The Slow Inexorable Rise of App.net
[pllabel type="success"]Update[/pllabel] Here are 100 invites for a free account at App.net, first come first served.
It's a rare company that could build a stable, full-featured social network from scratch in a few weeks, but as the Summer of 2012 drew to a close, App.net did just that. Anyone who grabbed the popcorn and sat back to watch the seemingly inevitable train-wreck, could certainly be forgiven. After all, even huge companies with endless resources, can take years to build buggy products that spend forever in Beta and never quite work.
Things were brewing in the Summer of 2012. As Twitter sought to increase revenue from its customers (advertisers, not users), it began to bring into effect measures which alienated third-party application developers, and potentially the users of the applications those developers had made. Against this backdrop, App.net was born, rejecting advertising as a means of revenue generation, and promising to put the interests of its users first. Through a period of crowd-funding, App.net came into being with the following stated core values:
- We are selling our product, NOT our users.
- You own your content.
- Our financial incentives are aligned with members and 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.
- Our most valuable asset is your trust.
As the summer drew to a close, the first of a series of rapid releases built a foundation of infrastructure, with streaming, private messaging, and file media storage to name a few big ones, all backed by web services and public API's (check out the developer documentation site).
Alongside the API's, grew an entire ecosystem of full-featured third-party apps and services, some of which rival, or even surpass, mature offerings on other networks. Two common favorites are Felix and Riposte, though there are just too many great apps and services to mention. Check them out.
Great engineering never happens by accident. Bugs are rare on App.net. Down-time is unheard of. Fail-whales are unheard of. This kind of engineering takes a whole team, but this is the same team that made Picplz and Imeem, which was one of the world's largest music streaming services before it was bought by MySpace.
Even before the doors have been thrown wide open and with the invite system still in place, the number of users has risen past 90,000. I don't know exactly how many of those people have gone or stayed, but I do know that that a steady daily influx of new people is making it difficult to keep up with my stream, to the point where I have to admit defeat. On the day I wrote this, around 750 users joined. But where technical development has been pursued at breakneck speed, expansion of the user base has been disciplined. In that respect, 'slow and sure' has been their hallmark so far.
What's been achieved in the last few months is nothing short of inspiring. App.net was built from scratch while the world used it. Yesterday, they made Time Magazine's 50 Best Websites of 2013. Good luck to them.