Social Enterprise

The tweet that broke the whale's back

Disgruntled developers who were disillusioned by Twitter's moves to more tightly regulate its API could find solace in new microblogging service App.net, which shares profits with developers.

In the beginning, Twitter delicately brokered the intimate relationship between app developers and its users, but this degenerated over time as the social network aimed to please its investors.

Twitter recently imposed stricter guidelines for using its API, which aimed at enhancing the value of tweets — its key intellectual property.

Twitter now wields similar powers as Apple does over its App Store fiefdom, but without offering the same value, according to Instapaper founder Marco Arment.

"Many users of Twitter's platform compete with Twitter on some level. Twitter doesn't need a lot of its nontrivial apps, and in fact, they'd be happier if most of them disappeared," Arment wrote on his blog. "By comparison, Apple needs its apps much more than Twitter does, and Apple's interests conflict much less with its developers'."

"I sure as hell wouldn't build a business on Twitter, and I don't think I'll even build any nontrivial features on it anymore."

"And if I were in the Twitter-client business, I'd start working on another product."

This breakdown was the genesis for Twitter-rival App.net, a subscription-based microblogging service, which has created an equitable model for its developer user-base.

Founder Dalton Caldwell's anti-Twitter manifesto railed against how the microblog chose to be an advertising company over an API company. His philosophy resonated with disgruntled developers and users; and in August, Kickstarter's users endorsed his vision for a financially sustainable, ad-free real-time feed API and service, donating over $800,000 to turn it into a reality. App.net recently hit 20,000 users.

It created a $20,000 per month prize pool that is divided amongst developers that have created most popular apps, to align the interests of the platform with users and developers.

The App.net prize pool should preserve the platform-user-developer nexus as the social network grows, according to Melbourne-based developer Deniz Veli, who developed the first Android client for App.net.

"It's about making it a core part of the platform," Veli said. "Developers can be creative, and have faith they're going to make some money off it, long term."

"It's also designed in a way that you're not just rewarded for building an app. It's based on the popularity and the number of users, so it's about quality as well."

"It's encouraging them to create something unique and exciting. There are so many platforms you can build on, but App.net is the only one that provides that support."

"It's still really early days — there's not that many users, so all Twitter and Facebook developers shouldn't just jump ship to App.net — but the idea is to grow with the platform. As more people join, App.net makes more money, the prize pool grows, and developers share in a larger profit pie."

1 comments
thebigbadA
thebigbadA

Hi Three years ago I was going to the twitter devnest in London since I could see the potential of such a system and how apps could really leverage what was there. I was sceptical about the terms and conditions however and could not help but feel that Twitter were not going to be my best friend if I was successful. To be sure some apps and their developers have done nicely; Ian Dodsworth had his Tweetdeck bought by Twitter for a tidy sum, a similar product, Seesmic (that I preferred) died and the changes from Twitters in the past hardly helped. In any ecosystem there will be winners and losers so a single case is hardly proof. The flip side is that I am not aware of Apple buying up Apps and killing others. That kind of behaviour is not in their interests whereas it is definitely in Twitters interest. The app.net approach is laudable and I hope they succeed however I have a couple of reservations. Firstly, as a developer you are still tied to both the success and the possible change of terms of app.net. Secondly if you develop an you might get virtually nothing even if it is successful because sharing with other apps is a quick way to not make much. Secondly we live in a world where the public has become used to getting something for nothing - this bucks that trend, can it succeed for multi millions of users, I suspect not. My personal take is that if you want to have a better app environment outside of the stranglehold of organisations like Twitter or Facebook then look at the fundamentals. Both Twitter and Facebook are messaging systems with benefits. The beauty of Twitter is that it is a simplified reverse email system. I say - give me all the messages from these accounts and it sends them. This is not rocket science. It is pretty much the same as an RSS reader or an email subscription to newsgroups. An alternative to twitter already exists that would allow app developers to make as many apps as they wish. A combination of activity streams (an open twitter like message protocol) and hub to send it through (think of twitter as a hub) - have a look at http://superfeedr.com/ and off you go. What doesn't exist is an app store for users for these - you know what, I think I have found a gap in the market