Lately you would have found quite hard to not have read, heard or seen anything about Dalton Caldwell's audacious proposal to create his own paid social platform where users and developers lie at its core rather than advertisers.
The proposal kicked off with a website at join.app.net which asked people to pledge their support to what would be a payment supported network rather than a free advertising supported model used by Facebook and Twitter. It was a $50 contribution for a full year as a member and $100 as a developer with access to the entire app.net developer toolchain including API key generation, documentation, an API analytics dashboard and the developer feedback and support community.
Dalton aimed to raise $500,000 before he would launch an alpha version of the site and continue with the project. app.net soared past this goal 38 hours before the deadline and meant that interest really had grown in the project.
The app.net alpha launched shortly afterwards and I've been using it since. It's definitely not perfect but it is made clear that this is an alpha piece of kit being used to experiment with the idea, get it off the ground and demonstrate that app.net is not just vapourware.
What has been amazing is the buy in from developers. On GitHub there is already a very extensive list of third party apps, dealers and services. These range from mobile apps, to web apps, to friend locators and statistics apps.
Many of the apps are truly fantastic with sleek designs, easy usability and some very innovative ideas. It's these app developers that any social platform needs to survive as they are the ones that provide added value to the network and help extend its experience. Twitter has been playing a risky game recently being very forthright with its developers, revoking the privileges of major networks such as Tumblr and suspending reporters. It's in danger of scaring of the developers who have helped it innovate and stay ahead of the game.
Facebook too, if Dalton Caldwell's experience is anything to go by, is also alienating developers from its platform that it needs to continue enhancing the experience for users on its site.
So far app.net is small and it may well stay that way. But what it has demonstrated a least is that some developers feel frustrated. Frustrated enough they're willing to pay to have a place to develop apps without fear of changes in the relationship down the road.
If you're not yet on app.net - consider it or just go monitor the global. At the moment it's great even just because it's purely inhabited by early adopters and techies. It's a rather interesting experience when you cut out the porn bots, spammers and viral links. It's also interesting to see users, developers and the creators openly discussing and encoding on features and the progress of the platform.