By Alexandra Burlacu | Aug 14, 2012 12:04 PM EDT
San Francisco-based developer Dalton Caldwell, the man behind Twitter-like social media service App.net, announced that the team had reached its funding goal for the App.net alpha project. In a blog post on Sunday, Aug. 11, Caldwell announced the project has hit its $500,000 goal with two days left to go, and has raised more than $644,000 from thousands of backers who have already signed up to be App.net's first users.
The service "where users and developers come first, not advertisers," is an advertising-free social media platform supported by payments from users. Membership starts at $50 a year for the basic service, which allows regular users to either reserve a custom username or register their existing Twitter usernames. Meanwhile, the $100 a year option for the "Pro" service is aimed at developers, as it provides access to various API (Application Programming Interface) and documentation.
App.net emerged as an alternative to Twitter, as Caldwell believed the micro-blogging site was moving in the wrong direction with its approach to API access and monetization of users. Twitter has restricted a number of sites and services from accessing its API, without which external software cannot provide Twitter functionality. Also, in an effort to generate more revenues from its fast-growing user-base, Twitter has implemented more restrictions, significantly limiting what developers can do and raising concerns among those who built apps for it. Caldwell highlighted that advertising is not the only way to support a social network, and App.net aims to prove that.
Caldwell created App.net on the premise that users will pay for access to a service with real time feeds and open APIs, and so far the numbers seem to agree with him.
"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," Caldwell explained on the App.net signup page. "Twitter created as fundamental a technical innovation as e-mail and HTML itself, and they totally blew it," he told Technology Review, referring to Twitter's API restrictions.
Caldwell's project started out slow, but gained momentum over the past week, and the burst of recent publicity helped it reach its $500,000 goal. Project backers have paid for a year of access upfront, but when the service launches the goal is to have members pay a small fee on a monthly basis. It may seem like a risky approach, considering that most users are accustomed to free, ad-based services, but the fact that App.net managed to exceed its goal suggests there may be plenty of people willing to pay for a cleaner online social experience.
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