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Can’s ad-free social site challenge established networks?

3 min read


Generally speaking, is intended to be something of an ad-free Twitter clone, whereby users post updates and subscribe to others, creating a real-time feed personalized to their liking. Been there, done that, right? Well, not exactly. Neither Twitter nor Facebook are “ad-free.” The contention behind the social network is that increasingly more people are becoming “leery of the increasing efforts of Twitter and Facebook to position ads around their socializing,” Technology Review’s Tom Simonte wrote. This trend leaves the door wide open for an alternative.’s founder, Dalton Caldwell, writes on the signup page, “We believe that advertising-supported social services are so consistently and inextricably at odds with the interests of users and developers that something must be done.” Further, during the introductory video on the signup page, Caldwell goes on to explain that in a paid social network, the user is the customer and all of the focus can be on developing a service that best fulfills users’ requirements. In an ad-supported social network, the advertiser is the customer and the primary focus is on making advertisers happy, and that can be damaging to the user experience.

On that premise, Caldwell and the site have been getting a tremendous amount of press. Couple that with a Kickstarter-like fundraising of more than $800,000 from 12,000 supporters, and we are left seeking the answer to the core question, “Can a paid (ad-free) social network compete?”

Here is what you thought when we asked in this week’s nonscientific poll: Do you believe a paid social network such as could pose a successful challenge to the leading free social networks?

  • No: 78.64%
  • Yes: 21.36%

As for me, if I had to bet, my answer is no. does not pose a significant threat to the leading free social networks.

Sure, I can certainly see a social network of this nature finding a core group of a million users (maybe even 5 million or 10 million) and surviving handsomely on the roughly $50 million in revenue that would equal per year (each user pays $50 a year). But as Facebook nears a billion users, and understanding how ingrained it (and Twitter) has become in people’s daily routines, I just don’t see a mass exodus to a paid, ad-free alternative. Do you?

Alternatively, I could be shortsighted and blinded by what I believe to be the obvious. And Caldwell could simply be so far ahead of the rest of us that by the time we are ready to desert the leading free social networks, he’ll be ready and waiting to accept us (and our credit cards) with open arms. Only time will tell. What do you think?

Is Caldwell onto something? Would you pay for an ad-free social media experience?