Why I Paid for Access to app.net
I actually did something I didn’t think I’d do at this point: sign up for an account on app.net. You’ll find me there as, unsurprisingly, phoneboy.
For those of you who have lived under a rock, app.net is a social networking service started by Dalton Caldwell as a response to all the various social networking sites to date, which are mostly funded by advertising dollars to various degrees. app.net is funded directly by developers, who pay a yearly fee to be permitted access to the APIs (currently $100/year), and users like me who pay a monthly ($5/mo) or yearly ($36/year) subscription fee. In fact, the service “started” after a successful $500,000 Kickstarter campaign.
One of the things I’ve learned from years of listening to No Agenda is that anytime you are consuming a product or service you didn’t pay for, you’re more than likely the product. As a result, those that are paying, namely the advertisers, often get their way–to the detriment of the users. I’m starting to see that now with Twitter as they try and make money. Facebook has been notoriously problematic.
The app.net service is similar to Twitter circa 2006. That’s not entirely true since app.net employs many of the same concepts like a timeline, replies, reposts (similar to Twitter’s retweet), hash tags, searches, starred posts, and asymmetric following (i.e. someone can follow me, but I don’t have to follow them back). There are third party apps–not nearly as many as exist for Twitter–but the list keeps growing. You also, unlike Twitter, have a limit of 255 characters in a status update.
The reason it feels like 2006 all over again is the users. At the moment, there’s about 25,000 users. Clearly the “masses” aren’t there yet. The subscription price, and the lack of users, will likely deter people for the time being. It also doesn’t help that the third party apps for app.net are a bit more expensive than the Twitter clients.
That said, I look at subscribing to app.net as an investment in the future of social networking–a user-center future, rather than advertiser-centered one. I’m currently following a handful of people, only a small number of which are updating their app.net account regularly. I am hoping that will increase in the coming weeks as more people pony up the cash and try app.net for themselves.