I’ve been meaning to comment on App.net, a new for-fee social networking service. To me, it seems that App.net is trying to build an alternative social web – one where the users are not the product and the service isn’t built for advertisers to mine.
Is this a Shadow Web? Is this the first step to taking back the Cloud (here are my rants on this)? Can this blossom into a peer-to-peer social networking system where the apps live on the edge, the data belongs to the user, and where some third-person (aka the advertiser) isn’t mining all you do for their own benefit (and not yours)?
Glenn Fleishman, from TidBITS, has a great long article on App.net, explaining what it is, what it is trying to achieve, and listing some things that could be built upon it (see below). It’s an exciting list.
App.net also isn’t restricting itself to being just like Twitter in terms of features. There’s a lot of room to grow, including messages longer than 256 characters and more interesting relationships among those messages. Feedback from paying users and early developers will certainly shape the kind of features App.net offers as well. Here are a few early ideas for systems that could use App.net’s infrastructure:
- Build a private text-messaging system like iMessage that uses standard Jabber (XMPP) protocols to create a gateway to work with the Messages app and other chat systems.
- Provide a kind of spam-free verified short email system among one’s social graph through email plug-ins that would show incoming messages and allow messages to be interleaved with regular email.
- Offer RSS feeds of all the URLs noted by those you follow, those who follow you, public lists, and other groups.
- Provide ebook annotation, in which notes could be added to books and automatically synced using EPUB and PDF software that relied on App.net for social relationships, message storage, and message notification.
- For computer-to-computer interaction, offer an alternative to HTTP, proprietary software, or email. Lightweight “listening” modules and libraries could use App.net as the backbone for sending automated messages, keeping them persistent for later review, queuing them in the event of network or server outages on the ends, and notifying humans of problems or status.
What do you think of App.net? Is this one more attempt by folks who want to keep the Internet open and useful for all? How can this fail? How can this succeed?