Call it the anti-Facebook. No ads, no algorithms and no Aunt Mildreds or Uncle Franks frothing over a story Snopes debunked four years ago. That’s the promise of the new pay-to-say social media platform quietly launched earlier this month by Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales. The uncatchily-named WT:Social is counting on “up to 500,000” subscribers who are willing to pay roughly the cost of Netflix or Spotify (US$13 per month) to support quality content that isn’t generated from propaganda farms or created solely for virality. Like Wikipedia (which isn’t affiliated with WT:Social), the platform itself will be donor-supported. Freeloaders will need to join the (currently 150,000-strong) waitlist while paying members can start using the site right away.
“The business model of social media companies, of pure advertising, is problematic,” Wales told the Financial Times. “It turns out the huge winner is low-quality content.”
Wales believes that ad-free, user-moderated communities built around news with a focus on facts rather than “engagement” will be financially sustainable, if not Zuckerbergianly profitable. On WT, users will be able to share articles, choose the types of content that appears in their feed, edit clickbaity headlines, flag problem posts, and join (or create) subreddity-reminiscent niche communities around subjects as beloved as bourbon and as baffling as Bergson’s Holographic Theory. Can’t wait to hear Aunt Mildred’s opinions on that one.