Hope For App.net

Marco Arment on App.net announcing free accounts:

If I want to build an app with a social network backing it, I should use Twitter or Facebook. Developers need to support the biggest social networks because their role is to spread our apps. Building an app exclusively for App.net would work against us.

I am still very unsure about App.net. At the moment it’s really just a small Twitter clone with a decent user base but not enough unique content or features. As they continue to innovate the service, it seems like there are places you can see people going with it. Patter exemplifies this as a way to use App.net as a chat platform.

But to be honest, I don’t really understand Arment’s statement. People who use Twitter or Facebook as their “social network backing” seem to do so simply as a way to login to their service. The amount of data that is available from these services is limited. App.net is attempting to be the whole backend platform. The theory being that developers can create full on services with App.net as the backbone instead of having to create their own. If you want to get really inside baseball, the better way to App.net would be to say it’s identi.ca meets Dropbox/iCloud.

I have said all of long that App.net couldn’t succeed as simply a paid Twitter clone. It has become more apparent to me over the last few months that this is not their plan. They are clearly hoping that someone is going to run with it and make something great, and, at least in Arment’s mind, that isn’t really possible.

The same thing was said about Twitter 6 years ago though. When people thought of it as a place to tell people what you had for lunch, it was pointless. The first time I explained it to someone I told them it was “what you are doing in 140 characters or less.” They didn’t understand why that was useless, and it wasn’t. But 6 years later Twitter is booming, because people figured it out.

Arment referenced the fast that he still has another year left on his paid account. I have almost a year left. There is no reason to jump out of the plane now. I plan to ride out my paid time and if it hasn’t gotten anywhere, then it’s time to re-evaluate. But there is no reason to give up hope yet.