Deano’s answer to: “Couldn’t Facebook and Twitter charge users a very small annual fee to immediately generate massive cash flow?”

The question assumes that it’s an either-or situation. I think Gmail provides a great counterexample for how a paid Facebook might work.

I see it as entirely possible that, once Facebook growth starts to level off, they could “take a few more users off the table” by offering a paid, ad-free alternative for anyone still on the fence. In fact, they’d still be collecting massive amounts of information that could be exploited by advertisers off-site, simply suppressing display of ads to end users WHILE THEY ARE ON FACEBOOK.

Another option would be to simply charge users to opt out of sharing certain data – that is, to basically say that participation in the various information sharing aspects of Facebook is the core business and utility, and required for free use.

The real question is, what would be a fair price to opt-out in that case… Perhaps they could even use variable pricing, and allow users to effectively “buy out” their own display inventory based on how much said user is worth, and which features they wish to turn off? How cool would it be to see the “real cost” of blocking Farmville notifications from my stream? 😉

Either option (or one of several others one could imagine) would pose an opportunity to potential competitors to offer a truly “free” solution; but given that (a) most existing users would simply continue to use the ad-supported version, and (b) migrating from Facebook to another option would be time consuming and difficult, it is unlikely that even such a “mistake” would have a big impact on Facebook market share…

In fact, by offering both “free” and “paid” versions, it’s also possible that Facebook might be able to make inroads with individuals and organizations who currently ban the use of Facebook over privacy and security concerns.

Would I pay $50/year for an ad-less Facebook, as I currently do for Google Apps Premium? If it meant that advertisers no longer had automated access to my home address, then YES, I would happily do so

This answer originally appeared on Quora: Couldn’t Facebook and Twitter charge users a very small annual fee to immediately generate massive cash flow?

Deano’s answer to: “How do you maintain user identity integrity on new websites?”

  • Do not mistake “real names” and “integrity of identity” as being the same thing.

Many users, even some of my friends, use fake account names on facebook – all their actual friends know the alias, and any undesirables would never figure it out…

Facebook asks for various types of “real world” verification (working email, phone number) in order to set up an account… The bar is raised just high enough to make it a little annoying for spammers to bulk-create fake accounts (since they then also need to “friend” people to spam in the traditional sense). The point is, these secondary “verifications” are what end up making Facebook users real, not the expressed identification

Most users don’t want to entrust their real identity with an unknown quantity like a new website… And while they may acquiesce to various verification steps, they are also often concerned with having unwanted identity data shared with people they don’t know. The extent of that concern varies widely (social networks, community blogs/forums, and online dating all have very different perceived “danger” levels among users, for example).

So, in order to maintain “identity integrity”, a website must do the following:

  • Make the users feel safe enough to “be truly themselves” – even when that ‘self’ is not the persona they portray at home or in the workplace (some carry just as many masks into the real world, or even more than they do online);
  • Make users feel that the other members are all “real” – within the context of the site, at least. It doesn’t have to be perfect (every sex club has a few corner-wankers, after all), but it has to be good enough to “maintain the vibe” and not creep people out;
  • Make everyone feel that the people running the site, are “real” – Everyone knows Mark Zuckerberg does not respect their privacy one iota, and that use of Facebook requires, essentially, ceding privacy in exchange for “integrity”. For a large number of folks, that is a deal worth making – and in part, because they “get” that Zuck’s complete lack of integrity is what enforces everyone else’s use of it. Genius!

Pretty much following the three above rules should do you well in maintaining a community that “feels real”, wherein users have something to lose should they stray from the rules. What form that takes (up to and including full anonymity of identity, by the way) is up to the site Designers, Maintainers, and Users.

This answer was originally published on Quora: How do you maintain user identity integrity on new websites?