I've been on Twitter since December 9, 2008. I have no plans on leaving Twitter any time soon. Twitter's moves to embed ads into their web client via "promoted" tweets doesn't bug me; I'm used to ignoring ads on the web. The fact that Twitter has remained a free service means that they must find a way to monetize their business. The old adage still rings true. If you aren't paying for a service, then you are not the customer, you are the product. Your data, your location, even your clicks and behaviors are all for sale to the highest bidder. Twitter is currently focusing on selling your eyes to advertisers. They are launching more and more features that are aimed at highlighting the businesses that are willing to pay top-dollar for custom interfaces. Again, I'm find with all of this. What I am not, however, fine with is the new restrictions that Twitter is imposing on 3rd-party apps.
On a recent episode of the CMD+SPACE podcast, Marco Arment made a very blunt, and very accurate assertion regarding Twitter. He stated, in no uncertain terms, that Twitter has celebrities, and therefore, the geeks no longer matter. He's right. Geeks helped get Twitters name out there, and most of the features that enabled Twitter to reach its current explosion of user-base mass came from the community of 3rd-party app developers. Twitter doesn't care; Twitter has Lady Gaga now.
So... The above was all merely a recap of what led me to the decision I made last night. I joined the App.net Alpha. Most people that use Twitter would never pay $50 to use a very similar service (minus the ads, plus developer freedom). Geeks will. I'm sure it will not always cost $50. That's simply the cost for those early adopters that will ultimately make or break whether App.net is able to build a business that has some chance of survival. I'm not going to comment on things like the interface, or the 3rd-party apps that have already started to get released in alpha and beta iterations. It's too early for all that. I will, however, sum up what I'm hoping to get out of App.net, and why I viewed the $50 entry cost as an investment vs. a fee.
There is a measure used in engineering that represents how I feel about Twitter vs. App.net. It is called signal-to-noise ratio. Simply put, it is the amount of relevance (signal), compared to that which is completely irrelevant (the noise). Twitter has grown to the point that it has very high signal-to-noise (SNR). I don't advertise this blog in very many places other than Twitter. I don't have very many Twitter followers. I wouldn't be upset if that were to change. I continue to write this blog for myself, but I do hope that it one day becomes a destination for others on the web who seek mindful discussion on the various topics that make up my interests. Getting a link to my post through the rest of the noise on Twitter is very difficult. The reason that I view the sign-up cost of App.net as an investment, is that I hope it will payoff in the form of continued low SNR. I hope that I'm able to both engage in meaningful conversations with other early adopters. I also hope that when I post a link to a new blog post, I get more like-minded geeks to click and read (and hopefully bookmark or recommend).
This is far from the last post about App.net. Much like App.net itself, this is only the beginning. Here's to hoping that through both a strong sense of community, as well as a foundation of knowing where Twitter diverted from being "of and for the geeks," App.net will be the SNR leader of the social web.