We get Internet services for free, but we see more advertising in return – that has long been the deal between companies and users. But with the new Twitter subscription, a dam seems to have broken. This only has disadvantages for customers.

What we buy where, who we talk to when and about what: Internet giants like Google, Facebook or Tiktok know almost everything about us. In return, they offered us free access to their services. But with the takeover of Twitter by Elon Musk, a dam seems to have broken: More and more companies are putting parts of their services behind the payment barrier. But they don’t stop sniffing.

The latest payment model was announced today by Meta boss and Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg: Meta Verified is “a subscription service that allows you to verify yourself with an ID document and get a blue tick and additional protection against imitations,” he advertises in a Facebook post. In fact, it should be one thing above all: another step towards the end of the free Internet.

Suddenly charged

Because Zuckerberg and his clear role model Elon Musk do one thing above all: they declare offers that were previously free of charge to be premium functions – and put them behind a payment barrier. With Meta Verified you also get direct access to customer contact. With Twitter Blue, which Musk has chosen as the main source of income for the short message service in recent weeks, you are suddenly even paying for the option of being able to secure your account with two-factor authentication via SMS.

The fact that both companies focus on the supposed additional security of their users in the premium subscriptions is particularly exciting because the verification is actually an advantage for the companies as well. Having the identity of the user confirmed not only reduces the risk of false accounts. It also has an advantage for advertisers: the companies receive officially confirmed information such as date of birth and address. And can then use them again for the advertising business.

The main business model of the two companies is still: advertising. And with that, the biggest disadvantage of the free Internet remains: Although the customers are supposed to pay for the services, they are still constantly monitored by the companies. It’s the worst of both worlds for consumers.

end of an era

In the early days of the Internet, they had agreed on a kind of tacit contract with the companies. Services such as e-mail, messenger and the information on most websites were not offered for a fee but financed by advertising. In order to be able to tailor it to the customers as precisely as possible, the website operators collected an ever-increasing amount of data about them.

There is probably one reason above all that this deal is now being broken by the companies: the pressure on the advertising market has increased significantly in the last year. As a result of the looming economic crisis and in Twitter’s case due to the uncertainty during the takeover by Elon Musk, numerous companies have held back their advertising budgets. In order to be able to make up for these losses, the companies need additional income – such as that from the subscriptions.

The disadvantages remain

If the model proves to be a success, it is likely to become uncomfortable for consumers. Twitter is already restricting many new functions such as extremely long tweets or the correction function to premium subscribers. If many people are willing to pay for it, the functions that are reserved for payment customers are only likely to increase further.

At the same time, the premium customers also keep the disadvantages of the free model. Because they cannot do without the advertising money despite the additional income, the companies do not stop collecting data. Although Musk has already thought out loud about reducing the amount of advertising shown to Twitter Blue subscribers, a completely ad-free business model should not be in the pipeline even then.

The worst of both worlds

For customers, this means they are now experiencing the worst of both worlds. They are suddenly supposed to put money on the table for many functions, but as transparent consumers they are still used by the corporations as a data source. And have to endure the advertising shown with it.

So it’s little consolation that it probably wouldn’t have gone any differently from the other direction. In the streaming market, the concept of paying for the services but no longer receiving advertising prevailed from the start. But that, too, is becoming more and more soft. Not only the longtime top dog Netflix is ​​experimenting with a model that is financed with advertising revenue in addition to a slightly lower subscription fee. Since the subscription costs in streaming have been rising reliably recently, it should only be a matter of time before this model also costs as much as the old tariffs. Only with additional advertising.

Sources: Facebook, Twitter, Forbes