What if there were a social network that promised not to sell your personal data to advertisers? Would you join, even if you had to pay for it? That’s the premise of app.net, a very bright idea from developer Dalton Caldwell, who felt that Facebook didn’t respect his contribution to their social ecosystem — or that of their users.
We all rely on the big platforms like Facebook and Twitter, either as small businesses reaching customers, or as developers looking to create the products that help businesses leverage those platforms. Generally, it’s a one-sided relationship, where the big platforms do what they think is best for them – and the rest of us struggle to keep up. App.net was conceived as a way for those integral to the social process – the users and developers – to have some control over the process.
So, what is App.net offering to set it apart from the other social networks?
The core of the App.net offering is paid service that will, at least initially, resemble Twitter in terms of its functionality. The product itself is not revolutionary, nor does it claim to be. What is new, however, is a model that is completely upfront about how it will generate revenue: from its users (at $50/year) and developers ($99/year). App.net’s claim is that a transparent, pre-planned business model will prevent the social network from scrambling to make money by selling ads, and will allow the company to be upfront with users from the beginning. The company also makes the point that a predictable, advertiser free platform will allow the product-focused team members to concentrate on the user experience, and supporting developers instead of advertisers.
Not selling ads goes along with what is probably app.net’s biggest selling point: they will never sell your personal data or information, and any information you provide (or “content” you create) still belongs to you. Contrast that with Facebook, which nominally lets you retain control of your data, but essentially has free license to do anything with it they could desire.
It’s a tricky proposition to create a social network from scratch. It requires a critical mass of the right users to make it valuable, and buy-in is tough even without a fee. But the promise of something new and radically different is also part of the appeal; app.net has raised over $600,000 from 9,000+ backers in a Kickstarter-style campaign, so there’s certainly demand. Backers can still contribute, and will receive special alpha access for the very first app.net experience.
For an interesting perspective on the potential of app.net, read Hype Machine founder Anthony Volodkin’s thoughts on the new network, and definitely check out founder Dalton Caldwell’s account of his experience with Facebook that made him reconsider working with Zuckerberg et al.We’re also curious to hear what you think. How much is your data worth to you? Is $50 a fair price for privacy, or is the fuss over Facebook’s Terms of Service borderline paranoia?