A few weeks ago I promised to write about app.net, a new Twitter-esque service. With app.net announcing on Monday that they’ve reduced their prices, now seems like a good time to write about it. I haven’t joined yet, for reasons that I’ll come on to.
app.net essentially is a direct response to Twitter’s API changes which were announced back in August. Twitter can attribute a lot of its early success to its strong, open API which resulted in a range of different clients and services making use of it. Unfortunately, this doesn’t make Twitter much money, and more recently Twitter has been trying to tighten controls on its services with the aim of increasing advertising and offering a more consistent user experience. This has also seen Twitter promoting its own clients for mobile devices and discouraging third party developers from making similar clients.
app.net has no such limitations – the API is open to all developers who pay $100 per year, to do pretty much what they want. In other words, it’s recreating Twitter as it was a few years ago – a network – rather than the service that it has become now.
But, you may think, if Twitter couldn’t make money that way and had to change, what chance does app.net have? Simple – everybody has to pay to join. There are no free accounts, or some kind of restricted or ad-supported ‘freemium’ service. At launch, regular accounts cost $50/year, but this has now been reduced to $36/year, or $5/month if you would prefer. In return, you get access to the service and no adverts (i.e. sponsored tweets) – and you own all of your own content and can export this as you wish.
app.net has not yet reached feature parity with Twitter – there’s no real-time stream, so app.net apps won’t be able to offer push notifications; nor is there any direct messaging. But it does pretty much everything else – #hashtags, @replies, and you can repost (retweet) posts. And posts can be 256 characters long, as opposed to Twitter’s 140. Plus, Tapbots, creators of Tweetbot, have developed Netbot, which works with app.net in the same way as their Twitter client, and even offers to cross-post to Twitter.
So why haven’t I joined? Two reasons: right now, I think the price is a bit high with a service with only around 20,000 users; and most of the people whom I know use it also use Twitter and cross-post most things there. So I’d be paying for what I could (most likely) get for free on Twitter anyway. If the price comes down (I’m thinking under $20/year), and adoption increases significantly, I may reconsider.