Rolf Skyberg posted his prediction that users will eventually pay to network, as free social networks tend to provide “value”a user is not really looking for.
I have been thinking a lot about that since I started writing on my blog. I agree with Rolf, simply because I feel that “free”never comes for free. There is always a catch. In this case, the service provider who has to monetize the network the users build up (that’s really weird isn’t it?). And this catch has way too many unwanted effects for me that need fixing. For example, I can’t even export my friends and re-use them in other networks. Or, have you ever tried burning a CD with the best content you have ever received in your network of choice?
But the problem always lies in the transition of going from “free”services to payed services. How do we do that. What transition will work? That is the real question. Because of the fact that a user cannot export his self build Facebook network of friends, he will be reluctant to start using a (probably much better) payed service. He would have to rebuild the network, and how would he be sure that his friends would join him on this payed service?
I currently see 3 ways of creating this transition:
- The transition starts from mobile. Why? because there, we are already used to paying for services. Ad supported mobile phones will never work, but I think that social networks that originate from the mobile, instead of the web will emerge
- The transition starts from e-mail (Rolf also suggests we might bundle a payed networking service with e-mail). I like it. Why, well for starters E-mail isn’t free! You pay for it, as soon as you subscribe to an Internet access service. But more important, e-mail does provide the import and export of contacts and provides support for the basic need of interaction. All we need now is to upgrade the concept of e-mail to a sharing/interacting/social networking tool instead of a spamming or “I still have 1000 unread messages left” tool.
- No transition, but user controlled ads. Well, this is a weird suggestion, but what if we could have free services, no walled gardens, ads to monetize it (well, someone has to pay for the services and bandwidth right), BUT the user decides what ads show, when and how (heck, there are probably users enough that would be willing to create ads for the advertiser if you ask them nicely). Most people think were too lazy to do this, but if I could have very simple ways of tuning ads to my preferences at any point (turn them off for a while would also be an option) I might just do that. Saves me a lot of time looking for stuff when I really need it.
Interesting discussion. I’m going to put my money on 1 and 2 for now, but who knows where this will go. I am curious if there are already payed services that are successful? Anyone have an idea how to make the transition without asking the user to put too much effort into converting his friends into a payed service?