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App.net Reduces Fees, Software Options Grow

by Glenn Fleishman

The App.net social network, which I wrote about in “New App.net Social Network Aspires Beyond Chat and Ads” (28 August 2012), is still under development, but interest hasn’t ebbed after an initial flurry of attention. The service keeps adding features for parity with Twitter (such as the capability to “favorite” a message) and offering unique options (like posts that link to a non-App.net source, whether another social-network service or a Web page). One could argue that only a service that doesn’t care if users leave to look at something else can afford to allow off-service links.

App.net has snagged nearly 20,000 paid subscribers, including those who participated in its crowd-funded startup phase. Last week, the service dropped its price from $50 per year to $36 per year (when paid in advance) and pushed existing members’ expiration dates back several months. It also added a $5 month-by-month rate to allow people to try without the same financial commitment.

The service also announced its first approach to rewarding developers. Starting in October 2012, App.net will set aside at least $20,000 each month to disburse to software makers that have App.net programs or services in active use. Each month, members will receive a survey about the utility of each app or service they have used with the option to ignore or to move sliders to adjust how “valuable” they have been. That will be combined with usage patterns and other data. Developers opt into this program, and it doesn’t preclude software or sites charging fees or making money in other ways.

The number of increasingly mature applications that work with App.net continues to grow. Several iOS apps are now available; I’ve tried (and paid for) three of them. Notably, Tapbots released Netbot, an App.net version of its popular Tweetbot client. It offers separate $4.99 versions for the iPhone/iPod touch and iPad. One of its included tools lets you compare your App.net following list against those you follow on Twitter accounts that have been registered in iOS. I found that 15 percent of the people I follow on Twitter also have App.net accounts — about 150 out of 1000 accounts. (Many accounts I follow are RSS-like, notifications, or other infrequently updated auto-bots.)

Netbot allows cross-posting to Twitter using iOS’s built-in functionality. Twitter doesn’t (yet) prevent such cross-posting, although its API wouldn’t allow Tweetbot to access Twitter messages and then post to App.net via Netbot or another method. I’m not going to cross-post; I’m trying to keep the two services separate as I watch App.net develop.

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