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

That is a question I do not know the answer to, but the idea has a lot of appeal. I have heard a lot of stories about people becoming frustrated with Facebook, for  apparently saving status updates that are not 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 a means of keeping in touch people I might otherwise not be able to.

That said, the idea I would like to explore is this: create a social network, that can do all the things Facebook can do but the advertise profits are 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 add revenue would be thinly dispersed, but for certain who share high quality content in could be a solid source of income. For some people, this could be a means of becoming less dependent on conventional employment.

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. The way it would 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 decided 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.  It seems to me that this is a large part of what slowed down Google Plus. 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 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 would love to see others explore them.

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