App.net, the ad-free Twitter clone that you must pay for, will not succeed. It’s a shame, really. It seems to have very smart people behind it along with a very idealistic approach to content ownership. The problem is that users don’t need 99% of the services they use on the web. Most users don’t need LinkedIn. Most users don’t need Facebook. Most users don’t need Twitter. We use them because they’re free and we enjoy these services. If users had to pay for them, however, most would flee.
App.net forgets the cardinal rule when building a social network. The value to users is based on the value of the network. People will not pay to be a part of a network that they don’t see as valuable and the value here is based on those who pay to get in. It’s a classic chicken and egg problem that in this scenario I don’t see working out for app.net. Some people will like it. A few will love it. Ultimately, there won’t be enough paying users to justify investment or growth.
I think we’ll see this one die a moderately quick death. 18 months is my guess. Hopefully the founders can shift their business model (possibly to some sort of freemium model) that keeps quality high but lets in some people for free to generate the much needed network effect to build a proper social network.