Friday, November 18, 2016

A global software users' co-op could #BuyTwitter

Nathan Schneider's September 29 article in The Guardian has sparked an enthusiastic movement to change Twitter from a corporation into a co-op; or if not Twitter itself, then "co-owning a major platform utility" – see campaign page. Campaign supporters are concerned that Twitter's perennial lack of profitability and declining stock price may lead to it being acquired, followed by cost cutting and revenue boosting measures that could undermine its considerable public benefits.

I'd like to share some ideas with the #BuyTwitter movement. I'm a semi-retired financial economist working on democratic reform of corporations, governments and co-ops (

Below is an outline for building a global software users' co-op that can finance its own growth, to the point where it can either buy Twitter or fund a substitute and attract enough users. The strategy has 5 key components:
1. Ownership structure: Retail consumers' co-op.

2. Bundling of users: Use large group purchases to get better deals. All co-op members can use all software licenses purchased.

3. Bundling of software: Each member pays the same low fixed monthly user fee, e.g. $5. Co-op buys rights to use various software that members value: low-priced or freemium software/services like password manager, anti-virus; info like; discounts etc.

4. Buy from market-share challengers, not leaders. Challengers will charge bundled users much less than market-share leaders would.

5. Members vote to allocate pooled funds among competing software channels. This system has been developed and tested for providing coverage of student union elections at the University of British Columbia.
Details are in the paper Global Software Users' Co-op at

1 comment:

Mark Latham said...

Got some feedback elsewhere that I've distilled into this Q&A:

Q1: How can we expect people to pay in order to replace services that they currently don't pay for?

>> A: The software bulk-purchase co-op strategy starts with services that users do currently pay for. It bundles software and bundles users to get better deals. That drives membership growth – see next question & answer below.

Q2: Isn't your proposal (a software bulk-purchase co-op) different from the #BuyTwitter idea of a co-op that purchases an existing technology platform (like Twitter)?

>> A: Yes, it's different, but it may be a more feasible step that enables us to then purchase or build a platform like Twitter. If the bulk purchase software co-op works (i.e. delivers a much better deal than users can get otherwise), then membership should grow very large, into the millions. Once a co-op gets to that level of financial strength ($60 million per year flowing through), it will have more options, including buying an existing platform. Or building one. I think the hardest part of the BuyTwitter movement is how to muster the financial resources needed.