This post has been a while in the making. I had some initial thoughts about ADN and then I kind of wondered if I was rushing to judgement, so having given it some time and gone back to it, I think I’m in a better position to express my opinion.
For those of you who don’t know, ADN, or App.net (app-dot-net) is a social networking service. It is essentially very similar to twitter, but with two exceptions. Firstly, the character limit is 256, not exactly ground breaking, but it is nice to be able to express an entire thought in one post. Secondly, and more notably, it is a paid for service. The idea behind this seems to be that the users of the service are the customers and not the product being sold. So instead of finding ways to harvest data to sell, or shaping rules to push “paid for” posts in to users time lines, the creators and maintainers of the service would be focussed on making a service that people really want to use. This all resonated with me greatly. I do worry about how my data is being used, but I am also not naive enough to think that services like twitter aren’t ultimately looking for a revenue stream. I selfishly also hoped that if accounts cost money, it would help to dissuade spammers, griefers and ignorant sheeple. I say selfishly, because I subsequently wondered if the fee would provide sufficient barrier to entry to have prevented the spread of information during events like the arab spring. Would people be put off by the potential money trail that could be followed back to them. This is in contrast to Twitter, where anyone can sign up and tweet largely with complete anonymity (note the qualifier used).
Having signed up for an account before the service was launched, I waited with anticipation to see if the funding target would be reached. Along the way I read a blog post that suggested that it would be rich, white nerds creating the service that *they* wanted to use. This struck me as bizarre for a few reasons. Why would people spend time developing a service that *they* didn’t want to use? Why would they spend time developing a service that *nobody* wanted to use, when their ultimate aim was to get people to pay to use it. I couldn’t see the issue, but I would.
The funding target was reached and hence ADN came in to being. I jumped in with both feet. There was initially no tapbots app for ADN and the contrast between Tweetbot and the ADN apps I was using was massive. I knew that with time the apps available for ADN would mature and grow. I hoped that ADN might take better care of the developers than twitter seemed to be and that this could mean that lots of development effort would be redirected by devs in to ADN app offerings.
The majority of the early adopters were all tech folk. A great many of them had ditched their twitter accounts and switched to ADN full time. Many of them seemed to already know each other (maybe from twitter) and it was insanely hard to get people talking outside of their tribal groups. I remembered how hard I found it to break in to twitter when I first joined. I was also now armed with my Aspergers diagnosis, I knew that I found socialising harder than most people. I’ve dipped in and out of ADN a few times since then, including a period recently where I spent a few days using ADN as my only social media outlet. It is still the same and so I don’t think ADN is going to be a long term home for me. At least, not unless all of my twitter friends switch over and I can’t see why they would? I think that the biggest impact ADN can have on my social media life is to keep twitter honest. That alone is worth the money I paid.