“Thank you for using Web 2.0. Your free-trial period has ended!”

This is absolutely spot on from Charlie Warzel about the shift underway in the social industry and the vibe it is generating for users. I’m convinced we are seeing the biggest shift which has ever taken place in social media (the next two would probably be social video and the transition to mobile) with enormous implications for the sector:

On Sunday, Facebook and Instagram announced Meta Verified, a subscription service that will give benefits to people who pay a fee and confirm their identity. The perks include algorithmic boosts to posts, human customer service, and added protection from impersonation. Meta’s paid verification follows Elon Musk’s controversial decision last year to include its famous blue check marks in its Twitter Blue subscription package. Not long after Twitter’s decision, Tumblr launched its own paid verification plan, which was initially meant as a joke mocking Musk’s ham-fisted business strategy but ended up increasing the company’s revenue. Netflix is also looking to squeeze extra money out of its viewers with its plan to end password sharing across different households.

Taken together, the vibe feels a bit like trying to use a familiar service and getting hit with a pop-up that says, “Thank you for using Web 2.0. Your free-trial period has ended!”


The underlying promise of web 2.0 was mass participation. Users were sold the idea that everyone could be seen and heard. After years of stealthily pushing down the possibility of organic vs paid reach, platforms are now being openly transactional: pay them a subscription to have a chance of being heard, otherwise languish in obscurity. The problem is that the promise of virality, celebrity and influence (three phases of this process) has had a devastating impact on public culture. Will the outright monetisation of that promise have an ever more devastating impact? I suspect that it might.

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