Sanspoint.

Essays on Technology and Culture

On App.net and Where the Action Is

I’ve arrived late to the party on App.net, which used to be the Twitter alternative for people with $50 to spare. Now, it’s the Twitter alternative for people with $36 to spare. My initial unwillingness to join App.net came from the fifty dollars it cost to join the service in its earliest days. While some recent decisions on behalf of Twitter’s management had—and have—me grumbling, App.net’s price tag kept me from making the jump. Now I have a new job that ostensibly involves social media. With those things in mind, I figured it would be worthwhile to give it a try. I whipped out the debit card, registered my username [1], and started following a bunch of people—mostly those I follow on Twitter, and installed a couple of client apps.

I’ll get to the application experience later, but in the week I’ve been on App.net, it’s left me wondering just what the heck I expected to get out of it. The good news about App.net is that it’s still small enough that I can get some serendipitous connections just by posting. A post asking for advice on Mac clients got a reply from someone who, I presume, saw it on the global feed. Another post about help with TextExpander eventually got the attention of the famous @shawnblanc. The days when you could have something like that happen on Twitter were over about the time I signed up, if not months before. Also, it is nice to use, and the conversation is much more focused than Twitter—the latter being, again I suspect, more a function of the small user base. I also do like the 256 character post limit, but I’m surprisingly terse on these services anyway.

App.net’s third-party apps are of varying quality, most of them in a rough beta stage. The best desktop client I’ve found, thanks to user @aaandy, is Wedge. While a little clunky, and clearly feature-incomplete, what it does do, it does well, and is nice to look at. On my iPhone, I’ve been using Tapbots Netbot. Netbot is a joy to use, and it should be. It’s just their amazing Twitter client, Tweetbot, slightly modified to use App.net, and works the same, right down to the UI. [2] I’ve not wanted for a good Twitter client experience, but the way Twitter’s treating third-party clients makes me think I will be wanting in the future. App.net has me covered.

The problem with App.net for me, is that there’s very little there. Admittedly, I’m following 18 users, compared to the 113 I follow on Twitter. I also have four users following me,[3] limiting the amount of expected interaction on any posts. Almost everyone I follow on App.net, I also follow on Twitter, and all but one of them uses Twitter far more than App.net. This means that if I want to know what, say, Jim Dalrymple thinks about the new iPad mini, I have to go to Twitter, and not App.net. And that’s just for the people on both services! When it comes to actually having stuff to see and read, Twitter is where the action is, and I don’t see that changing any time soon. App.net is where the geeks play, and while I am a proud geek, most of the people I care about and follow are not.

Which throws another social media service into the mix: Facebook, which I have discussed before, more than once. Facebook is where my real friends are—the ones who I see in the flesh on a regular basis, share drinks, handshakes, and hugs with. If I want to know what they’re up to, and I do, I either have to go to Facebook, or live in the dark. For me, Facebook is where the action is, followed by Twitter. However, I can say that App.net is more lively than Google+.

Twitter and Facebook, offer me two different, but slightly overlapping audiences. What I post on either service is targeted to the people on the service I post it on. Sometimes, I post the same thing to both. Who is my audience on App.net? Because of its size, its simultaneously everyone and no one. This leaves me with little to use it for, and what I do use it for, will often be cross-posted to Twitter. I’d like to find a niche for all of these, App.net especially, as it is an investment of $36 per year, and the $4.99 I spent on NetBot. I don’t want this to be a waste of time and money. For now, however, my attention is going to have to go where the action is.


  1. Sanspoint was not taken, to my complete lack of surprise.  ↩

  2. Tapbots recently released a Mac version of Tweetbot, and I snapped it up on the release day for $20. If they made a Mac version of NetBot, I’d do the same.  ↩

  3. I have 203 Twitter followers, but the number of those who are actual real people is unknown. It is, however, greater than one, and less than 203.  ↩