Described as “a real-time social network without the ads,” App.net (ADN) sucked me in despite its entry fee. All users either pay a monthly ($5) or yearly ($36) fee, depending on their choosing, and I spent some time wondering who would do such a thing to have access to something that, via Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, etc., was provided freely.
After thinking about it, though, and setting it in the context of my own experiences working for a startup, it starts to make a little more sense. The networks above can provide a product or service for free, but they’re also at full liberty to change the way items show up in followers’ feeds, how developers can utilize their API, whether they can utilize an API at all -this article mentions ADN founder, by the way -, or advertise at will (… I couldn’t just pick one link because you see this in a lot of places). I completely get it that it’s their right and really, in their best interests to provide a product or service and expect to recoup some gains as a result. Servers cost money, after all.
So why pay to access a social network?
By paying for App.net, I’ve experienced the following things, more or less in order:
- Fear that my money will be wasted
- Isolation once I realize that I know literally no one on ADN
- Shyness as I fill out my profile and choose how I want to introduce myself to a bunch of people who don’t know me
- Trepidation as I start browsing the global feed
- Daring as I begin to add people who seem interesting
- Brazen, almost, as I think to myself, “Hey, you paid for this… make it worthwhile” and begin to reply to individuals’ posts
- Excitement as I start accumulating followers in this new space
- Curiosity regarding what’ll show up on my feed next
- Embarrassment as I notice that I’ve tried to manually refresh my feed a few times in a row and no new posts have appeared
- Satisfaction once I start realizing, “… I kind of get it now”
I’ve only been on ADN for 2 days, but I’ve already had a lot of fulfilling conversation – and the slightly-longer character limit of 256 characters is great! A series of football-related replies caught my eye so I jumped right in and made friends with an AC Milan fan and have even gotten into some enjoyable chats with a Chelsea fan. This is pretty notable if you consider that us Liverpool fans don’t usually play well with others in the Big 4. (Not that our recent form has really warranted inclusion in said Big 4 anymore…)
It’s also comforting to know that since everyone pays for access, the team behind ADN have a source of income to put towards stabilizing and perhaps improving their systems architecture as their network gains more users. It’s a self-sustaining model, and the fact that I pay for it honestly makes me more driven to utilize the network and reach out to make connections that I normally wouldn’t on other networks. (Sorry if I’ve annoyed any ADN users by doing that, by the way.)
So, in short —
Yes, I pay to access a social network that, at first glance, is a lot like Twitter. And yes, I do check other social networks, and I understand that I’ll likely miss out on conversation there while I’m talking to people on ADN. I still think that #musedchat and the rest of the education PLN on Twitter is an incredibly valuable resource.
But am I satisfied with ADN? Yes. Is it still early days? Yes. Will I probably continue to use ADN a year from now? Yes.