Every single one of the 1.2 billion people who have signed up to use Facebook will have, at some point, seen the promise on the homepage: “Sign Up, It’s free and always will be.” It’s a nice note to attach to the process, providing an assurance that Facebook will never start charging for basic access. But what about added features that could be part of a “premium” package?
This was the notion recently put forth by Biz Stone, who co-founded Twitter and is the current CEO of Jelly Industries. He suggested that Facebook switch to a freemium business model, offering an ad-free version of the site for $10-per-month. To be perfectly frank, it wasn’t a very original thought, having been pondered by plenty of people in the years since Facebook launched and then grew into the behemoth we know it as today. Still, this was Twitter’s Biz Stone, so people paid more attention this time around.
This led to us asking the MakeUseOf readership a very simple question for last week’s ‘We Ask You‘ column; a question that led to a mixture of a responses we’ll unravel below.
We asked you, Would You Pay To Use Facebook? We had a phenomenal number of responses, with many of you seeking to express your views on the notion of Facebook charging a fee. Lengthy discourses were rare, with most people happy to just state “Yes” or “No” and then go on with their lives. Though to be perfectly honest the word “Yes” didn’t appear very often through the conversation.
Analyzing the data in the most basic way gives us the following message: The vast majority of people would never pay to use Facebook. The ratio in the comments section of last week’s article comes out to around 10-1, that being 10 people who wouldn’t pay for every 1 who would at least consider doing so, as long as features were added to make it worth their while. Those figures suggest Stone’s 10% prediction for sign-ups wouldn’t be far off the mark.
Even those few who did express an interest in paying for a better version of Facebook raised questions over the $10-per-month fee suggested by Stone. A fee closer to $1-per-month or $10 annually would be much nearer the mark. These same people also suggested that Facebook would lose its leeway for being buggy and offering a lack of support to users once a subscription fee came into play.
Comment Of The Week
We had great input from the likes of Rob H, Amit G, Lavender, to name just a few. Comment Of The Week goes to Tom W, who, as well as the respect of myself and hopefully everybody reading this, receives a T-shirt for this comment:
Personally, the part of Facebook that I most care about is the Messaging. If they were to put that as paid-only, and the price was reasonable, I would probably pay for it because it is so useful to me. By “reasonable”, I think about £25 / yr would be the most I would be willing to spend on it. Even then, if most of my friends used another service, I would move on without hesitation.
Facebook would, however, need to make some basic changes to get me to pay for it. I’ve had messages in the past which didn’t appear for a month after they were sent, and I know other people who have similar experiences. I’ve also noticed that some Pages that I ask for notifications from don’t show all of the notifications. At one point, I didn’t get a single Page notification for a month, when I know that all of the Pages that I follow was posting during that time.
Also, I accept that support will be limited if I’m not paying for a product. If they did go to a paid model, I would expect to be able to raise a support ticket and have it answered. That may end up eating into potential profits, as well as vastly increasing their (until now) proportionally small team.
My final point is that they would have to be careful about alienating users. It may be just like any time they create a UI change, where everybody complains for a month then forgets about it, or it may be the final straw that causes a critical mass of users switching to another network, like G+. If the comments section here is anything to judge by, it’ll be the latter.
We liked this comment because it delves deeper into the question than most of the others did. It suggests certain things Facebook would have to do to justify charging for its service, including vastly improved support. It also rightly points out that there is a viable alternative in Google+, just waiting for Facebook to do something stupid. Finally, it also pinpoints one particular feature (messaging) that the commenter appreciates.
We will be asking a new question tomorrow, so please join us then. We Ask You is a weekly column dedicated to finding out the opinions of MakeUseOf readers. We ask you a question and you tell us what you think. The question is open-ended and is usually open to debate. Some questions will be purely opinion-based, while others will see you sharing tips and advice, or advocating tools and apps to the MakeUseOf readership. This column is nothing without your input, all of which is valued.
Image Credit: Ksayer