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Just curious, but do you think a paid service that served photos and no ads, and allowed the customization of feed order, would be able to compete? I've presumed the reason folks continue to flock to Instagram is that not only is such a service not available, but the problem that they would likely have to pay before seeing if there's anything to see there.

I’m not sure it would be able to compete now - displacing an established player is very hard; App.net tried that a few years ago with Twitter; but ultimately not many people cared (despite the free tier) and the few paying users weren’t enough to make it sustainable. The issue wasn’t really with it being paid, it was simply about network effects - everyone was on Twitter.

If a new free social network becomes mainstream, they could however introduce a paid tier as part of their monetisation strategy alongside ads. This would give users a choice, be exploited by ads and see cancer every day, or pay your way out of it.

If anything, Instagram would’ve been the perfect opportunity to offer such a paid plan, as a lot of professional photographers use it, and they wouldn’t mind paying for an improved experience and thus more productivity.

> but ultimately not many people cared (despite the free tier) and the few paying users weren’t enough to make it

My guess?

Twitter only exist because of network effects.

Everything else somebody else does better.

Oh, and most orinary people are more interested in one-to-one group chat than in many-to-many.

WhatsApp managed to break through even though they were announcing loud and clear that they were going to cost money. Why? I guess because they promised to provide something valuable: a versatile, reliable, trustworthy messaging solution for friends, families and small groups.

Telegram has managed to break through as well. AFAIK Signal is climbing steadily and Matrix is getting more and more mindshare.

Based my experience a lot people here will probably disagree with what I say about twitter. If you are one of those, feel free to tell me what technical detail twitter does better than everyone else.

Yep totally agree, Twitter only exists because of network effects.

> even though they were announcing loud and clear that they were going to cost money

On the other hand, WhatsApp announced this back when scammers aka mobile networks still charged a ton for texts, and WhatsApp was the only cheaper option.

Now the masses are trained to expect everything for free, so it's really hard to get them to pay for something. It's not even about social networks, even getting someone to buy a stand-alone app is hard enough - outside of the tech circle, most people consider it weird that I pay for apps. Even getting them to pay for the likes of Spotify is hard (most non-tech people I know are still on the free tier and get their music fix on Youtube, with ads and everything).

This is why I don't think a paid service is unlikely to succeed and become mainstream. A social network needs to be free, at least until it reaches a critical mass, at which point it can switch to a "freemium" model with a free (possibly ad-supported) base tier and a premium, ad-free tier.

I think I can kind of understand those users: I like paying for apps but a number of them will still try to abuse me by adding all kinds of monthly payments etc, start adding ads, remove the features I bought it for etc.

I also acknowledge there is a problem where authors should be able to secure an income to do security updates etc and I've no "one-size-fits-all solution" to it but I think between

- feature keys for new features

- optional extra services (support, server side ocr etc)

- reasonable fees for special cases (for example I loved to pay USD 1 a year for a user friendly, secure messaging service that promised not to spam me, datamine my data or leak it voluntarily.)

- etc

there should be room for better alternatives than many of the ones we have today.

> reasonable fees for special cases

Who'd like to pay for a stackoverflow clone without the most annoying stackoverflow rules?

I mean, - a site not focused on curating knowledge but on asking and answering questions?

That answer could of course be: have you looked at this <embed or link>?

But nobody should be punished for asking again and certainly nobody should be punished for answering a duplicate.

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