App.net Probably Won’t Succeed

Marco Arment on app.net:

First, $50 per year is far too much, even for people who pay for things. Twitter probably couldn’t sell a lot of paid subscriptions at that rate.

But the bigger problem is that I just don’t see a social platform growing quickly enough to overcome the network-effect barrier when it’s not free to join, especially when the goal is effectively to replace an existing, free, extremely successful network.

I signed up for App.net. I was reluctant, but decided to take chance and see how it goes. But I am with Marco, long term I don’t think this goes anywhere. The $50 yearly fee is a huge barrier, but that’s the biggest problem in my opinion.

The biggest issue is that right now it’s nothing but a Twitter clone. It feels like jumping into a time machine to Twitter, circa 2008. A lot of the features Twitter already has are slowly being added. They just added the equivalent of favorites in the last week. There are a few third-party apps in the wild, but the ones for OS X are pretty raw so far. The only decent iOS one (Adian) runs users $5.

Because the user base is smaller, everyone has fewer followers. And because not everyone that is on Twitter is on App.net, it’s impossible to completely abandon Twitter. Instead most people are using both, and for the most part just posting the same thing in both places.

Overall though, App.net isn’t bringing anything new to the table. As Arment said, most people wouldn’t pay $50 for Twitter. Even fewer people are going to pay for an unfinished clone that their friends aren’t already on.

App.net’s fatal flaw will likely be that it’s not going bringing anything new to the table. It’s hard to overthrow the king. Google is on top with several of their services. And despite the fact that people have lost trust in them, they aren’t going anywhere. The only way a company with that much control goes away is when someone makes them obsolete. No one took the OS or enterprise market away from Microsoft, phones and tablets just started eating away the marketshare.

No clone of Facebook or Twitter is going to take them down, especially not one that charges a yearly fee. What will take away from their marketshare is whatever the “next thing is”. Unfortunately App.net doesn’t appear to be the next thing, just a new version of the current thing.