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
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