The era of “everything for free” is over: Welcome to the paid internet | technology

When the internet became popular, the main motivation for many was to download products that cost money for free. The recording and movie industries were rocked with the advent of Napster or torrent files. With the consolidation of the Internet, companies have emerged that offer some services for free, such as social networks or search engines. They could afford not to charge because they had hundreds of millions of users, from whom they extracted very valuable data to feed so-called targeted ads. Funding was pouring in from venture capital funds eager to join the party.

It seems that this model is coming to an end. Twitter threw the first stone to bring it down. Its new owner, tycoon Elon Musk, landed on the podium with an idea between his eyebrows: The little blue bird, which cost him $44,000 million, should start making money. Twitter Blue, the social network’s payment service, had an erratic start, but it’s still going strong. Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg welcomed his rival’s move and decided to do the same with his two main social networks, Facebook and Instagram. “We’re beginning to roll out Meta Verified, a subscription service that allows you to verify your account with an official ID, earn a blue badge, additional protection against phishing, and direct access to customer service,” End said. The week in the company blog. Price: Starting at $11.99 (€11.3) per month. The one on Twitter costs eight dollars (7.5 euros).

No more free products online? Not necessarily, but each time they will be less good and worse. “What is happening now is natural, it must come sooner or later,” says Rodrigo Miranda, Director General of the Higher Internet Development Institute (ISDI). “Technology-driven crowdsourcing business models with very small margins per user depend on having it first, scale, and second, on monetizing it,” he explains. This is the basis of the forms Freemium (shrinkage freeand free and beloved, high quality), where 95% of users enter for free and 5% pay, in order to try later to expand the second group as much as possible. Or platforms that are 100% free, as has been the case with many social networks so far, that suddenly start charging for their services.

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If this leap had not happened before, it was because capital was pouring in. “In recent years, there has been so much money in the market that a lot of them lived on big rounds of funding. In the end you were living off what they gave you to do crazy things. The digital business was growing so big that there was no need to think about it. other formulas,” says Jose Carlos Cortizo, head of marketing at digital strategy consulting firm Product Hackers.

Another key to why social networks like Twitter or Instagram decide to charge for their services is that people are willing to pay. “Users are already accustomed to these platforms to solve their daily problems, so the barrier to spending money on these services is relatively low,” adds Miranda.

“The Internet has matured enough to make it viable, and increasingly popular, for monetizing projects of all kinds,” Cortizo says. Social networking isn’t the only one that has jumped on the bandwagon. ChatGPT, the OpenAI conversational tool that puts the spotlight on generative AI thanks to its free trial, also announced the launch of a subscription to access the improvements. Will we end up seeing paid search engines? This cannot be ruled out, especially if the race to integrate intelligent chatbots is booming, as Microsoft and Google are doing.

modifications in technology

Big tech companies started 2023 the same way they finished 2022: layoffs. The number of employee modifications is in the tens of thousands after the five giants (Alphabet, Amazon, Apple, Meta and Microsoft) doubled their workforce in the past three years. Increased consumption of digital products, fueled in large part by the pandemic, has caused excessive optimism in Silicon Valley. Their benefits diminished, and the response was touching employment.

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Curiously, it was Elon Musk who opened the ban on layoffs, eliminating more than half of Twitter’s workers shortly after taking over the reins of the company. The entrepreneur who was enriched and glorified to make electric cars or space rockets was the one who initiated hiring adjustments among tech companies and later launched a social network subscription model with barely any income. For now, Meta has loaned him out, perhaps seeing there is a way to compensate for the unsuccessful investment in the metaverse and the downfall of his ad business.

Paying to use a social network is nothing new. LinkedIn has been offering this option for quite some time, and it works well. “OnlyFans, too. If you want qualified, segmented content, and get rid of trolls or people you don’t want to see, opt-in forms are the way to go,” says Miranda. Asking for money for a service that has been provided for free for years is, at the very least, daring. It also offers less security for those who don’t pay, as is the case with Twitter. “You should try to encourage subscriptions because what you get in return is better, not because what you already had is getting worse,” says the ISDI director.

If other social networks decide to follow those that charge their users, and if other services are not yet free, an unprecedented scenario opens up. The entire Internet will compete for prose fees, being part of the monthly expenses of users who actually pay to read the newspaper, listen to music or watch soap operas. Would they also do this to display their vacation photos?

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