App.net is a social network that has no ads, but comes with a catch — it’s not free. Bucking the overwhelmingly ubiquitous trend set by Myspace, Facebook, and now Twitter of an ad-supported online social gathering place, app.net seeks to provide a social network unencumbered by pesky advertisers, thus “putting users first”. But to get in on that, you’ll need to drop at least $50.
Overwhelming support for the project was seen in its ability to raise over $800,000 to help its launch, largely due to the enthusiasm with which tech writers have received the site. With Twitter announcing that its API restrictions were essentially handcuffing most of their 3rd party developers, a move that seems largely related to advertising and control, app.net’s user-centric philosophy is now primed for success.
Or is it? The basic argument app.net is making is, “users hate advertising and would rather pay us to host a social network with no ads, than deal with Facebook, Twitter, Google +, or whatever other ad serving social network they might use.” But do we really hate advertising enough to pay for a social network with no ads?
The social network scene right now is kind of like your neighborhood park. You can go there for free and hang out with your friends or anyone else that happens to stroll by. There are plenty of things there to make your experience fun, but in order to maintain all those neato features all the park benches have ads for things you basically don’t need or care about. The ads aren’t really in the way and don’t detract from your experience, but, yikes, they are ads.
App.net on the other hand is a nightclub sitting across the street from your neighborhood park. It’s new and alluring, but once you get in, you’re not quite sure why you’re there. What you find is that everyone at this club is essentially a version of the same person, because the only conversation they seem to be having is bitching about how crappy the neighborhood park is and how this club could make all parks, everywhere, obsolete — forever.
My guess is that most people like their neighborhood parks quite a bit and could care less about the new club.