It’s been said that people value your product as you price it. But the reaction to Twitter’s decision to insert popular tweets into feeds shows that user entitlement works the opposite way: the less you pay, the more you’ll kick off when someone changes things.
Vlad Savov, a hack from consumer tech site the Verge, managed to capture the possessiveness in his blog on the subject: "Just scan through some of the other unhappy reactions about Twitter’s latest changes: they speak of ‘my’ timeline and ‘my’ feed, reiterating that sense of attachment between the user and the service."
As technology evolves it is common to assert a continuity between old and new, but events like this remind us why social media is not a straight replacement for the postal service. While you had to pay for the materials to create a letter, there was never any question of who the missive belonged to – postmen were couriers, not content aggregators.
Now nobody is sure who owns what, and website owners are not entirely sure how they are supposed to make money out of this monster. By not charging you for their ostensible service Facebook, Twitter and the rest are having to make up the cash by irritating you with things you’d rather not see.
This is not to say people are eager to start paying for services. As CBR reported earlier this week, 98% of users would not pay a mere £140 a year to make the adverts stop. But given that two thirds of users were skipping video ads as quickly as possible, it’s fair to say that they were none too appreciative of paying with their time either.
The strange fact is that while consumers believe they own the Internet, all the stuff we like is controlled by big companies. While the internet feels like it is free, somebody is always paying, whether it’s the ad companies, the service providers, or the customer with their time.
For the most part this does not matter, and we all shuffle along happily. But the hostility to the changes on Twitter, the Facebook experiment, or even John McAfee’s comments regarding privacy show some of the restrictions placed on companies by this attitude.
Silicon Valley tells the customer he is king. Unfortunately, the customer agrees.