Should Facebook Pay Its Users? Thoughts on a User-owned Social Network

(Nick’s notes: This post is exploring an alternative to traditional employment)

That is a question I do not know the answer to, but the idea has a lot of appeal. I have heard recent stories of people becoming frustrated with Facebook, for apparently saving status updates that are not actually submitted, and making the original versions of edited comments available for anyone to look at. Then of course there is the concern that Facebook is just another means by which the government can spy on us or a means through which the stupid things we have said and done in the past can come back to haunt us. These are all reason enough for me to want to leave the network, but I move around quite a bit, and Facebook does allow me to keep in touch people I might otherwise not be able to.

That said, an idea I would like to explore is this: Why not create an alternative social network, that can do all the things Facebook can do, but with the advertising profits returned to the users themselves? Individuals who frequently post popular content would get paid a proportionally bigger share than people whose post get less visit. It may be that in a network as big as Facebook, most people would not get very much money as the ad revenue would be thinly dispersed, but for certain individuals who share high quality content, it could be a solid source of income. For some people, this could be a means of becoming less dependent on conventional employment and a way of making money doing what you normally do anyway. While this is largely a theoretical idea, any move towards giving people an income source, free of bosses, uniforms, bureaucracy and lousy hours is one I welcome. The idea is not as farfetched as it sounds, as know that some people have been able to supplement their income if not fully support themselves from advertising revenue generated by blogs and successful Youtube channels. Popular Facebook, post undoubtedly also generate comparable of revenue for the company, so why not let some of that money go back to the people generating it?  That way the users can get paid for a money making activity that they current choose to do for free.

The organization could be governed by a handful of user elected representatives that are always subject to instant recall, insuring the organization would stay essentially user controlled. One way it could work is that all users can list one and only one fellow user (or themselves or no one) as their representative. Representatives who are listed by 10% or more (or perhaps some other percentage) of the user base get to be on the governing body, whose main function is to oversee the development staff, negotiate with advertisers ect.  Representatives are recalled anytime, they are no longer listed by the determined percentage required to be a representative.  It also occurred to me that representation can be selected anonymously. The network would be forbidden from sharing it’s information with any government.

My understanding is that previous attempts to create such a system, have failed, largely because Facebook and a few other competitors have locked  themselves into the market. Few are likely to join a network that has few others on it. That said, as growing numbers of people are becoming more frustrated with Facebook, there may be a time in the near future an alternative could take off. It also occurred to me that, the numerous people on Facebook or other established networks, could organize to make the networks closer to this ideal.  I can picture Facebook users organizing strikes, to demand things like, a share of the advertising revenue or the correction of some grievance.  If a sizable enough part of the customer base refused to log on, for days, weeks or until some grievance was addressed, it could potentially influence the company’s decision making process. I figure most users are not willing to leave Facebook entirely, but many would be willing to participate in demonstrations where a large number of users would refuse to go on, on certain specific days. It seems to me that if angry letters can influence the hiring decisions of TV networks, than there is no reason why organized mass log-outs would not be able to influence the decisions of social networks. These are just thoughts at this point, but I figure its an idea worth exploration.

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  1. Pingback: Rachel Yoder » 5 Facts about Facebook’s News Feed Problem

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