Meanwhile, over on app.net… · Sep 22, 03:34 AM

Yesterday I finally signed up for app.net, which if you’ve not seen it is a sort of paid for version of Twitter. You can find me over there as http://alpha.app.net/mwd. It has a bit of a silly name, in that it’s a boring name, but I plan as an experiment to head over there, and wind down using Twitter for anything other than reaching those on Twitter and not on app.net. I shall consume from Twitter, but only post new things to app.net for now.

A lot of developers are doing this, I suspect partly as a reaction to how Twitter has taken to treating developers of late as it tries to make money. Lots of what we take for granted on Twitter came from the third party app community: hashtags, the noun/verb “tweet”, retweeting, for example. And now Twitter in an effort to become sustainable is making those same developers unwelcome. Third party clients are now definitely on the endangered species list.

But that’s business for you, and Twitter certainly needs to somehow show a return for all its investment. My friend John Naughton summarised all this recently in an article that concludes:

“This new disenchantment with Twitter seems daft to me … as for the API restrictions, well, Twitter isn’t a charity. Those billions of tweets have to be processed, stored, retransmitted – and that costs money. Twitter has already had more than $1bn of venture capital funding. Like Facebook, it has to make money, somehow. Otherwise it will disappear. Even on the internet there’s no such thing as a free lunch.”

I agree with John’s reasoning, but not his conclusion that it’s daft. The reason why is this: in an effort to make money, Twitter is changing the product. I think it’s similarly daft to me (sorry John :), to assume that just because I liked product A, when it’s changed into product B, I should like it just as much. I don’t disagree that Twitter needs to find a revenue stream, or object that it should make changes to make that happen. I don’t agree however that I should like the new Twitter just because I liked the old Twitter. (John’s article also talks about free speech fears, but there I agree with his conclusions, so I’ve skipped over those).

So what is it about new Twitter that I don’t like? I don’t want adverts in my stream of tweets. I’d rather pay a small amount than see adverts. I don’t want expanded tweets – Twitter’s benefit to me is that tweets are short messages I can choose to follow through or not. I don’t want to use the web client – I use a third part client because I like that particular way of consuming twitter.

I’m sure a lot of people will be happy with Twitter in it’s new form, and that’s awesome. They get something they don’t have to pay for, and Twitter can make money. But thankfully market forces seem to be at work here. There’s a set of people who’d rather pay a little for a basic Twitter like service free from adverts and expanded tweets and will let third party developers in to play, and that’s what app.net seems to be offering. I’ve no idea if it’ll work out long term, but then you can say the same for Twitter :)

Ultimately thought the value of any social platform is whether there are enough people over there for you to engage with, and as ever the incumbents have the advantage here – just look at Google Plus vs Facebook. So it’ll be interesting to see if there are enough people who liked old Twitter enough to pay for it, or they’re happy to use the new, noisier Twitter for free.

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