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Would Facebook be better if we paid for it?

Would Facebook be better if we paid for it?


Facebook executives Adam Mosseri and Andrew Bosworth say ‘free’ is still the answer

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Photo: Asa Mathat / Vox Media

Is the advertising model that allows our use of Facebook to be free actually the thing that’s wrong with Facebook? If we all just paid a subscription fee each month, would that solve some of the issues and concerns with privacy, data, and so on?

Here is a lightly edited excerpt of Verge senior editor Casey Newton speaking with Facebook executives Adam Mosseri and Andrew Bosworth onstage at Code Conference in Phoenix, Arizona, about whether a subscription model would solve anything for Facebook users.

You can hear this and more in the latest episode of The Vergecast.

Casey Newton: What do you make of the argument that companies that have advertising-based business models in this space are just, sort of, doomed to create products that have bad incentives, and that Facebook would be better if we paid it a monthly subscription fee?

Andrew Bosworth: I think it’s a bit of a red herring. If there’s issues with advertising business models, then we should deal with those directly. But it has to be done with a total accounting. Not just, hey, what are the benefits and time spent, what are the costs in terms of investment that you’re outlaying? And I haven’t really seen that full-throated analysis done.

Adam Mosseri: The other thing is we obviously believe in the value that we create. Some people don’t, that’s reasonable, we can always argue about that. But assuming that we create some value is something that we should be proud of, that we give that value out for free. Right? Because you can use our service whether or not you use a $1,200 phone here in the states, or you live in Ecuador or you live in Japan. It doesn’t matter.

And we actually can afford to provide that service for everyone that wants to use the service, because it’s an advertising business model, which, by the way, is mostly paid for by people in developed markets who can afford to. It’s easy to make the argument that if there was a subscription fee, that the attendance might be better. But then all of a sudden, you’re cutting off access to a large percentage of the world’s population, which I think we too often forget.

Andrew Bosworth: If you’re charging people money, it’s going to be regressive. We are actually filling a service that people value, for free.

The Vergecast /

Weekly tech roundup and interviews with major figures from the tech world.