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."

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