I share your concern that the war for our attention is unsustainable and causes unhealthy systemic…
Ev Williams
26624

Ev Thank you so much for taking the time to read and respond. I really appreciate your thoughts in this conversation.

I do not believe that Instagram is insidious. I believe Instagram is building a profitable business. Which means walking a fine line between maximizing revenue and delivering experience. As you rightly pointed out. When those things align, glorious. And, as I said, Instagram has had one of the best experiences out there. But I also know, from experience, how the interplay between revenue and experience can change when pressure is applied from The Street on a quarterly basis. Decisions are not always as cut and dry as one would like them to be in an ideal, human-centered world. I can’t even imagine the kind of pressure Facebook (Instagram) is under given the original trajectory of their IPO and the continued scrutiny that their earnings receive.

Additionally, looking at the landscape, the ad-based model seems to take a relatively predictable path of implementation. One part of which includes algorithms. In walking that line between revenue and experience, perception means a lot, and to many, fairly or not, algorithms are perceived as mathematical black boxes that take control away from the user, “unlevel” the playing field, and are as much there to decide what you don’t see as they are to decide what you do. Which, without going down too much of a rabbit hole, has the potential to create self perpetuating filter bubbles of information that diminish the diversity of thought and perspectives you encounter. The impacts/benefits of which are arguable but not inconsequential.

I also understand the growth potential and resulting exponential network value inherent in making a service like Instagram free. A concern for me is the lack of innovation on revenue models. It seems there is no market pressure out there to drive anything new. It feels like we are at a standstill where pay models are often non-starters and ads are the go to. What’s in between? What can change the paradigm? Or are we fine with where we are? I’d be interested to know your take on that.


PS: Tristan Harris piece was really excellent, thanks for the recommendation. If you haven’t, you should read David Rose’s Enchanted Objects. Lots of great insights about why screens don’t represent our best possible technology future.