggregators the focus is on content. Of course the line can be a bit blurred, but I'd like to argue it's still useful, and my above complaints really only concern FB and similar.

        3 votes
  2. [4]
    mieum
    Link
    I agree with others’ responses so far. I don’t care enough about social media to pay for it. I think the better option there is a move toward decentralization, and it has been confirmed in leaked...

    I agree with others’ responses so far. I don’t care enough about social media to pay for it. I think the better option there is a move toward decentralization, and it has been confirmed in leaked emails that Facebook realizes this is the main threat to its ubiquity. Not to mention education. It’s easy to exploit a population when it’s ignorant and passive about the technology it relies on. If people understood more, not only would they be less susceptible to exploitation, but they would be more technologically autonomous (to a degree) because they would be more discerning about what these tools are, what they are for, why they are being utilized a certain way, and how they may be adapted or applied differently.

    I also wouldn’t pay for a search engine. The better alternative there is for institutions like public libraries, universities, the EFF, etc. to host instances of searx or something similar. If we are to have a more free, neutral future for the internet, then search engines may become a basic, public utility; like water, for example.

    13 votes
    1. suspended
      Link Parent
      Absolutely agree with this. In my estimation, search engines should be considered a public utility.

      The better alternative there is for institutions like public libraries, universities, the EFF, etc. to host instances of searx or something similar. If we are to have a more free, neutral future for the internet, then search engines may become a basic, public utility; like water, for example.

      Absolutely agree with this. In my estimation, search engines should be considered a public utility.

      11 votes
    2. [2]
      bailey
      Link Parent
      I definitely agree. I feel like if something is going to be the main representation of someone's online identity then the user should have as much control over the service as possible. I would...

      I think the better option there is a move toward decentralization

      I definitely agree. I feel like if something is going to be the main representation of someone's online identity then the user should have as much control over the service as possible.

      I would love to be able to host my own social media page that, while tightly integrated with the pages of others, could still exist independently. There could still be providers that cater to those who don't wish to host their own instance, but the most important thing for me is that the option of independence exists. I suppose what I want is an open social networking protocol, rather than a particular social network implementation.

      1. mieum
        Link Parent
        Seems like there may already be those kinds of options out there for you. Have you checked out Mastadon or Pleroma? Maybe not exactly what you're looking for, but there seems to be a lot...

        Seems like there may already be those kinds of options out there for you. Have you checked out Mastadon or Pleroma? Maybe not exactly what you're looking for, but there seems to be a lot developing in the world of self-hosted federated social networking.

        2 votes
  3. [4]
    Sahasrahla
    Link
    I feel like my preferred method would be to pay some kind of "all you can eat Internet subscription fee" which then gets distributed as I browse around online. I already pay $X per month to...

    I feel like my preferred method would be to pay some kind of "all you can eat Internet subscription fee" which then gets distributed as I browse around online. I already pay $X per month to connect to the internet, so what if I paid an additional $Y per month that went to the sites I use? Any article I read, blog I visit, video I watch, etc. would get some fraction of my $Y per month. Obviously there are practical issues with this, perhaps fatally so, but I kind of just want an easy way to support the sites I use without having to take out my credit card and navigate pay systems for each one. (I also don't want to be shouldering the burden of being the 1 in 1000 users who support a site when an easier system would let the 800 in 1000 who want to contribute give a few cents each.)

    I also don't want everything to suddenly have a $2–$12/month subscription fee. Look at news, for example. I'd be happy to pay a small amount for high quality news but the old "get all your information from one or two sources" model is dead and should stay dead. I want to be able to read widely from many sources (that I might not individually visit all that frequently) and I don't want to need a dozen subscriptions to do that. (I also don't want to need dozens of subscriptions to read linked pieces being discussed on Tildes or other sites.)

    As for my data and my privacy I'm happy with it being used as long as the poorly-defined "creepy line" isn't crossed. An online book seller notices I bought a Byzantine history book so it starts showing me ads for The Alexiad? Sure, that's fine. Google combines my search history, fitbit*, and phone location data to show me a personalized ad for cold medicine as I walk by my local pharmacy? Nooooope.


    * To be fair, even owning or using a fitbit crosses my personal "creepy line". Same with smart-home always-listening devices like Alexa.

    13 votes
    1. [2]
      umbrae
      Link Parent
      I helped build a company that tried exactly what you are describing back around 2011 called Readability - a read it later service like Pocket, Instapaper, etc. We took a pay-what-you-want...

      I helped build a company that tried exactly what you are describing back around 2011 called Readability - a read it later service like Pocket, Instapaper, etc. We took a pay-what-you-want contribution from users and would distribute 70% of it to the publishers you were reading. Launch article from the wayback machine.

      We had a couple of huge problems with the model:

      1. The long tail of the internet meant that even at large scale there were tons of publishers (think individual bloggers) who would be getting on the order of 75 cents - like 90% of articles read were in this form. Top publishers (nytimes, wikipedia) would receive thousands of times more money, but they often didn't need or want the experience. It wasn't cost effective for anyone to be sending out checks of 75 cents.
      2. Publishers, uh, didn't like it. They saw it as a shot across the bow of the advertising ecosystem which they relied upon (which it was). They wouldn't accept the money because it would be seen as a legal endorsement of the model.

      There have been a few other approaches to this that don't rely on the reading angle, but it is incredibly hard to make work. I learned a lot from that time about how important incentives are to think through for customers.

      6 votes
      1. Sahasrahla
        Link Parent
        Thanks for sharing your experience, I'm glad someone was building something like that! That's very interesting to hear, especially now that publishers are mostly complaining that ad revenue isn't...

        Thanks for sharing your experience, I'm glad someone was building something like that!

        Publishers, uh, didn't like it. They saw it as a shot across the bow of the advertising ecosystem which they relied upon (which it was). They wouldn't accept the money because it would be seen as a legal endorsement of the model.

        That's very interesting to hear, especially now that publishers are mostly complaining that ad revenue isn't enough to support themselves. Maybe they would be more receptive now than in 2011 to someone handing them free subscriber money but, then again, traditional publishers of all sorts have shown themselves to be consistently bad at adapting to new technological realities.

        2 votes
    2. Kuromantis
      Link Parent
      Very interesting model you created. Admittedly having every news platform be it's own subscription would definitely encourage conglomeration and definitely is a (probably the) flaw in my model....

      Very interesting model you created. Admittedly having every news platform be it's own subscription would definitely encourage conglomeration and definitely is a (probably the) flaw in my model. Also not everyone can afford that even if it's as essential as food and having my Internet access depend on my parents is definitely a worry.

      One of the large flaws I could see in your model is that someone would need to distribute that money and they could easily end up being a Comcast-type entity (or Comcast themselves), meaning the government would need to ensure that won't happen which is really hard to do and easy to lobby against.

      As for the privacy part it could be an option to store nothing on you that isn't required for the functionality of the site like Tildes or you were given a form to fill in some incredibly general details about you like your gender and age (which btw would not really be needed in a monetary sense since you're paying directly and would be taken care of if it meant you would leave the platform and cost them otherwise) for analytical purposes.

      1 vote
  4. cfabbro
    (edited )
    Link
    I honestly think the more important question is not whether or not I would pay for such services, but what could convince me to donate towards them? (because I think having to "pay" for access is...

    I honestly think the more important question is not whether or not I would pay for such services, but what could convince me to donate towards them? (because I think having to "pay" for access is unrealistic)

    I gladly already do donate to Tildes because I enjoy and use link aggregators daily, Tildes is a non-profit, I believe in its philosophy and policies, and I trust in Deimos. However even if there were a Facebook or Twitter competitor that I could similarly believe/trust in, I still wouldn't pay for them because I don't enjoy/use those types of social media sites and don't think they are particularly healthy.

    And when it comes to search engines, were google a non-profit, or a competitor like Wikipedia/Mozilla Search to emerge (that could offer similarly accurate/useful results), then I would gladly donate to them too. But I suspect I am in the minority on that one, and given the extremely high technological and financial barriers to entry for that particular market, I sadly don't see a purely donation driven search engine being possible any time soon. :/

    6 votes
  5. KapteinB
    Link
    I do already. Well, sort of. I use an ad-blocker wherever I go, so there goes the ads and trackers. And I pay to use (at least some of) them. Tildes (which counts as social media, right?) gets a...

    I do already. Well, sort of.

    I use an ad-blocker wherever I go, so there goes the ads and trackers.

    And I pay to use (at least some of) them. Tildes (which counts as social media, right?) gets a monthly Patreon donation from me, and DuckDuckGo (my search engine of choice) gets a bit of money from me every month via Flattr.

    6 votes
  6. Wolf
    Link
    I already commented in reply to someone else about reducing social media platforms to just messaging and group chats. Now that I am thinking about it, I think we should all engage in a collective...

    I already commented in reply to someone else about reducing social media platforms to just messaging and group chats.

    Now that I am thinking about it, I think we should all engage in a collective movement to reduce all social media use. I don't think it's too much of a leap to say 99.9% of social media is fluff. And a lot doesn't need to exist at scale. No society really needs food pictures, memes, and inane updates at scale.

    All interaction being moved to private messages would greatly reduce fluff, because then there's no mechanism to get likes at scale. And it would still allow some fluff to exist purely for entertainment (I am not against eliminating fluff entirely, just at scale. It's important for cultural and personal well-being reasons to just fluff around). As for this how to pay for these apps, I am not really sure. Donations are one idea, but may not be feasible for private messaging apps. Maybe some sort of decentralized app could become government supported - like NPR but for messaging?

    So if you take out the fluff, all that's really left is thoughtful discussion (I'm using thoughtful here to just mean anything that is not fluff). There is a lot to learn from certain people in social media, and we can encourage all of those to people to move to forum sites like Tildes. Forum sites would also be more likely to attract people who would be happy to donate to them - Tildes seems to be doing well so far.

    I understand this is a deviation from the question asked, but it seems important to challenge the premise that we have to deal with social media as it is.

    4 votes
  7. cstby
    Link
    I think that Ello pitched themselves as a privacy-focused alternative to Facebook back in 2015. It failed and they had to pivot.

    I think that Ello pitched themselves as a privacy-focused alternative to Facebook back in 2015. It failed and they had to pivot.

    3 votes
  8. [2]
    Wes
    Link
    Google's played with the idea of letting people pay to prevent ads for some time now. They're working on their third(?) rendition of it now. https://contributor.google.com/ My thinking is that...

    Google's played with the idea of letting people pay to prevent ads for some time now. They're working on their third(?) rendition of it now.

    https://contributor.google.com/

    My thinking is that people will accept many forms of abuse before paying for a service.

    3 votes
    1. bloup
      Link Parent
      Lmao so what's in it for Google? People switching over to Google Contributor is actually a revenue hit since it comes with lost ad money, and according to this, they are using literally all their...

      How it works
      You load your pass with an initial payment to get started. Each time you visit a page without ads, a per-page fee is deducted from your pass to pay the creators of the website, after a small portion is kept by Google to cover the cost of running the service.

      Lmao so what's in it for Google? People switching over to Google Contributor is actually a revenue hit since it comes with lost ad money, and according to this, they are using literally all their cut to just keep the service going. Suspicious!

      5 votes
  9. retiredrugger
    Link
    No I wouldn't pay for it period. I can see the appeal of paying for curated content to exclude certain ideologies and aspects of life from your feed, but the vast majority of my peers won't pay...

    No I wouldn't pay for it period. I can see the appeal of paying for curated content to exclude certain ideologies and aspects of life from your feed, but the vast majority of my peers won't pay for it so what is the point of using it if I can't stay in touch with my friends and family. Now a network like Tildes I think is on the right track of being worth to pay for: a small community dedicated towards conversation and growth.
    That being said I prefer the donation model for two reasons: it represents the demand of the people and can help exclude trolls. I find the problem with prescriptions is I make the decision to purchase one at a certain time in my life, yet I won't always need it at all times. For example I only have my Netflix subscription so I can watch certain shows, and there are some months where I don't touch it. As for excluding trolls, by making donations voluntary it decentralizes power amongst users and can stifle trolls because if we all have to pay to access the site then each voice has an equal right to distribute ideas; even ideas which is fringe and can pose hazardous to discourse.

    2 votes
  10. Wendigo
    Link
    Absolutely not. I refuse to pay for a service just to stay in contact with people I hardly even talk to.

    Absolutely not. I refuse to pay for a service just to stay in contact with people I hardly even talk to.

    1 vote
  11. archevel
    Link
    I would probably not use any social media platform even if payed for personal use. It's simply not providing any benefit that compensated for is many downsides (highlighted by others). As for the...

    I would probably not use any social media platform even if payed for personal use. It's simply not providing any benefit that compensated for is many downsides (highlighted by others).

    As for the more interesting case with search engines a case can be made that such a privacy respecting search provider would do a worse job than i.e. Google. Them knowing things about me lets them provide better search results tailored to my history. Of course this could be technically be done if search result evaluation was done client side, but I think it would probably be slower and not device independent etc etc.

    1 vote
  12. Litmus2336
    Link
    I would pay $10 a month to scrub all my info from social media, and never have to think of it again

    I would pay $10 a month to scrub all my info from social media, and never have to think of it again