Is App.net better than Twitter? A lot of people have written about this simply because the App.net platform in its inception is quite similar to Twitter. It’s a microblogging platform that aspires to be more, and in concept the ethos behind the company make it quite appealing. Consider their values (take from their website):
- We are selling our product, NOT our users.
- You own your content.
- Our financial incentives are aligned with members & developers.
- App.net employees spend 100% of their time improving our services for you, not advertisers.
- We are operating a sustainable, predictable business.
- We respect and value our developer community.
Sounds good, right? The price is a bit steep at $50 per user and $100 per developer, but I don’t think that’s the greatest challenge for its success (which I explain below).
Is App.net better than Twitter? Now, no… but their third-party complement already impresses
App.net is a cool service. I paid my $50 to give it a run and it feels quite a bit like Twitter. Sure App.net gives you access to 256 characters instead of 140, making posts look a little foreign (yet not as over the top as some Google Plus posts) – but generally it feels quite similar. Except no advertisements
What is particularly impressive is how many third party apps are available a couple of months after the platform was made available, most notably BufferApp and ifttt, though they have a bevy of iOS apps and web apps available. Developers seem to have really embraced the platform and from that standpoint App.net has fulfilled their promise.
Of course, Twitter having made a similar brand promise at one time has an even more impressive bevy of third-party apps which they are now intent to quickly diminish….
The barrier to entry is too high for App.net to gain a large share of market (with a caveat)
The average social user is not going to pay $50 for a social service. The value proposition is too low for people accustomed to “free” platforms.
Using freemium model platform of Dropbox as an example: they get a 3% conversion rate for their freemium offering. From that you let’s (generously) assume that less than 3% of people of people who learn about App.net will sign up. Consider also that according to Edison Research only 1/2 as many people are aware of Google Plus that are aware of Twitter.
So by my math, the market for App.net with those assumptions would be a fraction of one percent of the market for Twitter. By social standards that doesn’t make for a very “social” platform. And that’s kind of what Diego Basch shows on his blog describing how social activity is driven by a handful of people on App.net right now.
The caveat to that is that the $100 costs for developers doesn’t seem to be a deterrent. This makes a lot of sense as the immediate need that App.net fills is for developers who enjoyed developing cool tools for Twitter but now cannot.
Is App.net better than Twitter? For whom?
In the great book The E-Myth Revisited, Michael Gerber discusses how entrepreneurs will oftentimes think like a technician rather than like an entrepreneur. The first question an entrepreneur would ask: “Is there a market for this?”
The issue when I consider this question is that I don’t think there is a great consumer need that App.net fills. Users are by-and large content with free-to-use Twitter. Is app.net better than Twitter for those folks? Probably not. When you start to look at App.net from the perspective of a company that has audience potential as a fraction of 1% of Twitter, then you start to wonder if Google Plus wouldn’t be a more viable alternative.
The only clear audience for App.net is developers. It’s a platform designed by developers for developers and it seems to be a hit with them. The question then becomes, if they build it, will users come?
I’m missing the point.
You could make a pretty great argument that Aimee Mann is a better musician, songwriter and singer than Katy Perry. That said, Katy Perry’s next album will outsell all of Aimee Mann’s albums many times over. Why? Because Katy Perry is an artist that appeals to a wider audience. Some of it probably has little to do with her music, but so be it. If the world appreciated music on its merits, Katy Perry wouldn’t be the superstar that she is. But the world is not fair.
App.net is a better idea than Twitter. If all things were equal it would kill Twitter – it wouldn’t even be close. And many people have written about how App.net is an even bigger idea than just a microblogging platform. I get it, but in the same way that I appreciate Aimee Mann, Arrested Development, Cincinnati and palak paneer. I understand that my preferences aren’t shared with of the majority of people. In other words, my proclivities and preferences should not inform a sound business model.
I enjoy Aimee Mann and App.net. There’s nothing inherently wrong with that as it reflects my values and preferences. But it’s important to understand that for the general population, Katy Perry and Twitter satisfy their needs (Justin Bieber and Facebook even moreso).
Is App.net better than Twitter? For me, maybe. For developers, definately. For most, no.