I just read this piece How App.net Can Change Everything by Orian Marx.
Notice: In his article he calls the twitterish like App built on top of App.net “Alpha”, so i continue to do it here too.
There are some parts in his article i want to talk about:
Alpha is just one network running on top of the App.net infrastructure, and in the future there should be hundreds if not thousands. Each of these networks will have their own userbase and their own apps, browser extensions, etc, but they will share a common infrastructure and many core capabilities. In fact they will be greatly enhanced by having standardized ways of talking to each other.
So if i understand this right, App.net provides an Identity API with a standardized way to authenticate and a basic stream feature. Alpha is just a “Demo” for people to see, what could be possible with App.net’s infrastructure. As a developer i can use App.net to give my users easy access to my Service (Website / App etc.).
The Cost Problem
App.net will charge developers for access to the platform. Controversially, App.net also currently charges users of Alpha for access to the network. There is healthy debate going on about the pricing model for App.net but one thing is absolutely clear: App.net will not run ads on Alpha and will not have an ad-supported revenue model.
Great! So i need to pay App.net an API fee to let users use my App that is built on top of App.net’s infrastructure? So i as a developer need to pay for API calls and my users need to pay App.net for their centralized identity provision?
Totally non-sense is the “no Ads” marketing. If i as a developer built something on top of App.net’s infrastructure, what keeps me from displaying Ads to my users and trick them into shady contracts? Nothing. Let’s say i’m a good guy and i don’t provide any Ads on my site (because i’m the good guy). From whom do i get the money to pay for API calls? I’m forced to charge my users, so i can pay App.net to let my (already paying App.net users) pay for my service also? That sounds like a bad idea!
That’s not open!
In order to succeed, I believe App.net needs to show that it can effectively support multiple networks running on the same base infrastructure and data models, while being able to add their own unique attributes. Additionally, App.net needs to show that it can effectively manage permissions for the data that is shared within and across networks.
Oh, that’s also a perfect idea! - Where is this different from Facebook? I hate Facebook, don’t get me wrong. But with App.net nothing is “free”, your data is “open” they say. You can download it, if you want?
That’s not open or free. That’s an export feature. What keeps App.net from getting sold to Mr Zuckerberg? Even if App.net is making millions in subscriptions, why shouldn’t they sell their service to Facebook or Google etc.? I believe the App.net guys have good intentions, but even if some guy comes in, with a suitecase worth 10 billion dollars?
If App.net succeeds with there model, and many networks build up on App.net, there will be a lot of companies that are interested in that data!
Single Point Of Failure
As i mentioned before, i don’t see why App.net is anything new. You pay a company for storing your userdata, external services get that data (as long as you use those services) and that’s it. It’s the same with OAuth and Facebook / Twitter / Google. If you use Facebook Connect to use Spotify and Facebook Connect is broken, Spotify is broken too. And it happened before!.
What we really need is an Open (Social) Protocol
App.net doesn’t provide decentralization. If one company has access over all of your “social media data” that’s not decentralized.
What we really need is an open standard that uses an also open protocol to manage all this data. If we take a look at E-Mail Servers, that’s could be one way to built a decentralized “Social Grid” that doesn’t depend on one company.
People could host there identity by themself or use one of the bigger providers (Like Mail with GMail, Hotmail etc. you can also host your own Mail Server and be independent).
Pull The Plug
If you don’t want your data shared, pull the plug. If you don’t know how to host such a system by yourself, use a provider you can trust.
I’m hoping people realize that one company after the other isn’t the right solution for “open data”. The only way is to build an open standard, that can be used by everyone.