Nearly every first level reply on this post are in response to the title only (price of free is too high).
But if you read the actual article, that was only the intro/lead-in. The main point of the article is near the end:
> I think something more profound is going on here. We are getting a first taste of how difficult it is for a world in which humans and computers are intrinsically linked. Tristian’s punch line “The problem with Facebook is Facebook” hints at this. Is the problem the leadership of Facebook, the people of Facebook, the users of Facebook, the software of Facebook, the algorithms of Facebook, what people do with the data from Facebook, or something else. Just try to pull those apart and make sense of it.
> ... the big transitions are hard to see when you are in them but easy to see with the benefit of decades of hindsight. This might be that moment of transition, where there is no going back to what was before.
Brad is bringing up a question here. He's not making a claim about anything. Our world is being changed. We don't know how things are going to turn out yet.
I find whenever I consider the alternative to free, I need to examine deep within myself to ask if I’d be willing to pay for the half a dozen services or so that I use every day for free, subsidized currently by an advertising model. Although the idea would be great if companies existed solely to serve people like myself for free, it isn’t realistic. Weighing the cost of free vs the potential loss of privacy at some point in the future, I can’t help but choose free today and kick the proverbial privacy can down the road. Thus, I’m a bit hesitant to go find my pitch fork in this fight for privacy.
"We cannot afford the advertising business model. The price of free is actually too high. It is literally destroying our society, because it incentivizes automated systems that have these inherent flaws."
This is ridiculous. If nobody knew that this was happening, we'd be going on with our lives and nothing would be different. Society is not being destroyed by advertisements being delivered more effectively with user data. Whatever they're doing with it, it's preferable to having to pay to use websites.
How about the very small vocal minority of people who legitimately care about their data being harvested get to pay every website they want to visit, and the rest of us stick with ads?
Actually, the problem is centralization, as Tim pointed out. The early pioneers are often proprietary systems (Windows, IE, Britannica) followed by open source software (Linux, WebKit, Wikipedia) which are better in tons of ways. For one, the long tail is served better (Linux has even been known to run on toasters, Wikipedia has way more articles). For another, people own their own data, identity and brand.
Look, you are writing this on YOUR domain because Wordpress gave you that ability. It powers 20% of all new websites. What we need as a society is a Wordpress for social networking.
Almost everyone making this claim is pretending to speak from a highly priveleged position on behalf of people who aren’t priveleged.
They assume that just because they don’t have a problem paying $5/mo, rest of the world doesn’t either. Their naive solution (“charge me money!”) is all about providing them some privacy while leaving the overwhelming majority of the world either without the free services or without the same privacy the relatively-rich would get.
What ought to happen is that people have more than enough money to buy things they’re likely to use, driving money into the economy for things that are useful.
Instead, wages are terrible for the most part. Income inequality is so off the scale now that you can’t expect people to just pay for all the little things they use. Making all these free things might have the side effect of distracting people from realizing how little they can actually afford.
Since no one is paying for things that are useful, instead money goes to whatever can trick the most ad viewers: sensational news, outrageous things, etc. Anything that can’t be made interesting to most people has trouble making money.
Facebook is a mirror, and a magnifier. "Fixing" FB is, at best, curing a symptom. A general lack of critical thinking is not FB's fault. To promote otherwise is naive and dangerous.
"It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it.” – Upton Sinclair
SV makes too much money from advertising to be able to admit the truths about it.
There is no free lunch: item?id=8585237
Advertising is our C8: item?id=10047706
"There are a few mentions of Zynga (which we were investors in) in the various article chain which caused me to reflect even more on the 2007 - 2010 time period when free-to-consumer (supported by advertising) was suddenly conflated with freemium (or free trials for enterprise software)."
Is that the company that sold "virtual goods" on Facebook.
Pay real money to "send" a cartoon image of a brownie to another Facebook user.
"What is going on here ("free services") is nothing new.
The entire television industry was created on it (broadcast TV was free, supported by advertising, dating back well before I was born.)
Nielsen ratings started for radio in the 1940s and TV in the 1950s. The idea of advertisers targeting users of free services based on data is, well, not new.
Propaganda is not new either. The etymology of the word from Wikipedia is entertaining in its own right."
What if a user simply wants a method of communicating with a friend, family member or colleague
Is that type of communication done via television, radio or propaganda
How about telegraph, telephone or internet service
What is the "service"
Is it entertainment
Is it a means of communication between friends, family and colleagues
If it is entertainment, then is it dissemination
Is advertising also dissemination
Is communication with friends, family and colleagues different from "dissemination* See 
Is there any history of surveillance of communication over telegraph, telephone or (until recently) internet service in order to inform advertising
It's paradoxical b/c paying customers are even better ad targets.
I think advertisements are OK, as long as personal data not aggregated, nor cross referenced/shared. I'm OK with google display few search related ads along the page. But it's insane to see van ads on youtube after I searched for one.
> We are getting a first taste of how difficult it is for a world in which humans and computers are intrinsically linked.
It's not just the humans being linked to computers. They're also linked to other humans.
Yet another false dichotomy.
There is a difference between free as in beer and free as in freedom. Only the latter can offer us privacy and security.
Exactly why RealPeople.io (https://realpeople.io) was created. The business model of using targeted advertising needs to go away. With ads, platforms have the incentive to sell user data and keep users online as much as possible to maximize ad impressions. AI creates and uses phycological profiles of users and not only shows them targets ads but decides who sees what.
We need to support social media that use paid subscriptions with no ads. And we need to support platforms that make it core to their offering that they are not going to share user data, and which have a business model that will align with that.
There is a lot of discussion around this nowadays which is good, but it's time for people to actually take action and be leader and make the change themselves.
Oh please. The price of free -- being shown ads -- is not too high. It's free.
We need good advertising systems. Businesses need to be able to pitch new customers. We need to clean up some issues wrt privacy of course. But well-targeted, relevant ads are a good thing.
Just as you think the introduction is done, the whole article is over. It feels very incomplete and there are some punctuation mistakes and incomplete scentences. Sheep-like upvoting seems like the cause of it reaching the top here.
Pretty good. The one thing in this article I found off was the notion that regulation by "the community" was preferable to regulation by, well, regulation. That is a fundamental mistake. "The community" is a bunch of businesses that follow this system because if they didn't, someone else would, and get market share. This lack of privacy is just capitalism at work. The problem to excesses in capitalism is government regulation. True that, for child labor, pollution, whatevs. "The community" is just mouthwash.
Good point to the article, though the quote about Cambridge Analytica seems a bit misguided - the leak there was as a result of Facebook Platform which is antithetical to the ad targeting model which the rest of the article is about.
FB leaking user data through CA is not part of FB’s business model.
I'm amazed that storage is cheap enough that companies can afford to keep all that data.
I completely agree, and this is a prime example of when government intervention is absolutely necessary:
Consumers cannot protect their long term interests and someone is taking advantage of it.
There are many reasons why they can't. Sometimes there's competition that forces you to only consider your short term interests. Other times a limited resource (ie time, expertise) is required to evaluate a set of choices and the consumer can't afford it on it's own. Or maybe the widespread adoption of one thing creates a monopoly and makes other choices impossible. Whether the end result is nutritional deficiencies from unenriched food or complete and total misinformation, someone needs to intervene, and the only organization that has the obligation and means to do so is the government.
The governments all across the world need to stop this cancer of misinformation and deception from spreading any further. We need to make them stop it.
There is an alternative to this method of providing a free service: Mining cryptocurrency on the users computer. Yet doing that, even floating the possibility of it, is met with great, vociferous anger. "How dare you use my CPU." Even if you are up front and ask people first. And so joining a massive surveillance system is the alternative left. People are their own worst enemy. No one is putting a gun to anyone's head to use facebook, and even when people find out what's going on, 90% keep using facebook.
> The Price of Free is Actually Too High
The price of centralized "free" is indeed too high.
Facebook is not bad because they leak your data, it is bad because it hypnotizes people.
When Obama won his first presidency, American socialists were singing praises to his team’s use of Big Data.... Unlike the silly Republicans, the Dems had the brains to influence the election.
Both then and now, the key assumption is people are stupid enough to be influenced by propaganda. If that is true, the fix is to dismantle democracy.
Anarchocapitalism solves the Facebook problem.