Web services are not free. People’s time costs money and then there are the Amazon web services bills.
Applications like Facebook and WhatsApp have taught people that social media applications are free. But these applications have a cost and there are bills to pay. Without a revenue model to pay these bills the company with the application will go out of business.
There’s a saying that applies here: “If you’re not paying for a product, then you’re the product”.
When we were designing nderground we looked at other social networks that were built around privacy. One of these, Glassboard, was able to build up a user base, but didn’t have a revenue model and went out of business.
Looking at the history of social networks we came to the conclusion that people are not willing to pay for access to a social network. People are not even willing to pay what they pay in a week for coffee.
Right now nderground is free and is not running ads. But we have tried to make it clear in our terms of service and privacy statement that we may run ads in the future once we build up a sufficient user base.
We would like to make these ads as interesting to the user base as possible, so we would like to target ads to interests (which is harder to do than you might think). However, nderground supports anonymity, so we are not going to do what Facebook does and target using outside databases.