App.net, a new service by the founder of imeem and picplz (two services who incidentally don’t exist anymore), wants to become the new Twitter, only without the constraints of having to pay for it with advertisements. How are they going to pay for it? By having people pay actual money for an account.
Just a few days ago they reached their fund-raising goal of 500.000USD to make sure their alpha product sees beta and maybe a full release sometime, so there’s an obvious interest by people in this kind of service. I find the basic premise of a network independent from advertisements great and for a short while contemplated shelling out 50USD a year for the service, but I found have two problems with the service.
Number one is the fact that it’s a social network starting from scratch. What makes Twitter so valuable for me and many others is the fact that it’s got a huge userbase. Any social network lives off of the number of members and starting something like App.net from scratch when there’s a service most people are happy about and don’t really think about leaving is a very difficult thing to do, regardless of how much better your service might be than the one you’re trying to replace (Google+, I’m talking about you).
Number two is rather simple: if you are against the hegemony of one service and try to build a competitor, why mimic what they are doing instead of going a step further? What I’m talking about here is de-centralization, with the ability to tweak your own settings and have full control over your data. If I’m not content that a company manages to amass a huge number of data about me and I want to make sure users will never have to suffer being inundated with ads and marketing ploys, why create the same infrastructure that will facilitate just that?
Considering that they are up against the huge problem of critical mass anyway, the hurdle of de-centralization seems like a comparably small problem to add to the mix.
I would most probably shell out 50USD a year if it meant I could install App.net on my own server and really be independent from whatever is decided at the App.net offices. Sure, App.net promised no ads until the end of time, but hey, stranger things have happened than a CEO changing his mind about where their company should go.