The internet is seeing many of its largest platforms introduce paid subscriptions or raise the price of their existing plans. Will this trend eventually create a two-tiered community of ‘haves’ and ‘have nots’ on the internet?

A new column from Axios asks whether increasing subscription costs mean that only high-spending users will be able to enjoy a high quality of life online.

This issue is being raised after Meta announced a trial of paid verification features for Instagram and Facebook. Additionally, dating apps Hinge and Tinder are trialling $50, $60, and even $500 monthly subscription plans.

Not only are costly subscriptions promising fun advanced features for users, but also greater options for keeping safe online. Twitter announced recently that only paying Twitter Blue users would be able to undergo two factor authentication via text message.

Axios highlights that as internet companies look to grow their profits, they are moving beyond advertising revenues and now looking to draw funds from users too. This comes at a time where energy prices are rising and companies look to offset the growing costs of running their business.

But will these changes create a two-tiered internet? If valuable features are kept behind a paywall, users without vast disposable incomes will have to suffer with a lower standard of living online.

The column concludes saying “a greater number of pay-to-play options risks separating the internet into haves and have-nots, compounding the digital divide while exacerbating income and mental health inequality.”