For the past few months I've been using a small, but growing service called App.net. At its beginnings, like many, I was excited by App.net's potential, yet cautiously optimistic. But as the service started to bloom, and as the community grew stronger, so did my belief in what was being built. So I immersed myself, trying and tinkering with everything that was offered, and worked on creating a nest of my own. Today, it's still young, and there’s a ton of room for improvement and growth. But being young also means being full of possibilities, and being there in the beginning means I get to help shape its future. And now that App.net is free to join, it's a great time to take a look around, and get a feel for what it's about.
And if you tried App.net during its infancy, but weren't convinced then, I invite you to drop back in, and check it out. You'll be amazed by how much has changed, and by how many neat and useful apps and services have been built using App.net's infrastructure. There really is something for everyone, and it’s only getting better.
What's different about App.net?
The clearly stated core values of App.net are what initially caught my attention. App.net promises that its platform and services will always be the product, not its users. What does this mean? It means you will never see any advertising, and your information will never be sold. Equally as important is App.net's commitment to data portability. Users have complete control over their data. If you decide you want to stop using App.net, you can easily download your data with the click of a button, and delete your account without having to beg. The same can’t be said for many other web services.
If you're a developer, the package is even sweeter. While other services have become increasingly hostile towards developers trying to build on their platforms, App.net promises never to turn on the community that it relies on to help them grow. In addition, App.net’s financial model is aligned to benefit both the company and third-party developers, and even offers incentives for developers to get creative with what they're making. This not only keeps developers happy, but it encourages them to keep building, and to continue striving for improvement.
In addition to having great core values, those that work for and with App.net interact with the community directly, and this is really important to me, and it should be important to you as well. It means we have voices that are heard not ignored, and for anything to be built on a basis of trust, communication is vital. App.net excels in this department, and it caused me to quickly realize the core values of the company aren't empty promises. They mean it.
But isn't App.net just a Twitter clone?
I get asked this question a lot, and the answer is no, it's not. While Twitter-like microblogging is one way to use App.net, it's not the only way to use the service. Admittedly, it took me a while to adjust my habits to incorporate yet another service into my life, and see past this perception as well. But with the developer community being as active as it is on App.net, each day brings new apps, services and updates, and I’ve actually started replacing some of the scattered services I’ve used in favor of services built on top of App.net. This allowed me to create a more efficient workflow instead of complicating it, as I had originally feared.
Joining App.net doesn't mean that you have to kick the Twitter habit either. Twitter isn't going anywhere, at least not for a while, and App.net doesn't have to replace Twitter if you don't want it to. In fact, it complements it quite well, and you can use some of the apps built with App.net to help you create content for Twitter. As Major Kusanagi says in Ghost in the Shell, "the 'net is vast and infinite," and there is plenty of room for services with similar functions to happily coexist.
So then, what is App.net?
App.net is social feed and API. It's an infrastructure that you or anyone can build upon, and it is shaped by its users, developers and creators together. It makes its money through subscriptions, not by selling user data or advertising. It has some of the familiarities of social networks, like friends and followers, but it also has the utility of data storage and photo-sharing services like Dropbox or Flickr. You can even start public and private chat rooms using App.net, or use it as a one-to-one messaging service like Gchat. The beauty of App.net is that you can use it however you want by choosing the parts you like, making the service work for you, not the other way around.
As I mentioned earlier, now is a great time to check it out. So if you're curious, use this invitation to create a free account:
With a free account, you can follow up to 40 people, and get up to 500MB of storage. It's definitely enough to get started with, and you can always upgrade later if you find yourself needing more.