When I last (and first) wrote about App.net — an ad-free, developer-friendly, would-be Twitter competitor — I was wondering whether it would meet its goal of raising $500,000 via a Kickstarter-esque crowdfunding system by midnight tonight. I needn’t have worried: It sailed through that figure over the weekend and has now passed $750,000 in pledges from over 11,000 benefactors.
“Will App.net raise a half-million dollars?” was never the only significant question about the service, though. There are plenty of others, most of which will take a while to answer. Such as:
1. How many users does App.net need to be viable? In Silicon Valley, the normal business strategy is to play a game of eyeballs, signing up as many consumers as you possibly can and figuring out how to monetize them later. By charging users at least $50 apiece per year, App.net is flouting that strategy. But I’m not sure how many customers it’s going to need to pay the bills and keep founder Dalton Caldwell and his team from wandering on to other possibly-more-profitable projects. Fifty thousand? Five hundred thousand? Five million? More?
2. Will it stop feeling like a Twitter clone? The current web-based version is very Twitter-circa-2008. But the idea isn’t to imitate Twitter precisely — it’s to give third-party developers a feed of status updates which they can use to power interesting apps. I’m assuming that the first wave of apps will feel extremely Twitter-like. But App.net will be a lot more important if it starts to travel its own road.
3. When will the topic of App.net stop being App.net? It’s so new and novel that it’s still fun to use the service to discuss its own implications. But only nerds are going to pay for that privilege, and they’re not going to do it forever. We’ll know App.net is gaining traction when it’s about everything…or at least about a lot of things which aren’t App.net.
4. Can it keep feeling like an oasis of non-commercial thoughtfulness? Charging a fee will keep out spammers. It should help attract folks whose primary interest is engaging in conversation. But I’m not sure what’ll happen if the service gets popular enough that marketers (and random tedious famous people) become intrigued. I don’t object to Skittles being on Twitter, but I’ll be just as happy if it never feels the urge to join App.net, thank you very much.
5. Why is this not Identi.ca? That’s the name of an open-source Twitter-style service which was founded on some of the same ideals as App.net. It got a flurry of initial interest, too. But it hasn’t gone much of anywhere, and doesn’t seem to be an improvement on Twitter.
I’ll come back to some of these questions here on TIME.com, I’m sure, but if you feel like chattering about them right now, join me on App.net. (You can browse around without spending fifty bucks or signing up.) The one thing we know for sure about the service is that it’s a great place to discuss this stuff.