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My thoughts on App.Net, today and its potential future

There has been a lot of debate and talk about App.Net (abbreviated ADN throughout the rest of this article) and the possible future of the network and service following the blog post by its founders back in May. I have decided to not make any comment on the whole topic, since I basically have seen no need to. What exactly all the fuss is about I really don’t grasp, given that the blog piece in question clearly states that “App.net will continue to operate normally on an indefinite basis”.

So why in the world does the sudden lack of actual full-time employees behind the scenes of the network make that heck of a big difference that many people NOW FIRST decide to “abandon ship” and move to other social networks instead? You got me! I honestly have no idea what these people are thinking, assuming that they are indeed leaving as a result of no full-time employees anymore.

Let’s face it, there’s absolutely no difference in the service delievered to the end-user. None what so ever. The servers are still up and running, the load-times are still the same as they have been at least since I joined the network, and you are still very much able to do everything you used to do.

But despite this, somehow, ADN is now a dead network. Go figure.

I have seen people leave, some with perfectly valid reasons, and some with reasons I cannot even begin to fathom. The tone across the part of the network that I touch has definitely become more harsh and not as pleasant as I have known it to be. I’m guessing people are feeling betrayed, depressed, sad, treated wrong or whatnot. I’m not one of them.

From my perspective, ADN has never been more than the plumbing. Yeah, go ahead and look me up, whine to me, bitch at me, complain and do your best to “correct” my view on that, but here’s the fact: I have a mute button and a block button, and I’m not afraid to use either of them. I kind of wish more people would use them, and perhaps a lot of excessive drama™ would be spared all of us.

So yes, my personal view is that ADN itself is just the plumbing behind the scenes. This is not what the network is. The network itself is the ability to interact with other people in ways that matter to them, like for instance to exchange thoughts in either 256 character public text messages (what some call microblogging), or in 2048 character private text messages. How these are presented to the end-user is completely up to two factors.

Factor 1 is how the developer of an app decides that the experience should be presented to the user. The app is the portal into the actual social aspect of the network. Should it be a twitter-clone, a Facebook-alike, or something completely different? Perhaps a syncing service for your app? Maybe a way to interact with other players in a game? Any of these are possible, assuming that someone wants to build it.

The 2nd factor is which way the end-user choses to interact with people, in what app or apps this individual elects to use. Is a social network for that person to share photos, write haikus, or to have a timeline with events containing everything everyone they are following?

For the most part, I have seen apps aimed at a twitter-esque microblogging approach to the social network concept. Indeed, that is quite much a like the reference implementation from the fine folks behind the network themselves. Dubbed “Alpha”, it was there very early on and constituted a fully functional way to demonstrate what you could actually do with ADN and its infrastructure. Not a bad start, but unfortunately it seems to have limited some people’s view of what ADN “is” and what it really can do.

Of course, there have been a whole bunch of apps that go way beyond this microblogging theme, and those have done so really well and have been wonderfully well executed on many different levels. Kudos to all your developers out there! You’ve done some amazing work, and even though the finances really aren’t there to encourage you anymore, I hope you can keep your apps alive in the future as well.

This is something that popped up just the other way, when some developers of very well regarded and popular apps publically annouced that their apps will most likely be removed from the App Store. In the case of one app, it already has. While this might have come as a shock to some, if you just engage your brain for a moment you should be able to see that this was neither an easy choice, nor one the developers would like to make. Seriously! Name-calling and whining is not the acceptable response to something like this. But this more of a topic for another article, perhaps about online behavior in general, rather than about ADN as a social network.

I still pay my monthly fee to continue enjoying the most pleasant social network I have so far had the fortune of joining. The technology is sound and as long as the servers keep running, the apps keep connecting, and people keep talking to me, I’ll be there.

It’s not about the technological aspect of the network, that part has been covered for a while. It’s about the people using it, and how they really, really ought to CALM THE FUCK DOWN and stop RUNNING AROUND LIKE HEADLESS CHICKENS!

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