• Are you ready for a paid Twitter?

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    by Ryan Kim at GIGAOM

    Dalton Caldwell, the man behind failed startups Imeem and PicPlz, recently ruminated on what he wished Twitter could have become. Now he’s moving ahead with his own paid alternative that promises to shun advertising and focus on customer trust.


    Caldwell unveiled his big venture called App.net in a lengthy blog post Friday and kicked off a month-long Kickstarter-esque pledge campaign aimed at testing his theory about the need for just such a platform. He’s looking to raise $500,000 from 10,000 people, which he thinks will be enough money to get started and also validate his idea. App.net was originally envisioned as a paid service for mobile developers but has been repurposed to tackle this larger goal of creating a paid version of Twitter.


    The product will offer a real-time feed and a social graph similar to Twitter available from a mobile application or website. Ultimately, App.net will support third-party apps built on top of the App.net ecosystem. Caldwell said the consumers aren’t given much choice right now in social startups, which are largely dependent on advertising for revenue. That leads to businesses that work to ultimately sell their users and their data to advertisers, he said. He believes there’s enough of a market for another business model that puts customer and their trust first.
    Why isn’t there an opportunity to pay money to get an ad-free feed from a company where the product is something you pay for, not, well, you. To be clear: I’m glad there are ad-supported options, but why does that seem like the only option? For example, I have the option of buying a Mac if I don’t want to buy a crapware-infested PC, right? I have no interest in completely opting-out of the social web. But please, I want a real alternative to advertising hell… I would gladly pay for a service that treats me better. (Emphasis Caldwell’s)

    App.net promises to never run ads or sell user data to advertisers. Users will be able to export, back-up or delete their data. The service will supposedly provide developers with a predictable business to build upon and will be focused on satisfying paying users and improving the experience.


    Caldwell’s proposal follows a Kickstarter project from Penny Arcade, an online comics publisher, who is looking at replacing the revenue it currently gets from advertising with funding from fans. The two projects raise new questions about whether traditionally ad-supported services can build a viable model by charging users up front in exchange for a product that eschews ads.


    I’d personally like to see new alternatives emerge though any competitor ultimately needs to get people in the door to work. 10,000 believers might be enough to get started but you have to recruit the masses to succeed and that can be hard when the experience on Twitter is still very positive for most people. People are increasingly aware that their “free” social networks are really making their money off users and their data. But for the most part, inertia, familiarity and data lock-in keep people from looking elsewhere. And App.net ultimately can’t just be an ad-free alternative, it will have to be better somehow, more compelling, with some kind of killer features or such a radically better design, to get people to switch.


    So I’m not very optimistic about App.net’s chances. And the truth is, it may be hard for any big social network to become profitable, as Derek Powazek wrote today. But I’d like to see Caldwell take a stab at shaking up the current dependence on ad-supported services.
    Comments 9 Comments
    1. srl7741's Avatar
      Interesting? I've been thinking about deleting Twitter for awhile now due to the unwanted emails, and Ads that appear not to mention all the p0rn attempts that get by as followers.

      About two minutes ago I deleted an unwanted, unsolicited email from Twitter telling me about all the interesting things going on I might like to know about. I logged in via web and removed myself from the future stuff but we'll see if that really happens.

      I absolutely HATE! Ads. If you need Ads to stay in business your doing something wrong.
    1. ventz's Avatar
      Srl --

      well it's either ads or directly paid accounts. Or having someone pay your bills. Look at PinStack for example -- they are taking the common approach -- a little bit of free, a little bit of paid (as an option, not a forced), and a little bit of ads.

      The question, IMO, becomes how do you integrate your ads. Facebook for example, as of lately, has just nailed it. About 80% of the ads are interesting to me and relevant.
    1. srl7741's Avatar
      Imagine setting in your living room watching a movie or just reading a book and every 60 seconds there is knock at your door by an Ad company trying to sell you something? You would never be able to watch the movie or read the book.

      Ads are an insult.

      I will agree Ads have a place but with most everything they are over the top and out of control in an attempt to make money.
    1. TeriO's Avatar
      Quote Originally Posted by srl7741 View Post
      Imagine setting in your living room watching a movie or just reading a book and every 60 seconds there is knock at your door by an Ad company trying to sell you something? You would never be able to watch the movie or read the book.
      I don't know... I see the point that you are making and to an extent agree with it. However, it is MUCH easier for me to ignore an add that is online or emailed to me then it would be to ignore a knock at my door.

      I am not a big fan of adds either and generally, if I have an option to buy an add free app for my phone, I prefer to pay. I don't think that I would pay for Facebook or Twitter though. Maybe it's just me.
    1. Delfim's Avatar
      Facebook and Twitter are vying for our attention. Why should we pay them?
    1. chokem's Avatar
      I like FB, Twitter, meh, I tweet about once a month.
    1. lak611's Avatar
      Quote Originally Posted by chokem View Post
      I like FB, Twitter, meh, I tweet about once a month.
      I'm the exact opposite. I 86'd my Facebook account over 2 years ago, but I use Twitter regularly.
    1. lak611's Avatar
      Quote Originally Posted by RogerG View Post
      Wirelessly posted (iPhone 4S: Mozilla/5.0 (iPhone; U; CPU iPhone OS 5_1_1 like Mac OS X; en-us) AppleWebKit/534.46.0 (KHTML, like Gecko) CriOS/19.0.1084.60 Mobile/9B206 Safari/7534.48.3)

      Adblock is wonderful addon.
      Adblock plus Ghostery FTW!
    1. ventz's Avatar
      If you root your Android/iPhone device, you can get adblock there too. (AdFree is the best one)
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