Ladies and gentlemen, I offer for your consideration App.net, a service offered by Mixed Media Labs.
App.net is a real-time message routing infrastructure. It has a totally minimalistic and essentially unfeatured native user interface, it isn't free, it doesn't constrain you to 140 character messages ... it is, in essence, neutral -- a level-playing field for messaging.
The idea behind App.net is that applications that want to route messages in general and social message in particular between users need an efficient, reliable, real-time transport service that provides what are, in effect, smart pipes on top of the Internet's dumb pipes. And that, in a nutshell, is all that App.net does.
The genesis of App.net stretches all the long, long way back to July this year when Dalton Caldwell, Mixed Media Labs CEO and former CEO of imeem (which, in 2009, was acquired by MySpace and promptly shut down), wrote a great blog post titled "What Twitter could have been" in which he explains:
When Twitter started to get traction, a year or two into its existence, I decided that Twitter was the Best Thing Ever. I realized that Twitter, because of its API, actually was a real-time protocol to connect various services in a novel way. I had debates with my other tech-nerd friends about whether Twitter could be one of the fundamental building blocks of the Internet via their powerful API. When reporters or investors asked me what I thought the most exciting company in the valley was, I would invariably answer "Twitter".
But that enthusiasm didn't last. Dalton points out that within Twitter the group that argued for the company's business model to be advertising-based won out over the group that saw Twitter's business as a real time API-based messaging system.
While I can understand why the latter camp wanted to build an ad-based business, the futurist in me thinks this was a tragic mistake. If you are building an advertising/media business, it would then follow that you need to own all of the screen real-estate that users see. The next logical step would be to kill all third-party clients, and lock down the data in the global [feed of all tweets] in order to control the "content".
Which is exactly what's happened and it's what, both Dalton and I believe, will kill both Twitter and Facebook and other ad-based social media.
The response to this post was huge and Dalton leveraged that to make a proposal which was:
I believe so deeply in the importance of having a financially sustainable realtime feed API and service that I am going to refocus App.net to become exactly that. I have the experience, vision, infrastructure and team to do it. Additionally, we already have much of this built: a polished native iOS app, a robust technical infrastructure currently capable of handing ~200MM API calls per day with no code changes, and a developer-facing API provisioning, documentation and analytics system. This isn't vaporware.
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