App.net sets out to beat Twitter at its own game

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Twitter is a phenomenon that just won’t quit. Even with Facebook and Google+ that provide a more detailed and unlimited posting capabilities, compared to Twitter’s 140 character limit, people choose to break the news on Twitter first.

In fact, the reason why Twitter is so well used is because it is normally entwined with other social networks, while providing a quick way to deliver information. Let’s say 100 people use Facebook, and 100 people use Google+. That could roughly translate into 200 Twitter users, who break out a teaser of what they want to say in a bite sized message, then link it to the more elaborate posts found in their public profiles on other social networks.

Twitter was founded on the idea of freedom of speech, but recent events now cast a shadow of doubt on whether Twitter is still the Twitter we know and love. As developer Dalton Caldwell sees it, Twitter is no longer focused on making the us ers happy; they are more in favor of pleasing their sponsors, which are the advertisers.

In that light, Caldwell started the development of a site that will rival the free Twitter site. He believes that people are willing to pay for a premium Twitter-like experience just to get rid of Ads. Sort of like a paid app versus a free app.

It seems like his theory rings true, as his fund raising campaign nets him 10,000+ backers with a pledge going up to more than $700,000. That is by far, no small feat for a site that asks you to pay to use something that you could already use for free.

Caldwell’s campaign centers on one idea, that the free site does not care much about the user experience, and focuses solely on pleasing the advertisers, while a paid site would focus its services on pleasing the paying users. I would say that he is correct in one thing, which is a paid site would and should focus on the user experience as the user is paying for that experience.

What Caldwell misrepresents is as much as the free site wants to please their advertisers; they also want to please the users in a way because they would like to keep them. After all, without any users, the advertisers would leave and look for a more densely populated site to promote their products. While there is more preference towards the advertiser, it won’t necessarily mean that Twitter will abandon trying to appease its user base.

While I still find it hard to believe that more people will prefer to use a paid service to achieve virtually the same thing as they could on a free service with a much larger audience, I think that Caldwell may be on to something. It has been so long since Twitter has been contested by anything similar, and App.net might just be what will drive Twitter to finally wake up and fight a competing product.

Something to look forward to would be if Caldwell succeeds in providing a worthy rival to Twitter using a paid and Ad-free social networking service, we may see new business models of other social networking sites that will focus on the user experience for a price. It could very well lead to the rise of new social networks that can truly be called a “premium” experience.

Image sources: toprankblog.com, thenextweb.com, join.app.net