On the heels of Ouya, the Twitter alternative App.net smashed their $500,000 fundraising goal. Interestingly, they did not use KickStarter and instead built their own funding platform. Kickstarter funded projects share some of the raised capital beyond credit card processing and it looks like App.net decided that they were better served by holding a greater share of their fundraising than they would receive in value from Kickstarter.
Also interesting is the frustration this project embodies. There is a high correlation between Internet savvy and antagonism toward ad-supported social networks. For many people, Facebook is a necessity they resent. A few even resent it so much they've elected to disable their accounts–at considerable social cost.
I'm interesting in App.net because they are another example of a startup bucking the conventional path to funding, but also because they represent a something more profound. over 10,000 people have raised more than $680,000 to support a fee-based social network with no ads. The issues of privacy, data ownership, user experience and third-party developer access are important enough to a group of people that they are building their own platform. Have a look at the app.net core values:
We are selling our product, NOT our users.
We will never sell your personal data, content, feed, interests, clicks, or anything else to advertisers. We promise.
You own your content.
App.net members will always have full control of their data. Members have the fundamental right to easily back-up, export, and delete ALL of their data, whenever they want.
We will align our financial incentives with members & developers.
In this paid model, the more people that value our service highly enough to pay for it, the more money we make. Our financial incentives are entirely tied to successfully delivering a service you can depend on, not on holding our ecosystem hostage.
App.net employees spend 100% of their time improving our services for you, not advertisers.
Rather than waste most of our engineering time coming up with new and exciting ways to sell your personal data to advertisers, 100% of our engineering and product team will be focused on building the most innovative and reliable service we can.
We will operate a sustainable, predictable business.
App.net will always have a clear business model. We know that depending on services that could go away or desperately squeeze users for more and more money is a toxic cycle.
We want our ecosystem to rest easy that App.net is built on a financially solid foundation.
We respect and value our developer community.
We believe that developers building on our platform are increasing the value and attractiveness of our service to paying members, and thus our financial interests are fundamentally aligned. We hope developers build large, robust businesses on top of our platform. Even if it means that we will likely forgo some huge future revenue streams, we will NEVER screw developers acting in good faith.
Our most valuable asset is your trust.
Many people have become so cynical about user-hostile, privacy-violating social services that they refuse to participate at all. We can understand why. Earning your trust is the most important thing we can do. It won't be easy, and we will make some mistakes, but we will do our best to be honest and transparent.
For sometime, Twitter has been the place where people concerned about these issues connected with each other. Unfortunately, Twitter is a neat product with no clear path to profitability. This search for revenue is driving Twitter into being more controlling, less cooperative to third-party development and more ad-focused. Twitter becomes more like Facebook over time.
This is the Internet at its best. I believe that the social changes the Internet will bring are just beginning, and governments, large corporations and other organizations are unprepared for the market disruption will follow.