Most critics of the Dalton Caldwell App.net project argue that this is just the alternative to Twitter which is paid by the users, not advertisers. But is it correct in fact? In this article we’ll try to understand what App.net is trying to achieve in reality.
App.net is the ambitious project of Dalton Caldwal, businessman, represented as something similar to paid Twitter and and recently received $ 500,000 from Kickstarter. Some critics believe that the alternative Twitter is absolutely no use to anyone, and the app.net will definitely fail. But regardless of whether it fails or not the idea of the service is much more than just the paid Twitter clone. In fact, the Caldwell’s goal is to create a service that provides a single delivery system for the social networks or between applications in real time. This idea is much more ambitious than simply copying Twitter or some its functions. And now, since Caldwell, contrary to the expectations of many people got funding, we can only wait and observe the public reaction in order to understand whether people are willing to pay for such service, especially if the majority of attempts to create such a single ecosystem for social networks miserably failed.
App.net wants to be a platform, not just the application
Oriana Marx, the creator of the New York Siftee startup, recently described very well what are the alpha version of App.net and Caldwell’s and his partners’ ambitions. When you open it for the first time it is really like a very skimpy version of Twitter with a much smaller number of users and features. This compells many people to think that they came to another unfinished copy. But here is how Marx describes this: “App.net wants to combine ease of cloud infrastructure with the benefits of web platforms for creating the best platform for the social web-applications development”.
In other words, the alpha version is just a test, the prototype of what can be done with the help of the platform which makes App.net. This platform uses open standards such as PubSubHubbub and ActivityStreams, as well as the other protocols that facilitate the dissemination of information among multiple social networks, monitor users, etc. This can be compared, perhaps wit Amazon Web Services that provide tools such as Elastic Compute Cloud and EC2 based on which the developers can create their own services.
We can also look at this situation from another perspective: just recall how the electronic mail looked like before or, for example, instant messaging. There were several competitive platforms and standards and nothing similar to open API and other things connected with the information exchange. Users of CompuServe Mail couldn’t help talking to the users of other mail hostings, as well as ICQ and AOL users couldn’t talk to the users of competitors (MSN and Gchat). Albert Wenger from Union Square Ventures noted the compatibility of standards and protocols as one of the main advantages of app.net in one of his publications: “This will be very useful if we could, for example, send emails from social networks where we spend our time. It would be great if everyone could use what he likes”.
Will there be enough promise of the open platform?
At the time when Twitter has become a powerful information-publishing system and a bit of news feed in the real time, it is still the private corporation with its own commercial interests and it controls most of its network with the aim of monetization. One of the main incentives for Caldwell was the feeling that at some point Twitter refused from the desire to be informatively useful and decided to be based on commercial mass media.
“App.net suggests the reliable API platform which has less chances to be pulled out from under our feet when the venture capitalists want to see profits,” – said one of the platform supporters.
There were other attempts to create something like an open platform for the social networks, and most their part finished not very good. For example, OpenSocial from Google useses open protocol. Though the project exists still the same, it’s in fact didn’t achieve any heights, and after Google refused from SIocial Graph API, all the project beliefs turned into ruins. Whether this is the truth or not, the project is considered to be a Google attempt to compete with Facebook. However then the company decided to support its own Google+ network.
In some sense App.net has similarities with FriendFeed social network created by ex-Google employees Brett Taylor and Paul Buchheit (one of Gmail developers) in 2007 and it allows users to receive messages and updates from Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. As a result, FriendFeed has been merged by Facebook for $ 48 million.
So, App.net is going to create a unique ecosystem for information exchange between social networks and applications. Do you think they have a chance? Will such a platform be eventually built? Or Internet will go by the different path of development?