If you’re observant then you will notice a new icon above the menu in the top right of the screen – the one with the tick on it. That’s a link to my profile at App.net, a new social network that is trying to break the mould of the ad-financed networks like Twitter and Facebook. The creation of the network is directly as a result of Twitter’s API changes that restrict the ability of third party applications to use its data, essentially building the walls of Twitter’s walled garden higher and higher. Twitter earns no money from advertising if you use a third party app to access it, and hence the crackdown. Twitter could of course have introduced a pro account, but seems to not want to go down that track.
The developers of App.net saw all of this as an opportunity. Instead of designing a network to be ad-funded, and hence to have to be more and more cunning in the placement of the ads, App.net uses a subscription finance model, costing $36 / year for a basic account, or $3 / month. Now it takes quite a leap for most users to want to pay to use a social network, but viewed another way it is actually cheap – it’s like buying two newspapers in a month, and most of us wouldn’t think twice about doing that. In return there will be no advertisements, application developers will have relatively unrestricted access to the API, and the network can be designed with users and developers, rather than advertisers, in mind.
While App.net has something like 20000 members at the time of writing (I was one of their initial Kickstarter donors), it nevertheless also has one further important asset: Tapbots has released a version of its excellent Twitter client Tweetbot, called Netbot. The free web app Appeio also looks promising.
So if you’ve had enough of ad-funded networks then head over to App.net and help build something different!