According to the “mission statement” of App.net, the goal is to provide a “real-time social service where users and developers come first”. While this statement is still quite generic it turns out that the first incarnation of this service could most fittingly be described as “Twitter without the ads”.
In the beginning, it did not seem as if the idea to pay
$50 $36 for this service resonated with the community. The number of backers stayed depressingly low until a very late stage of the funding period.
Then it went through the roof. Apparently, there is room for App.net in the greater web service landscape. But again, the business model consists basically on the vision of literally (from @-userhandles to #hashtags) copying Twitter in exchange for a considerable yearly fee.
On a more abstract level, what we have here is a startup that closely copies the big contender in the business and only differentiates itself in just one tiny detail which the big contender could also provide in a snap if it only cared to do so. If I was one of the founders of App.net, I would be scared shirtless at this perspective.
This means that App.net would probably be better off it it does not go through the roof and gets some time where it can operate underneath Twitter’s radar.
Otherwise, all it takes for Twitter to close the lid of the coffin that App.net has so comfortably built for itself with one giant nail engraved with a little birdy is to open its own service for paid accounts sans ads and with unlimited API access.
As unlikely as it may seem in the current situation, it takes nothing more than a short memo from one of the higher echelons at Twitter to get rid of the hotshot competition.
I am pretty sure that even the most avid proponents of App.net would happily stay on Twitter if only the option for staying clear of ads in combination with the ability to use third-party apps on demand was available.
The problem is obviously that in even the geekiest of timelines only a minority of followed people may switch to App.net while the rest (that may equally be relevant for a given person) stays on Twitter. Consequently, people would have to accept the hassle of using App.net and Twitter in parallel. Obviously, that sucks.
I don’t think that this scenario is so far fetched, at least if most of the conversations about App.net that I have been listening to in some podcasts are representative for the greater geek community.
The bottom line is that what people really want can easily be described in less than 140 characters: “Twitter without the ads. And Tweetbot”. You can put me down for that.
Yes, some of Twitter’s business decisions have been quite scary in the past but, frankly, the arcane campaign style of App.net in combination with the habit of letting new users tweet marketing BS during the sign-up process is actually nothing better.