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How Much Will You Pay To Not Be A Product?

Facebook, Twitter and Gmail. We see them as useful services that allow us to run our lives on line. They see us as a product to be sold to advertisers. Neatly bundled up into extremely targeted demographics that identify potential buyers from the wider mass of humanity. It is advertising to a degree of finesse that TV, radio and print media could only ever dream about.

Personally I don't have a problem with that. If giving access to what I post online, the emails I send and receive; and the products I like means that I get to see adverts for things I'm interested in, rather than things I have no interest in but more of the population might, I'm all for it.

The alternative is to pay for added privacy. So how is that working out?

Twitter has had a subscription only competitor for a while now, promising a higher quality of messaging platform for its users, based on the tenet that someone paying for the service brings more value than a free user. In theory that's probably right, but doesn't seem to have taken off in a big way.

Ello is currently making some waves as a potentially less intrusive Facebook competitor. The company has promised that it will remain ad-free forever and recent announced that it had become a public-benefit company. Except that having taken just over $6m in investment capital there has to be a plan to acquire revenue somewhere in the model. That turns out to be in app purchases of stickers and other premium modules. Will user go for it? Well there's certainly been a swell of interest in Ello based on the promise of non-intrusion, however the thing with social networks - and especially those seeking to unseat Facebook - is that they only have value if the majority of the people you're seeking to be social with are on it too.

Ello's hope is that enough people move across to its service and then spend enough on add-ons to make a business that generates a profit. I'm sceptical because of the high inertia of Facebook users which will have to be overcome to get them switching.


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