Essays on Technology and Culture

The Value of App.Net

Full disclosure: Dalton Caldwell once paid for my brunch, including the Bloody Mary.

There’s been a bit of ink spilled over the latest State of the Union, wherein it is written:

The good news is that the renewal rate was high enough for to be profitable and self-sustaining on a forward basis…. The bad news is that the renewal rate was not high enough for us to have sufficient budget for full-time employees… including founders. is not shutting down, unlike photo hosting site MLKSHK, but the rhetoric around the announcement makes it sound like the lights could go out tomorrow, that is a failure, and all of that. If it was a failure, they probably would turn out the lights.

I’m a paid App.Net member, and while it took me some time to get up to speed on the service, it’s where I go for conversation. From my initial skepticism, I became a champion of the service when it went freemium. As long as the server still runs, and my preferred apps still work, I’ll be sticking around on App.Net for a while. I might even pay to renew. I’ve got until October to decide.

But is conversation alone worth $36 a year for access? App.Net’s public face is that of a Twitter-like service, though it’s clear they want it to be more. There’s plenty of apps that build on the service as a backend, though nothing terribly groundbreaking. I’ve used a Foursquare clone, and two Instagram clones, and neither really stuck with me. I’m back on both original services now. I’m using a whopping 65.2 megabytes of the 10GB of storage I pay for. I have to wonder how many others have made better use of these features.

The value proposition of App.Net was a platform for social apps. I don’t know if they communicated this well enough, because as far as most people I know who aren’t in the ADN ecosystem think, it’s Twitter you have to pay for. Granted, it’s really hard to communicate what App.Net really is to ordinary people. One of the smarted moves the App.Net team did was move to a freemium model. The more people who use the service, the better the chance they’d use some of the third party services built on it. It didn’t work. People smarter than me have already opined about why.

And that sucks. I did my best to evangelize App.Net to my friends, but kept hitting the “Twitter you have to pay for” issue. I still follow more people on Twitter than on App.Net, because more people I care about are active there. I probably won’t leave App.Net—there’s still activity and friends using the service—but I don’t know if I’ll re-up my subscription. Am I getting $36 per year value? I don’t know yet. I have until October to decide. The real moment of truth will come in a year, when everyone who renewed this time get to decide if they’re getting their money’s worth. What I do in October will be a blip. May 2015 could kill the service, and I hope it doesn’t.