App.net is currently running a Kickstarter-like campaign to get the funding it needs to launch a “social platform”. For $50, you can back their effort. At the time of this writing, they’ve raised $268,150. They have until August 13 to reach $500k.
What is App.net? Straight from the horse’s mouth (my emboldening):
We’re building a real-time social service where users and developers come first, not advertisers.
We believe that advertising-supported social services are so consistently and inextricably at odds with the interests of users and developers that something must be done.
Will App.net succeed at reaching their monetary goal? Maybe not.
Better question: If they do, will they succeed at building something that people actually want to use? Yikes, impossible to say. I put “social platform” in quotes for a reason.
Would Facebook be a $50 billion publicly traded company if they charged from the get-go? Absolutely not. Same goes for Twitter.
In Caldwell’s world, there does exist an idealistic group of people who are in desperate need of what App.net can provide: trust and freedom. And this group is large enough to unite and rally around something better, he reasons. ~ VentureBeat
Are we at a point where the masses might actually value online social networking enough that they’d pay for the service? Not when there are “free” alternatives. Which is why, quite simply, I don’t think App.net works out. A social network product without the ‘social’ is nothing.
The story might exist somewhere, but I have to wonder why Dalton Caldwell didn’t build some/all of the App.net social network, raise funding, then build a freemium product a la LinkedIn. Or a pay-what-you-want social network. Or shit, a normally pay-to-play network in which referrals can be substituted for payment.
Either way, I like being the customer. I like being the one that can just up and take my dollars elsewhere if the product stagnates. I like the accountability. I want the product managers to worry about ME when they’re changing/adding/removing a feature, not the advertisers. But I’m betting that that idealistic group of people that need trust and freedom are a bit smaller than Caldwell thinks. I hope I’m wrong. And that’s why I backed App.net.