I’m a good listener, Dave. Though I am full of my own original ideas, you are an inspirational source. Your writing is by far my favorite in the tech/media/journalism/hacking space. I don’t mind the politics either. I know that you want to be a good listener too. And of course you like when someone blogs rather than tweets at you. So to continue the conversation that I sparked on Twitter, here’s another blog post on vocal.ly.
I’ll start by addressing the main point that you have already made previously regarding app.net. I agree with you. Another centralized service does not solve everything. Dalton Caldwell and his team had made a very good effort in setting expectations from the start. They never claimed to be the solution for everyone and everything, not now and maybe never. app.net (ADN) today is not another Twitter, though their alpha prototype that demonstrates the API uses the “Twitter Template”, and it’s not another Diaspora either. They are not, at least not initially, trying to proclaim to be the decentralized alternative to Twitter. That’s an important topic and it does bleed into this project but in this early stage, it is not at the forefront of the conversation. The message right now is simply…. Create infrastructure for a real-time communication pipeline that is and always will be ad-free and developer-friendly. The recent blog post over on blog.app.net ends with this reminder:
So remember this: at its core, App.net is an ad-free, subscription-based platform, a backbone, a dialtone.
I hate to come off as spelling this out to you because I know you know. But I have to write something here in reply to your question – “Why should I…” be interested?
One of the most exciting things that was announced by Twitter over the years was the Annotations API. The ability to store namespaced key/value data inside tweets. Shortly after that and other ambitious developer-friendly announcements, Twitter internally decided to shift in the other direction…. towards being a Media Empire. I am ok with this. In fact, I am happy and thankful that it is happening this way. It allows for progression by other entities that are sincere about improving the Internet more so than bettering the advertisement and media industry. That is why app.net exists. It is at the very core and is a promise made by them. Once it is clear that they are failing to keep that promise, it ends. If it does not end, I am sure that at least the team that exists today will depart. Imagine if the core technology team at Twitter were to leave? That would make one hell of a story but I won’t go there
So, the app.net API is looking great. The terms of service are looking great (many contributors to both). The company has enough money to sustain itself for at least 12-24 months based on current finances, not projected finances. Thats a long time to sort things out and become a truly legitimate Internet Utility Company. As a developer, this is all pie in the sky stuff but its here and its real. I for one admire the effort which is why I supported the crowdfunding campaign. This is refreshing, potentially revolutionary in its stance against advertising and selling user data etc etc. Down the road, I could even envision another round of financing, not from VC firms but again from people… the users. It could even leverage the accessibility for micro-investments via the Crowdfunding Bill that congress has voted on. Users as investors. It’s something I know you have written about in the past. Maybe it will happen that way in this case. Why shouldn’t it?
Another thing worth mentioning of course is that app.net will support RSS feeds in and out. I believe some of this will be ready within a week actually. And believe me, that’s important to me as well. I have built an entire platform with RSS at the core of it all. I am a huge supporter and evangelist of RSS (and OPML) and have dared to use it in untraditional ways, trying to push it more into the social realm. I’ve written many times about how a distributed version of Twitter just needs a smart network of RSS feeds with some extra sauce. And we have both written about how subscription handling and reading list management works best with at least some powerful centralized services in the mix. Why can’t app.net be one of these centralized services? Or if not them directly, their infrastructure can enable it. The API can be used to facilitate subscriptions to RSS feeds and storage of OPML reading lists. It is feasible. I plan on working on it.
So, I build with RSS. But I support app.net for all that it is trying to do and all that is currently provides me and what it will provide in the future (hopefully). Dalton has spoken about plans for releasing code to their alpha prototype for example as well as the concept of decentralizing with multiple nodes using the same API structure. We’ll see if and when that happens. I do understand how that could disrupt some aspects of their profitability but at least they do not need to appease investors that inflate preposterous valuations. They don’t need to make billions a year. They seem humble enough to understand that a different kind of success is at stake here. Its a different game. Its not a play to make themselves super-rich. I don’t see it that way at least. The rewards are different. It feels very much like a movement. A rebellion. A revolution…. for geeks at least
Cheers, Dave! Hope you join us some day. Either way, we’ll be interop’n with RSS.