Meta may launch ad-free versions of Facebook and Instagram in the EU
A New York Times report suggests that Meta is considering a fundamental business model shift. The company may launch special versions of Facebook and Instagram in countries of the European Unition that are not financed through advertising but subscriptions.
Meta is one of the largest advertising companies in the world and it has clashed with data protection agencies several times. The launch of an ad-free membership option could could help Meta allay privacy concerns raised by EU regulators.
The New York Times sources are three anonymous individuals familiar with the plans. The launch of a subscription-based membership model in EU member states would not necessarily have an impact on the free versions of Facebook or Instagram. Considering that only a minority of users is willing to pay for an ad-free experience, Meta would have to keep the regular versions for the rest of users.
Users from the European Union could then decide to continue using Facebook and Instagram for free, or purchase a subscription. The free version would show advertisement to users, while the paid version would not. It remains to be seen how user tracking would be handled by the ad-free versions; it is likely reduced, but it is unclear, if it is disabled entirely for paying users.
It is also unclear if other Meta products, such as Threads, which is not available in the EU yet due to regulatory concerns, or WhatsApp, would also be included in the ad-free plans.
While the New York Times article does not provide any specifics regarding the implementation or on the price of a subscription, the new ad-free version will likely be very similar to that of other services, e.g., YouTube Premium, Spotify Premium or the non-ads versions of media streaming services.
Success and failure of a paid version of Facebook and Instagram depends largely on the price of a subscription. Meta could consider adding more benefits to the paid plans, similarly to what X is offering to users who subscribe to X's Premium plan.
Whether Meta is really interested in pushing an ad-free version of its services in the EU, or only introducing the option to appease regulators, remains to be seen.
Users who are fed up with ads on Instagram or Facebook are the most likely candidates for the plans. Privacy conscious users may not use Meta services much, or at all, and the introduction of an ad-free option could persuade some to give the services a try.
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