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App.net isn’t like other social media networks

I’ve recently joined App.net, the ad-free, subscription-based social media platform, founded by Dalton Caldwell and Bryan Berg. I’ve been meaning to try out App.net for a while but hadn’t taken the plunge until a couple weeks ago.

I love what’s missing in App.net.

There’s a lot I love about App.net. Not only is the network ad-free, it’s not yet been overrun by corporate and individual brands attempting to advertise themselves — looking to gain all the followers they can with a steady stream of “content” delivery and a low rate of interaction. I’m hoping
( possibly naively ) that this isn’t just a side-effect of how new App.net is, but that it’s also fostered by the ad-free culture of the company.

App.net still has a global stream and it’s still engaging and not completely overrun with junk. Unlike Twitter, there seems to be relatively few App.net celebrities who enjoy the luxury of a massive following yet can’t be bothered to interact with them. App.net has a user base that is actively participating, engaging in new conversations, asking questions and offering answers.

Social media distrust

There’s a lot of distrust and disappointment that users and developers have for companies like Facebook, Google and Twitter. Recent news stories like: Users distrust of Facebook, Launch of Google Drive reveals lack of trust and Twitter announces API changes reveal that something is wrong. Profit at the expense of user trust is never a good idea.

Alignment of values

When I started writing this article I went and took a look at the values espoused by App.net. They are refreshing promises to jaded users:

  1. We are selling our product, NOT our users.
    We will never sell your personal data, content, feed, interests, clicks, or anything else to advertisers. We promise.
  2. You own your content.
    App.net members always have full control of their data and the fundamental right to easily back-up, export, and delete ALL of their data, whenever they want.
  3. Our financial incentives are aligned with members and developers
    App.net’s financial incentives are entirely tied to successfully delivering a service you can depend on and that you would pay for.
  4. App.net employees spend 100% of their time improving our services for you, not advertisers.
    Rather than waste engineering time developing new ways to sell your personal data to advertisers, 100% of our engineering and product team is focused on building the most innovative and reliable service we can.
  5. We are operating a sustainable, predictable business.
    App.net will always have a clear business model. We know that depending on services that could go away or desperately squeeze users for more and more money is a toxic cycle. We want our ecosystem to rest easy that App.net is built on a financially solid foundation.
  6. We respect and value our developer community.
    We believe that developers building on our platform are increasing the value of our service, and thus our financial interests are fundamentally aligned. We hope developers build large, robust businesses on top of our platform. We pledge to never shut down developers acting in good faith, even if it means that we will forgo some huge future revenue streams.
  7. Our most valuable asset is your trust.
    Many people have become so cynical about user-hostile, privacy-violating social services that they refuse to participate at all. We can understand why. Earning your trust is the most important thing we can do. It won’t be easy, and we will make some mistakes, but we will do our best to be honest and transparent.

What this all boils down to is that the culture of App.net — espoused by the company’s values and present in the network — is different than the current culture of Twitter and other social networks. When I am on App.net, I don’t have the perpetual feeling that I do with Twitter and Facebook of a digital environment overrun by advertising and marketing; run by creators who have forgotten to serve their users. For me, the small fee to join App.net is clearly offset by the benefits.

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