I haven’t spent a whole lot of time at App.net lately, but I still admire the basic idea. Conceptually, it’s a Twitter-like service, designed to let folks share quick status updates and otherwise communicate in fast bursts. But instead of having an uneasy-to-antagonistic relationship with third-party clients, as Twitter seems to have, App.net’s main goal is to encourage other developers to write neat software and services that use its plumbing.
App.net’s other big idea is that it relies on its users, rather than advertisers, to pay the bills. It got off the ground thanks to a Kickstarter-like crowdfunding campaign; almost six months later, it has around 30,000 members. That’s a rounding error by Twitter or Facebook standards, but everyone in App.net’s community pays $5 a month or $36 a year for the privilege of being there — a commitment which presumably explains why the service’s signal-to-noise ratio is unusually high.
Now App.net is beginning to expand its ambitions. Its founder and CEO, Dalton Caldwell, told me that the service is going to give its members 10GB of cloud-based storage space for photos and other files — and will give third-party apps the hooks they need to add features that take advantage of that space.
The web, of course, is already rife with companies that want to give you gigabytes for pictures and other stuff, either for free or for a fee. But Caldwell explained to me that App.net’s storage will operate under the same philosophy that the rest of the service does: The files that people put there belong to them, and App.net isn’t claiming the right to use them for advertising or other purposes. That should help it avoid kerfuffles like the recent dust-up involving a certain insanely popular photo-sharing service.
By giving third-party App.net apps an official data repository, Caldwell says, the company is also letting its users centralize their online storage rather than scattering it all over the web. (I’ve posted hundreds of photos to Twitter over the years, and for the most part, I have no idea where they are — they ended up wherever the apps I used decided to put them.)
Should you give App.net a try? That depends. I’m a reasonably content user of both Twitter and Facebook, which is why I haven’t become a serious App.net user — I like it, too, but my brain cells and my days are short on space for yet another social network. But if you’re nonplussed with Twitter and/or Facebook, for whatever reason, App.net is an intriguing alternative. And even if you aren’t, it’s worth keeping an eye on.