Ayush Garg Zuckerberg wants to add a subscription layer to Facebook. Really April 20, 2018

Dynamics have changed. Completely.

Earlier we used to ask, who will buy a subscription? Now, we use to ask, why will you not buy a subscription? We have come this far.

Subscribe to this x, y…..z, xx, yy….zz, xxx, yyy…zzz, xyz, yxz….zxy, and the list goes on.

Wall Street Journal. The New York Times. Netflix. Amazon Prime. Hotstar. To name a few amongst many others. You see there’s some pattern, paying for good journalism, paying for quality documentaries, paying for quick deliveries, paying to watch sports et al. But just when Facebook drops in, it gets tough to figure the purpose.

And when there’s a purpose but has no meaning, the purpose comes into trouble.

Cambridge Analytica scandal has opened everyone’s eyes including Facebook’s. There’s no denying that it has been happening for years, this way or that way. It isn’t a new thing, no matter how harder Zuckerberg tries to clarify and defend and to be sorry about it. And regret.

Back in the year 2011, a dating site was launched with over 200,000 profiles on the very first day. You know how, they imported those profiles from Facebook. The site was Lovely-Faces.com, their intentions seemed unlikely lovely though.

And there are more similar cases. Like, in the year 2010, Facebook sued a Data Geek, Peter Warden who scraped 210 million profiles. It was alleged as violation of terms and service, and Warden had no money to fight the lawsuit, so he deleted the data, the report suggested.

Facebook is loved by brands and of course, people. There’s so much to do on Facebook. So much that many things go unchecked. Still, you keep learning about new features while Facebook keeps on adding them. Data is attached to it.

So well, when Zuckerberg appeared before Congress for Cambridge Analytica scandal, during questioning California Senator Kamala Harris asked, why didn’t Facebook choose to notify users who had been affected? The question was in relation to when Facebook first learned that Cambridge Analytica had violated its terms of service to access user information. Zuckerberg had this to say, he responded, “I wasn’t in a lot of meetings on the subject.”

It took me time to register such a response when it comes from a CEO of the company – interestingly, the man who happens to be the founder as well. That appeared as a red flag to me. Such is the irony that it straight puts back the question, who and what is the priority?

The questions kept on striking the mind. Worries were only bound to increase. Not just in relation to the CEO but users as well. If users aren’t a priority, then who else is? It is what users make what Facebook today is and has always ever been.

Zuckerberg seemed to have a solution as well. During the testimony before the Senate, he said, “there will always be a version of Facebook that is free.” Which, in other words, means there will also be a Facebook version that is not free. So basically, you’re going to pay for it. Pay for Facebook.

Pay for using Facebook to Facebook for having an ad-free experience. So users might have the liberty to opt out from targeted adverts. And this goes without saying, if you’re not buying a product, you’re the product.

If it does sound a solution to Zuckerberg, it simply is not. People who won’t pay to use Facebook and people who opt to pay to use Facebook, their data remains. Zuckerberg has clarified many a time that Facebook doesn’t sell data, it’s not their business, I very well take it, but people who won’t pay but use Facebook every day, once in a week or once in a year, how is Facebook going to deal with them?

At the Digiday Publishing Summit in Vail, Colorado, a person was quoted saying, “You can’t just pivot into a subscription. It’s a long, slow road to grow into a product and experience that’s good enough for readers to pay you anything.”

There it brings me to the point. That is you can’t just pivot into a subscription only because everyone else is doing. And in case, you reiterate that’s the only solution left. There has to be some purpose and even if there is a purpose, you can never invade someone’s privacy at any cost. Users pay for it or don’t pay for it, it doesn’t matter.

Adding a subscription layer might just add a new revenue stream for Facebook, but if users aren’t a priority, all the defence, justifications and responsibilities seem to go in vain, leave aside the revenue stream talk.

Zuckerberg doesn’t get brownie points for if he means to put, we’re bringing subscription model to save you from the chaos. The problem isn’t from the users’ end, it’s from the platform’s end. And it can’t be failed to spot.

It isn’t only about paying some $11 a month, but it’s also about users using a free version of Facebook too have a life. Their privacy is to their consent. You bear no right to check on to that.

Facebook isn’t my priority, my privacy is. Sometimes you’re bound to take it this way that anonymised data is a massive lie sold to you.

Zuck needs to think about his priorities. Whether I pay for the subscription or not, whether I prefer freemium or premium model, don’t free-version-users have a life and their right to privacy? The talk has to be around privacy, rest everything else later including subscription layer.

As he put it, “there will always be a version of Facebook that is free.” Before Facebook settles down with subscription layer, Zuckerberg perhaps needs some serious and sane advisory.

I read. I write. A threat to humor, if one liners could kill. Twitter: @profylayush

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