Most social websites start free and try to grow as much and as fast as possible. At one point (depending on the patience of the investors) they need to find a way to make money and the most common strategy is to display ads. Since they know a lot about you, they will push the boundaries of privacy and use the personal information of their users to target their ads (more or less successfully).
App.net is offering a different perspective. The service takes basically the idea behind the current version of twitter, but puts the user first. As explained by Dalton Caldwell, the founder of App.net, the focus of the application is on functionalities designed only to please their users rather than optimising ads. To make this possible, the user is the customer and pays $50 per year.
This price is a high barrier to enter the game. Twitter is powerful in the way that anybody can speak and people in poorer countries can still use it as we saw for examples in many conflicts around the world. At first App.net wouldn’t be able to reach this part of the population that couldn’t pay with their current offer and wouldn’t even be used much outside of a technology elite tired of ads and privacy concern. In this case App.net could result to a new filter bubble. There is hope that the development of the platform would lower the entry level and diversify its user base.
This risky bet could bring interesting changes to the web landscape. It would be possible to get the best of both worlds. Other applications could offer the possibility for its users to pay to get a better service or App.net needs to find a way to include people that don’t have the resources to pay $50 per year to become truly amazing.