(2012-07-15) App Net Paid Twitter
Dalton Caldwell (of I Meem and Pic Plz) thinks that a paid version of Twitter would have better focus on delivering value to users (End Of Free). *I believe so deeply in the importance of having a financially sustainable realtime feed API & service that I am going to refocus AppNet 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.
To manifest this grand vision, we are officially launching a KickStarter-esque campaign. We will only accept money for this financially sustainable, ad-free service if we hit what I believe is critical mass. I am defining minimum critical mass as $500,000, which is roughly equivalent to ~10,000 backers.*
Fred Wilson thinks a service like this needs to be free. Now let's look at servces where the users provide all the value. Wikipedia, Craigs List, YouTube, FlickR, Instagram, FaceBook, Twitter, TumblR, Word Press, etc, etc. There is no value to any of these platforms if the users don't create the content. The users create the service, curate it, and make it what it is. I do not believe it makes sense to charge users to create the value. We've seen folks try this model. TypePad (where this blog is hosted) charges to host a blog. How well did they do? Phan Fare charged to host photos. How well did they do? The list could go on and on but I don't want to focus on failed services. When scale matters, when Network Effect-s matter, when your users are creating the content and the value, free is the business model of choice.
Dave Winer responds: I don't have any doubt that a for-pay version of Twitter would work, in the same model as Drop Box. I've often felt that Amazon Web Services should have a simple notification service that does everything that Twitter does and nothing more. Huge explosion of innovation would come from that, because there are so many developers who eat Amazon APIs for breakfast. I happen to be one of them... But for me to buy into a for-pay Twitter-like service, I would have to know the company pretty well. I don't have absolute faith in Amazon, Rackspace or Dropbox, I've had issues with two of the companies (Amazon and Dropbox) in the last couple of years. Non-trivial ones. But net-net I go ahead and build on their services. And I like the deal. I can't believe how little I pay for them, but I'm glad I do pay.
Dare Obasanjo [notes](http://www.25hoursaday.com/weblog/2012/07/15/Some Thoughts On Appnet.aspx) some challenges in the open-pipe model. Services like Status Net and Diaspora have tried and failed to make a dent with that approach while fresh approaches to the same old Social Graph and news feed like PInterest and Instagram have grown by leaps and bounds.
Jul21 update: Rian Van Der Merwe notes that the Sparrow acquisition by Google shows that paid-software doesn't eliminate the risk of the app going away. (Though maybe an app with a 1-time-sale of less than $15 isn't a good Business Model... worth noting in terms of pricing expectations in all the AppStore-s.)
Maybe some sort of hybrid Open Twitter model could work...