Over the next few years, as consumers realize how they are being tracked, measured and sold online, people will begin to pay for web applications that protect their privacy. Specifically, those who can afford to pay to protect their privacy will do so.
The Most Valuable Customers Will Migrate to Paid AppsFree web applications will gradually lose their most valuable users to paid, secure applications as consumers with the greatest purchasing power take their data to places where they can feel more comfortable interacting with candor and privacy.
User Experience Will Grow in ValueUser Experience Design and Information Architecture will be important enablers of the migration. Because ad-supported sites must compromise their information architecture and user experience in order to drive interactions with their ads, there is a tremendous opportunity for elegant and well-designed web applications that offer a significantly higher experience, while also protecting consumers’ data and privacy.
One ExampleTo see this trend beginning today, look at CloudFire, which charges a reasonable price to give consumers secure, ad-free photo sharing, with a significantly more usable and elegant user experience than any existing free photo sharing application, and a commitment to their customers that their photos will not be lost.
When I think of the major applications of social media in my life, such as photo sharing and micro-blogging through social networks, I would gladly pay $50 – $60 per year to gain absolute control over my data in each instance. I am not alone.
True, there are millions of people who do not share my preference. But those people are not the target segment for the kinds of products that I am describing. Ad-supported products will not disappear, they just won’t have their current level of access to the most valuable consumers on the Internet.