As Twitter has quickly become more focused on being profitable through advertisements, early Twitter users and enthusiasts of the “bring your own client” are becoming frustrated with the service. Twitter has previously stated that full-fledged third-party clients are no longer welcome to use the API, and that Twitter prefers its users to utilize either the website, or the official mobile apps. Geeks, wherein I mean anyone who prefers to use a third-party client, whether for features or for its superior design, don’t appreciate these moves, and would prefer Twitter to remain a dump pipe for clients.
Enter app.net. Caldwell and his team have, from the beginning, wanted to offer a service “by the geeks, for the geeks,” and aim to not be evil. Their plan revolves around having subscription-based accounts (currently at $50 – please, please let that come down), and allowing any developer to come and develop an app based on the app.net API.
While getting funding for the service was challenging, the hard part is just beginning for Caldwell and his team of programmers and designers. The service is currently in an alpha form – functional, but only just. The service now has to add features and stay stable, all while growing the userbase and responding to criticism.
And growing the userbase will be challenging. While most social networks benefit from a “pop,” or a rapid increase in registered and active users, App.net will grow much more slowly due to the price. I’m of the opinion that $50 is simply higher than necessary, and should drop to $20 or so when the service comes out of the development stages. With a high price tag, App.net will be doomed to being popular only among the bloggers and the hipsters, as it is now. While their mission is to “stay geeky,” there are plenty of us who are interested in the service, but are unwilling to pay $50 for a service that is untested, undeveloped, and may well turn out to be a flop within a year. As it turns out, social networks are hard. Just ask Diaspora, FriendFeed, or even El Goog.
You can join app.net for $50 as a regular membership, or for $100 and get access to the API.