Will services built using App.net be better for users?
The more I think about what App.net really is, it is starting to look very similar to the Twitter model that it was meant to replace. There is one big difference, however. With App.net, developers can be assured that the API will be around tomorrow. But, that doesn’t necessarily mean anything will change for users.
The App.net platform provides for alignment between the interests of developers and App.net, easing the minds of developers so that they may build freely without fear that the API will be shut down. This provides no inherent alignment between developers and users. Developers will eventually need to be paid. Unless users are paying each developer for the services that they build, the interests of the users may not be aligned with the interests of developers. This is especially true if the majority of services will be ad-based, which is explicitly allowable under the current App.net plan. In an ad-based App.net service, the user is still the product being sold.
The huge advantage to App.net is that the open nature of the platform and alignment with developers will allow for more development and increased competition. Competition is the only thing that can create a better platform for users. However, as we have seen before, users commonly choose free ad-based services over paid services, arguably to their detriment. Thus, the debate over whether users will pay for App.net is misplaced. Instead, the debate should be whether users will be willing to pay for the future services that will be built on the App.net platform. If not, App.net will be a huge improvement for developers, but more of the same for users.