I enjoy being a part of app.net and I want to see it continue, I really do. No, this isn’t a “we’re all doomed” post, or at least it isn’t intended to be. Rather, it’s just my thoughts on some of the topics I have seen discussed recently. I offer no solutions. I can’t. I’m not qualified to, nor do I have any expertise in the various areas of an undertaking like this. I work in an office. I can do basic programming, but my interaction with the internet is that of a user, a consumer.
I have one main question: why are people looking at changing the API? It already exists, it works. Maybe there is scope for extension/improvement: that I don’t know. This seems to me like a group of geeks being, well, geeky. Sorry, but it does.
We all want ADN to succeed. Change the API, use a different one and you are moving away frorm the platform. You would need users to move to your version of it. That isn’t ensuring ADN survives, it’s killing it off, or at the very least dividing it up.
I believe this has been mentioned already by people, who know a lot more about the sbject than I do.
In my opinion, there are some fundamental things that need to be addressed:
Is this a playground for developers, or a network of social networks? Can it be both? It can’t just be the former. We have seen that developing independently for the platform doesn’t stack up financially. Mind you, does app development in general stack up? I really have no idea. I have to assume that it does, given the number of apps in the app stores (ones that are ad-free). The DIP was there to encourage development. What we got, with a few exceptions, was a plethora of Alpha apps, mostly for iOS. To be honest, on a platform with a small user base that was never going to be a winner. Sure, many of us bought most of the apps. Hell, I bought some that were iPhone-only and I don’t have an iPhone.
We don’t like Twitter because it killed indie apps. Even I agree that was bad - I never use the official app. However, there is one and it works well enough. Facebook has an official app for mobile platforms, which people use.
I think what I am getting at is streamlining things. There are good mobile Alpha apps for most platforms. Great. Leave it there. It’s not feasible to make one the “official” app, but maybe one will become the de facto official app as others fall by the wayside. At some
point the community may have to find a way to get behind that app. So do it, plan for it.
If you want ADN to succeed you need users. Without gaining traction with users you have nothing. What do people want? That needs to be asked. I think the public perception is that ADN is a paid-for Twitter and that’s it.
Pam Davis recently posted on this topic on ADN and she is quite right. (I would link to her posts, but I don’t know how to, sorry). Dipping back in now and I see conversations are going on with Darren Tong, amongst others. Things seem to be coming together…
I can only use myself as an example. I like Twitter. It was dissatisfaction with Twitter that brought me to ADN, along with some other Twitter-buds. I stayed. They didn’t. Why not? Because it was just like Twitter, only full of tech people. They wanted out of the aggro being caused on Twitter. They wanted to be free to express their opinions. What made them leave was the lack of private accounts. Not private patter rooms, they tried that. They wanted private accounts. I didn’t, that didn’t bother me. Having said that, I’m not aware that they have private Twitter accounts either, but that was why they said they left. And possibly whilst trying to avoid the trolling on Twitter, they found they actually missed it. Who knows. It was a shame, because one of the people who attempted the move had a massive following on
Twitter and did publicise his move. But the 50-follower restriction deterred a lot of them.
What would I like? I would like one place for all my social activities on-line. I use G+ for some things, facebook to keep in touch with friends, Twitter for some chat/news feeds and ADN for conversation. I have also said I would love to have an rss reader running from ADN and a podcast app too. Not sure about the last one so much. What I am fed up with is having an account here, an account there and another one over there. I would like to be able to share photos and status updates on a facebook-type thing with friends, then chat like I do on Alpha. That’s why I thought G+ had potential, with it’s “circles” approach. But then it’s Google. I would like cross-platform messaging, which is why I use Hangouts. But what I want is for it to be super-easy to use and all from the one account; something that just works.
Let’s face it, the branding is dreadful. I think everyone agrees on that. The name “app.net” explains the principles of the API, but it’s pretty rubbish. The name for the micro-blogging proof-of-concept is dull. There is a Trello board for discussion of names for the service, most particularly Alpha, but also the API. I know some people have disparaged that recently and maybe they might actually decide to contribute to the discussion as a result. Maybe not.
I am a user, not a developer. App.Net was funded and establised as a platform for developers to build things for users. And for users to have things to use on a platform where they owned their data, unlike other well-known social networks.
With the recent publicity around the facebook experiments, amongst other things, surely now is a good time to be pushing this selling-point. “There is a place where you won’t have to see ads, where nobody will try to manipulate your emotions, where nobody will re-order your timeline to suit what they want you to see. Sure, you have to pay a small amount, but then you get security, some cloud storage and lots of ways to interact with your friends”. I know, unfortunately we are in a culture where people want everything for free and it seems that most of them are prepared to endure adverts and all this nonsense, to maintain the fiction of not paying. I don’t know if that will ever change now. Although…. do people buy into the in-app purchase ethos of Google and Apple? Is there data on that anywhere? If they do, then perhaps that is something to consider. A subscription model that works like an in-app purchase. The basics are free, bells and whistles cost more. Again, I’m sure someone has mentioned this as a potential pricing structure. I think it has merit.
Unfortunately, as we have seen, it doesn’t appear to have been a case of building it and watching people arrive, as the service has failed to make money. I have wondered about the wisdom of adding a free tier. I know some people were against it and I share their concerns, although without that free tier, I would not have joined. Why pay when you don’t know if you will like something. Especially a social network with new people. Catch–22. So I think free accounts should stay, but the restrictions should be not on numbers followed, but on the ability to spam. How that can be done, I don’t know. Not allowing these pourover/ifttt things (I’m sure you know what I mean, even if I don’t). Capping the number of posts on any alpha-like network, maybe. Releasing additional features for money?
Broadcasts - what was that about? Was it bringing money into the service, or just about demonstrating the potential. I can see it might be useful, but failed to see the point, to be honest. Also failed to see where the revenue would come from. But then, what would I know
My last point is the most important:
What is going to bring in money? Without that, it’s a charitable exercise, probably doomed to fail in the end. How much revenue is needed and how do you get it. It has been said that there is the money to run the servers for some time, so should our efforts be focused on expanding the user-base and broadening the concept? Certainly how the service is funded has to be discussed and it needs to be costed, with options for potential take-up and different pricing structures. Would the ADN owners be open to conversations coming from the user base regarding changing the pricing structure? Or have they pretty much walked away from the business in their heads - another question to be asked.
I will leave this there. I think it is the most I have written on any subject since I was at university. And this is definitely the first blog post I will ever have posted a link to (assuming I can work out how to do that….).
ADN has some talented and generous-minded developers. It has users who want it to succeed and it has users with outside skills, in marketing, in business in general. Hopefully those who offer their time will be listened to. I think the ADNfuture team and their project has great potential, but it needs everyone’s help. Can we build it…..?