A disgruntled Dalton Caldwell, exasperated by Facebook and Twitter’s apparent allegiance to advertisers as opposed to user trust and privacy, has embarked on a crusade to create his own social media platform titled App.net, one that commentators have dubbed a ‘social media utopia’. The social media site went live for the first time last week and is currently recruiting users at $50 a profile in order to keep the social platform afloat, without the monetary help from advertisers, thereby offering users freedom, trust and privacy. The days are early, but will App.net attract an audience that is discontent with their social media content being scanned and sold to third parties, and inspire a move towards a social media environment free from advertisers? If so, should Facebook and Twitter reconsider their privacy regulations, or are users simply apathetic to these issues, preferring to have their information sold in exchange for a free online service?
Entrepreneur Dalton Caldwell, founder of Imeem and creator of Picplz, decided to create the social media site App.net after Facebook refused to collaborate on his project as had been previously discussed. Instead Facebook allegedly offered to buy out the company or effectively crush the project, an iPhone application for app discovery through friends. This apparent anti-competitive move by the Facebook giant gave Caldwell the motivation to create the social media site App.net for online users seeking refuge from advertisers.
The Alpha release of App.net is not jam packed with the features that Facebook and Twitter currently have. In essence, it shares Twitter’s basic functionality, such as updates, streams, follows, profiles etc. App.net does not yet support more advanced features such as photo uploads or notifications. However, App.net is intended to be a social network in progress; developers running from hostile sites Facebook and Twitter will be able to create tools for users, with a disregarding for any business interest of course. In return for an ad-free communication platform, users will pay an annual fee of $50. App.net has until 13th August to raise $500 000 for the project from users in order to guarantee its existence for the next 12 months.
Disbelievers of the social utopia App.net say that the model will never work, however some are praising App.net for the potential it offers. On the one hand it can be a place where users and developers are free from the shackles of Twitter and Facebook, who are increasingly become more anti-competitive and revenue-centric. On the other hand, for businesses and personal brands alike, Facebook and users are leading platforms for promoting products, services and personalities, levelling the playing field between big corporates, small businesses and individual bloggers. Furthermore, with social relevance becoming more relevant to search engine optimisation and online marketing strategies, activities on Facebook on Twitter do help bolster social influence. However, what App.net does indicate is that users are quite simply getting fed up with the increasing monetisation of communication networks and are today more concerned about privacy than ever before. Whether people are willing to pay for the privilege of privacy and trust, will determine the success or failure of App.net.