This social network wants to pay you for sharing your data

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  • VoxWeb has stopped tracking or storing user data from its platform.
  • The company says it has an alternate business model to maximise profits.
  • VoxWeb currently has a million MAUs per month.

Who owns the data you share with social networks?

Is that your data, or do they officially own it?

Irrespective of the answers, the fact is that social networks use your data for their benefit. In other words, they leverage a global talent pool / free labor to generate value creation aka billions of dollars for them.

Should the fact that you use them for free be enough for that transaction, though? Yash Mishra, the CEO of VoxWeb thinks otherwise.

The relatively unknown social network has decided to stop tracking user data on its platform. Mishra says that VoxWeb currently has turned off its trackers and will be adding a button in the app's settings soon, that allows users to choose whether the network tracks data.



Paying people for their data


VoxWeb will not track data by default, but if users do choose to share their data, the company will reward them. Mishra isn't saying how exactly the reward program will work but said that he might choose to pay them if they let VoxWeb track their patterns. Mishra says that if users share their data with the social network, that should earn them a stake in the company’s earnings.

The concept seems similar to DataCoup, which wants to give users $10 for using their personal data. Mishra spoke about social commerce models, using WeChat as an example. The company has made some headway in China, by tying up with H&M, Amazon and more, which use games etc. to direct users from WeChat to their own platforms.

To be clear, VoxWeb will still get analytics data about its platform. However, user behaviour won't be tracked without the compensation. If you don't allow it, the social network will not know your interests and will not be able to serve targeted advertisements to you.

According to Mishra, targeted advertising is just one way of doing business with social media. "It lets you maximise profit, but it's not the only way to be profitable," he said. Mishra's platform is just about two-years-old and he has another 18 months runway before he has to be profitable. He says the company has a new business model in mind that will help them maximise profits.

Easier for VoxWeb than Facebook

Being a startup, VoxWeb doesn't have to worry about profitability just yet. And the company's business model wasn't based on profit maximising through user data in the first place. Hence, it's easier for VoxWeb to flip the button at this point. In fact, Mishra says the feature was in the works for a while, they fast-tracked the process in the wake of Facebook's Cambridge Analytica crisis.


As a platform, VoxWeb is somewhat similar to Instagram. It lets users post photos with a voice note attached to it. "Speaking images" is what differentiates VoxWeb from Instagram, Snapchat and others. And Mishra says his teams have feature additions planned for the next seven quarters, in case others decide to copy his idea.

Additionally, VoxWeb has only about a million monthly active users (MAU) right now, a number that is tiny compared to Facebook, Twitter or Instagram's MAUs. It wasn't serving ads on the platform either, so most of the data tracking would be used for improving the social network itself.

VoxWeb's feed algorithms don't need this data either. Social media news feed depend on first and second degree networks, which means you, your friends and your friend's friends. Algorithms use this information, alongside info on your interests and behaviour to put content on your feed.

Mishra's platform just uses first and second-degree information and flows content on your feed based only on that. The network also tags some of its users who are more active than usual, making them "sticky" users. So, their posts get higher reach and show up on more feeds.


How do you make money then?

As things stand, not tracking user data seems to be a sure-fire way to lose revenues. However, VoxWeb doesn't let third parties tap into its network, it doesn't use ad networks (though there are provisions to do so if needed), and it doesn't try to target anything to you.

Mishra says if he needs to advertise on the platform, he can still serve broadcast ads without targeting them. He believes it will still make the platform profitable, though without maximising that profit. He's unwilling to discuss his grand plan right now, saying it's a "trade secret" at the moment. But he does hope that not tracking user data will get him at least a few more users right now.
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