App.net is a new alternative to Twitter that’s been getting a lot of coverage lately.
They have taken a unique approach to funding, where instead of depending on advertising revenue, they simply charge each user an up-front $50 annual subscription fee.
The idea behind this is to eliminate any risk (in future) of privacy and platform access being eroded when corporate/advertising goals start to diverge from those of the non-paying users — a problem Twitter has recently appeared to have experienced.
This sounds like a pretty solid idea, and has garnered a lot of support so far. But funding is only one problem facing a new social network, and now they have another big challenge: how to get more users?
Here is where (I think) App.net has executed a real stroke of genius. By requiring a full year’s payment just to join the alpha, every user has a real, quantifiable incentive to evangelise App.net to their friends. With fifty bucks on the line, every user has much more interest in the success of the platform than an indifferent take-it-or-leave-it free service like Google+.
This was a smart move, solving two problems, that could only have been done right on day one. Best of luck to the App.net guys — it will be interesting to see how it all goes over the next few months.