Caldwell's ad-free App.net service is intended as an answer to panicked social network CEOs.
I Tweet, you Tweet, half the world Twitters away like there's nothing else to do all day but type 140 characters into a gnomic bite-sized message. None of us pay for it, but Dalton Caldwell - a San Francisco based independent developer - thinks people are willing to pay for a Twitter clone so long as it promises never to include advertising. So far he's been proven right, as over $500,000 has been raised to take his App.net from alpha all the way to finished product.
"We believe that advertising-supported social services are so consistently and inextricably at odds with the interests of users and developers that something must be done," said Caldwell on his blog post outlining the App.net credo. It's basically a pay-to-Tweet system - or pay-to-App, though that doesn't have the same zing - intended as a riposte to what Caldwell sees as a terrified grab for revenue on the part of social network management. In an open letter to Mark Zuckerberg, Caldwell said that falling stock prices were causing management at Facebook and other sites to freak out. "Your company, and Twitter, have demonstrably proven that they are willing to screw with users and 3rd-party developer ecosystems, all in the name of ad revenue. Once you start down the slippery-slope of messing with developers and users, I don't have any confidence that you will stop."
Caldwell's generated a lot of third party interest from developers who want to work with App.net, and now he has the funding. Caldwell, in his blog, thanked his backers as he started preparing for the move from alpha to beta. "Thank you for believing," he said. App.net still has a very small user base - only about 10,000 - but Caldwell thinks this is enough provided that the right people are in the network. Only time will tell whether he's right on the money, or not.