App.Net Celebrates First Birthday
App.net (known as App dot Net, or simply ADN) yesterday celebrated its first birthday. ADN was created by Dalton Caldwell to provide a Twitter-like experience, but one where the users are the customers, not the product.
Twitter has become immensely popular over the last few years, but with its growth came the question of whether the service can survive as a free platform. Although the service provided by Twitter is free, like Google it must be paid for somehow; and that comes in the form of advertising.
Twitter's approach to advertising has had some revolts; when the iOS client application added a 'promoted panel' at the top of the page in March 2011, it attracted a wide criticism on the appearance of the #dickbar, a term coined by John Gruber. The feature was killed off later that same month.
What it did start, however, was a change of policy by Twitter to monetise its users products; and one of the first things to go was custom Twitter clients. One of Twitter's key growth areas was in the custom clients that had been developed for a variety of platforms. To ensure that users were funnelled to clients that Twitter controlled – and could display adverts on – the clampdown on custom clients began. At present, Twitter still allows custom clients but only to a maximum of 100,000 users; a limit which has been hit by many apps already, the latest of which is Falcon Pro on Android.
As a result of all of these changes, set out a vision to create ADN, a Twitter-like experience but one which received its income not from advertising but from subscription fees. For a fee of $35 per user per year, the goal was to create an alternate Twitterverse where the users are the users, not the product.
From its beginnings it was very open to additional clients; in fact, the service encouraged the creation of clients rather than its own home grown one, choosing instead to focus on the APIs necessary to enable the platform to grow. There's a separate directory of clients, which includes platforms from iPhone to Blackberry as well as native solutions for Mac, Windows and Linux. Another key differentiator is the increase in message limit; whereas Twitter has a 140-character limit (a constraint related to the 160 character SMS message length), ADN started with a 256 character limit – which it recently increased to 2048 for private messages.
More recently the service has added a photo sharing service – like Twitpic, but for higher quality photos. With each paid account, ADN gives users 500Mb of storage and a file-like API akin to Dropbox. This has allowed additional client applications to be created and to share these files between clients; something which is otherwise impossible on restricted platforms such as the iPhone. Key to this is having both private files and public files, and the ability to share links to these with private or public messages.
Finally, ADN launched a free level with restrictions on the account such as the number of people that could be followed. This caused a doubling in the number of active users, which currently stand around 5,000 unique users per day out of 150,000 accounts registered. The service is growing at around 500 new users per day, and with 10,000 messages per day – most of them private – the service continues to expand to new clients and horizons.