It’s Like Facebook, but You Pay for It
Posted by Rant4u
App.net is a new social network that costs $50 a year. It could be the future of the Web.
By Will Oremus
In August 2004, Google was readying its first public stock offering. Pundits were skeptical that the upstart search company could ever live up to its $23 billion valuation. A New York Times article reported that Silicon Valley luminaries were “overwhelmingly bearish” on the firm, seeing little potential for sustained growth in its online advertising business. “I’m not buying,” Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak declared. Serial entrepreneur Jerry Kaplan told the Times he had warned his mother to steer clear of the stock.
In our universe, that Times article is good for a laugh today. But what if, in some parallel universe, it turned out to be sadly prophetic? What if it soon became clear that Google’s astronomical valuation had been based on a faulty assumption: that massive Web traffic could lead to massive profits, even if you didn’t charge users for the service you were offering them. What if the Google IPO was the beginning of the end of the free Web, a point at which users reluctantly accepted that you get what you pay for online, and that any site claiming to offer a service free of charge would eventually clutter it with annoying ads and mine its users’ personal information.
In this parallel universe, Dalton Caldwell would not have launched a paid social networking platform called App.net this week, because it would’ve already been invented in 2004. Back then, an ambitious young Harvard undergrad might have been watching Google’s stock tank and thinking about what it meant for his own project, an online social network for his fellow Ivy Leaguers. When he rolled out Facebook to the general public, perhaps he might have charged users a small admission fee, assuring them that a $20-per-year subscription would keep out the spammers and porn bots that were already beginning to clog the market leader, MySpace. Read More
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