Would you pay to use Facebook?

November 1, 2008

Facebook is hugely popular, with 160 million unique visitors using the site on a monthly basis. Bit how many of those people would pay, if asked, for the privilege of using the social networking site? And if so, how much would it be worth?

Last month saw Mark Zuckerberg, CEO and founder of Facebook declare that the primary goal of the site was growth, not revenue. Furthermore, it will be years until the site needs to really start putting a revenue model together.

But, the economy is on the slide, and advertising rates are going down as a result, so maybe Facebook needs to start thinking about monetization plans outside of just littering the site with adverts? In which case, could a subscription model be the way forward?

Sam Diaz asks the question on ZDNet, following on from previous discussions of the idea over at Techmeme. Diaz concludes that he would be willing to pay for Facebook, even if it were a couple of bucks a month purely for general access to the site. But he’d be happier to pay if Facebook were to introduce new features such as an ad-free interface, customization options, and domain mapping.

These are all fair ideas, and would make Facebook even better than it currently is. But I have to disagree on the whole idea of paying to use the site in the first place. I regard myself as a light user, checking the site every day or two. But I also have periods of heavy use, and weeks when I don’t visit the site at all. So for me, it would be easy to walk away.

The big problem Facebook would have if trying to force a subscription model on its millions of users would be the amount of competition. Facebook may be regarded as the best social networking site by many people, but the range and number of sites offering similar services means the majority of users would just walk away and start an account somewhere else.

A subscription based model is of course pure speculation at this point in time, but I wouldn’t rule it out happening in the future, especially if the number-crunching detailed at TechCrunch proves accurate. If it ever did happen though, Facebook would lose me, and everyone else I’ve asked whether they’d pay to use the site or not.

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