By now, the adage that “if you’re not the customer, you’re the product being sold” is pretty old hat. But it remains the case that everyone has to eat and pay for a roof over their heads, and that businesses need to make a profit. Software isn’t made by magical elves who can live without being paid. Nothing is actually free. If a service isn’t making enough money up-front, they have to make up the difference through other means, whether it’s by placing invasive advertising, selling user datasets, making “data partnerships”, or all of the above.
Arguably revenue won’t be enough to stop them in itself: where profit can be made, it will be. We need strong legislative consumer protections to prevent this kind of user betrayal. But once the industry has cleaned up its act, sustainable revenue practices will need to be in place to support the services we use every day.
A micro.blog subscription is $60/year. For A fee, could Facebook or Twitter build a viable business around their current service if they removed all reliance on data mining and advertising? In other-words, if these companies addressed all the privacy issues that most people complain about, if they moderated (a.k.a. censored) all the content, if they removed the manipulative algorithms, would the general public be willing to pay for the service? Or does the general public want something for nothing?