After reading this thorough overview of App.net I am beginning to understand a little bit better of what the service actually does.
According to that post, App.net is a platform for social networks, not a social network unto itself. What we see up there now (at alpha.app.net) is just an example of what can be built on the App.net platform. Therefore, alpha.app.net is not App.net. It merely utilizes the underlying infrastructure (and base model for social network concepts, like users, posts, connecting and sharing) of App.net.
The goal of App.net is to:
- Never be built upon advertising revenue (users and developers come first).
- Create a common infrastructure, core capabilities, and standardized ways of social web apps to communicate and interact with each other.
#1 just means that in order to sustain itself, App.net will never rely on advertising revenue alone. It does not mean that you won’t see ads on App.net – far to the contrary, there is a big difference between focused, relevant ads – and bombarding users with “promoted content” in order to drive the business forward (aka Twitter).
#2 is most intriuging to me because it fundamentally pushes social networks forward into another era from what we have known about them so far. Having a platform to build social web apps on could be extremely useful for developers looking to create a social network, but not re-create the wheel each time (from a feature and user-acquisition standpoint). Instead, common features can easily be included (like posts, comments, and anything else all social networks have in common), and users can easily jump from one network to another without creating yet another account and seeing “0 friends” initially (also known as fragmentation).
This also frees the developer to focus on making their app as useful and different as possible, rather than be bogged-down with infrastructure and business-model issues.
It sounds like a win to me.