App.net: A shortcut to critical mass
On the latest Talk Show, Gruber and Siracusa had a long discussion about App.net and its chance for success in the future, which got me thinking about the critical mass necessary for me to replace Twitter. That is, how can I follow the same websites and people on App.net, negating the need to use Twitter throughout the day.
I use Twitter mainly as an RSS reader to follow websites and interesting people. Around half the accounts I follow are websites posting a feed similar to RSS and the other half are actual people. This isn’t typical for everyone, but most App.net backers probably follow a combination of website feeds and actual people on Twitter.
One problem with replacing Twitter is that many mainstream news websites, such as the New York Times, or smaller ones like Ars Technica and The Verge, may not adopt App.net initially or even at all. It usually takes some serious momentum to get websites on board with a new social service. For example, I remember it took quite some time for most of the websites I read to adopt Google+. It’s also probably a small hassle for websites to add yet another social service to their list.
To make itself instantly useful for users and most convenient for news websites, App.net should allow users to subscribe to RSS feeds from within the service. Include RSS items in a separate stream formatted as regular App.net posts (i.e. title and link). We would then have three feeds: a global feed of posts, posts from actual people we follow, and our RSS subscriptions. This would replace all of the websites I follow on Twitter without any of them actually joining App.net. It would also provide an immediate value to new users, solving the problem of new users with nobody to follow.