When I first heard about App.net a few weeks back I was intrigued. On the surface it sounded all too similar to the ill fated Diaspora initiative aiming to create an open alternative to Facebook. I didn’t feel that the Diaspora team was able to accomplish their lofty goal. They just didn’t seem to have enough knowledge, experience, as well as a solid plan to execute their mission. App.net is the brainchild of Dalton Caldwell. Unlike the Diaspora team, he appears to have the experience and reputation to execute this project.
Interestingly enough, just as Diaspora was seen as a Facebook alternative, people have latched onto App.net as being a Twitter alternative. Actually App.net has much loftier goals than simply supplanting an existing top tier social network. At a high level the goal of App.net is to create a paradigm shift in thinking. Instead of using social networks that are free because of their ability to gather information about us for advertising and marketing, create a pay to use service without ads where we own our own data. That’s the high level thought gist of it. Sure much of the features and functionality that is planned would be similar to existing social networks but it’s limited thinking to only consider this as a competitor to existing social networks we’re familiar with. With an open and developer driven platform it can essentially become a social network and offer many different features and functionality not possible elsewhere because this paid service needs to please the users, not the advertisers.
But I still wasn’t sold on App.net as I’ve become quite excited following the Locker Project and Singly initiatives. It sounded in some ways to be similar to what App.net was planning to do. Also there are many existing open standards that have been in the works for a few years that should be leveraged and not re-invented. The most relevant one from a social data standpoint would be Activity Streams. The other concern is how truly open will App.net be? Will there be an open source client available that will allow bi-directional communication between it and other services?
Well I went from intrigue and confusion about this project to some excitement today. First I went and read Brennan Novak’s post which besides shedding some more light on this project, also had a wish list of sorts that he felt might get the folks that have been part of the Distributed Social Web or Indie Web on board. Then I followed through to the response posted by Dalton Caldwell where he publicly stated support for the items brought up by Brennan. The list included support for Activity Streams, Pubsubhubbub, Webfinger open standard initiatives as well as a lightweight open source client and some other items.
It wasn’t too long after that in which Brennan responded along with a cc to Jeremie Miller who is a co-founder at Singly
A few hours later Jeremie responded stating that Singly is definitely supporting App.net
So now I went from excitement to elation. App.net plans to support many existing open standards, offer open source access and now we’ve confirmed Singly support. There also seems to be quite a few other key players showing support for this project. You know what else is cool? That unlike Diaspora which didn’t have anything to show for months after getting funded, App.net already has an alpha version up and running. Here’s the global feed and here’s Jeremie Miller’s page. Beyond that, developers are already creating apps for it including 2 for mobile and a web app.
So you still might be thinking as many others have…who cares? You think of networks like Facebook and Twitter as throwaway services and you don’t care about the deal you make by using the service for free without much control or ownership of data. Well as long as you’re vigilant about how you organize source data and have ways to back up what you publish to those systems great. But most people don’t do that. I wrote a pretty important post earlier this year on How to Preserve, Prepare, and Produce Your Digital Legacy. It was my belief at the time that a service like Singly or now App.net could provide us with the ability to have much better flexibility and control to both share our digital data as well as preserve it for future generations. Most people aren’t thinking this far ahead as we’re still in the early stages of the web and digital data but I think as time goes on preserving these rich memories in a way to share with future generations will become more evident.
So tonight I backed App.net. Do I think this is the answer to what I and many others seem to be looking for? I don’t know just yet. All I know is that I want help get behind and support this project and all the other great like minded folks that have a similar vision for a different type of social network. One that is based on open source and open standards that serves the users. Sitting back and waiting for it to happen on its own is not an option. Others have provided their reasoning to back it as well. I’m optimistic that even if this project isn’t the be all end all of social network utopia it will definitely push the ball in the right direction. As of this writing App.net has received 450k of their 500k goal to move forward with 49 hours left to fund it. You can join me and the others here.
P.s. I applied to join the alpha but they seem to be backlogged fulfilling requests at the moment so I can’t share my profile yet. It will be here once I get in. See you there!
Update: My profile is now live.