App.net: The lure of an exclusive social network
App.net boasts a simple concept. A user pays yearly for a social economy free from ads, spam, unwanted features and potential endangerment of third party clients. A product that is for the people and not driven by ad dollars. It gives the users a voice. With many seeing social networking as something casual and free, giving App.net money and attention is probably slim in most cases, especially with its well established competitors already put into place.
So who is App.net for? Ideally, everyone. As of now, the majority of their backers are nerds. The ones that are fed up with companies who are focusing more and more on selling ads and ignoring the user. The fact is that the average social goer has probably never heard of such a project. Although you have probably heard about the service from your go-to tech blog or fellow nerd elitist. I’m very interested in joining App.net and I don’t mind paying for something that I will get daily use from. To be clear, I did not back the campaign. It intrigued me, but I wasn’t sure if I was ready to commit $50 to the cause. I’m very happy that the project was successfully funded and I hope to be there when an official release happens to the public. But I foresee some key caveats going into it.
From what the alpha has shown us, this is a very similar service to Twitter. Or so it seems that way. The people behind App.net put together the alpha to show its backers and skeptics that this was not “vaporware”. What we see now is probably nothing close to the final vision they have for the site. With that being said, its closest competitor, Twitter, is my central hub for information. It is my social and all-things-tech news RSS feed. It’s a vital part of my day and how I digest content. It’s a service that I don’t think I could let go of. The current selection of third party clients are great, and Twitter has not done anything too disruptive (yet) for me to pull the plug on it. App.net has also seemed to attract some of the people who I enjoy following. Names in tech like Gruber, Topolsky and Siracusa. People that if they left Twitter, would definitely be even more reason for me and others to join. Though I don’t see those guys abandoning Twitter altogether. For many, the lure of an exclusive social network and the lust for reaching the masses will keep most attached to both services; including myself. As much as I would rather just be navigating to one unified service, App.net has the potential to disrupt my social experience. A disruption that can turn out to be pleasant surprise or another failed startup. This time at an actual price.
Until we see the direction it takes, App.net will be a more focused conversation taken place between the ones who believe in its cause — which may not be a bad thing. Though a strong user base is key and convincing many to pay for a service that is, on the surface, a similar social network could be problematic. Hoping that it reaches a more mainstream audience could attract more third party developers to integrate both Twitter and App.net which would be really convenient for me and many others. We really have not seen enough to make any snap judgements; But until then — I will be keeping a close eye on App.net and I recommend you do too. It would be nice for some change in the social space.