With app.net threatening Twitter just as it throttles its 3rd party usage what’s the future for micro-blogging?  

Serial entrepreneur Dalton Caldwell turned the start-up world upside down when he launched an audacious attempt to create a crowd-funded Twitter-killer, App.net. An ambitious idea – a “real-time social feed”, App.net is easily the most significant development in the micro-blogging world since the launch of Twitter itself. Instead of raising funds via conventional means, the founder, Dalton Caldwell, launched a Kickstarter-like crowd-funding campaign instead with a goal to raise $500,000. With over 7,500 backers shelling out at least $50 for the service, App.net met its funding goal with 38 hours to spare, thus proving that this idea may very well have some teeth.

The need for a Twitter competitor has long been felt among Twitter’s technically savvy early adopters who have seen beloved third party applications stumble and fail as Twitter pulled the plug and altered its API policies. To say that Twitter has been unkind to developers would be an understatement. After promising much, to suddenly buy out, threaten with litigation, or simply arm-twist competitors into submission amounts to nothing short of backstabbing developers.

Of course, web devs are after a better deal than this and so have piggy-backed onto App.net. Unlike Twitter, which is free, App.net will be a paid service. As Dalton Caldwell puts it, with a free service (like Twitter), the ultimate customer is the advertiser. Whereas on a paid service (like App.net), the ultimate customer is the user. This marks a world of difference in the way each of the service treats its users – for one, users are merely an asset to be packaged to advertisers, for the other, users themselves are the most important asset.

App.net also promises a very different micro-blogging approach than Twitter. Instead of hosting all accounts on a central website, App.net will function more like an API. Any App.net supported client can plug into this API to display content. App.net’s own API client can be seen in action here. Theoretically, it implies that App.net owns none of its users’ content, thereby promising a freer, fairer, and less intrusive experience to all members.

No wonder the creme de la creme of the tech world has backed this project to the hilt.

This Changes the Game, Completely

App.net has taken some very bold steps:

1. It raised its seed capital entirely through crowd funding.
2. It will work as an API and not a website like Twitter.
3. It will be a paid service, unlike Twitter which is free.

The final point may very well point to the future of micro-blogging, or even social media. If customers are willing to pay for a service when a competitor is available for free, it essentially changes the business model for thousands of social media services. Until App.net, the business model for any social media service – from Tumblr and Twitter to Facebook and Pinterest – depended on attracting millions of users and selling adverts. Keeping advertisers happy often contradicts the interests of the users, leading to constant conflicts.

App.net changes this business model entirely. With a paid service, there is no longer a need to keep advertisers happy, and the developers can focus on the users instead. This is the tried and tested model used in the real world, but is revolutionary for a social media service.

With App.net two things are clear:

1. More micro-blogging and social media services will be encouraged to take the paid route.
2. More social media services will be tempted to work as platforms (like App.net) than standalone websites.

It is yet uncertain whether the general public will catch on to App.net – it may turn out that it attracts only industry types, if the general public is not as inclined to take up a paid product where an unpaid product does the job as well. Brands will also have to consider this new platform as they monitor their social presence and user sentiment.

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