Email to the Company About Charging Users

I wrote the following email to the entire company after struggling with the decision to charge users instead of ads or something else.

When I heard we were thinking about charging people, I hated it. We started this company to build something useful for millions of people. Not to charge people and limit the number of people we could reach. I get why it’s necessary, without a sustainable business we can’t keep building. But why charge our users? Can’t we come up with something clever around ads or retailer promotion? The last people I want to burden are our users.

That’s bothered me for months.

Yesterday I watched App.net’s video. They’re charging their users too, in fact that’s their main selling point:

"It aligns our incentives, economically, with users and developers. Let me explain that. If we're selling a service, our customers are our users and our job is to make our users happy. If we had a free ad-supported service and our job is to make advertisers happy."

I’ve always wanted our users to be our focus. Charging them does that. Charging them makes them our customers. If our customers were advertisers we might build a ad-platform but how does that benefit our users? It doesn’t. If our users are our customers, we’ll only build things that benefit them. I like that.

Will it work? I don’t know. I do know that if users are our customers and we’re focused on them, we’ll be doing what we set out to do when we started, build something useful for millions of people. Not for advertisers or retailers.