Twitter has some serious critical mass behind it. Honestly, it’s unstoppable. So why did I just pledge actual money to support App.Net, a competing project that will most certainly fail? Because twitter is too important a communication channel to leave to Twitter, Inc. And they need to hear from us, the users, before they destroy their service.
A Sad Old Story
It’s the Internet 2.0 blues: A hot new service appears, charging users nothing for what must cost a fortune to deliver. Critical mass creates critical buzz and the venture capitalists pour in the money to build it. Then comes the obvious question: How are you going to make money off this thing?
The simple answer is “advertising”, but that’s also the least satisfying. Just because Google was able to monetize and support their search business through advertising doesn’t mean Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, or anyone else will be able to do the same thing. At least Apple is smart enough to make money on the hardware!
What is Twitter to do? They must spend a fortune supporting this massive real-time communication network that so many have come to love. How can they possibly afford to give it away for free? In a fit of Silly Valley foolishness, Twitter management seems intent on polluting our streams with sponsored tweets and cutting off unprofitable developers.
Happens next? Perhaps users will freak out once they discover that they are forced to “follow” whoever is willing to pay. Or perhaps they will abandon the service once their favorite apps are no longer able to connect to it. Or, saddest of all, perhaps they will continue to use it despite the obvious anti-user anti-developer proclivities of management.
The App.Net Alternative
App.Net is proposing an alternative, where users and developers pay a modest fee to support a vibrant, open, and unpolluted communications infrastructure. Copping Kickstarter, App.Net asking for $500,000 by August 13 in order to build this alternative Twitter.
The entire App.Net concept is Quixotic. Even if they raise the money and are able to put together a compelling alternative to Twitter, it is exceedingly unlikely that users will flock to the service. After all, there must be 1000 Twitter competitors out there, and none have succeeded.
But what if it works? What if it even threatens to work? What if it just gets enough attention at Twitter HQ to suggest that perhaps users might be willing to pay for an unpolluted stream and a truly open API? What if Facebook and Google and everyone else realize that advertising is not the only way to support a communications infrastructure like this?
That’s why I decided to put my money behind App.Net. I’m not deluded, and I don’t believe that we will all be using App.Net in a year. But I do hope that the “advertising-supported” sheep in Silicon Valley will realize that users do not want a polluted, paid for service that locks their favorite apps out. I hope that they will wake up and realize there is a real market for user-focused social media infrastructure.
I urge you to pledge $50 to support App.Net. If the project isn’t funded (and it probably won’t be) you are not out a penny. Whether it is funded or not, and whether it catches on or not, I’m hoping that this show of support will teach Twitter and the rest of lesson and keep user-unfriendly policies out of social media.