[Update: I’m being told that Dalton has no plans to sell the service as it’s theorized in this article. I still stand by most of the points here]
I had a moment last year. I’m at a high level gamedev event, talking to a major developer evangelist at a major company. And, I start talking about app.net. Glowingly, I talk about the platform, and suggest she join. In fact, I contacted the founders and suggested they send a personalized invite - as she’s exactly the kind of high level developer app.net needs to attract.
One year later, I don’t bother doing that kind of thing anymore. I currently have no faith that Alpha or App.net has a future doing any of the things I love it for. And, there’s probably no future for the things you love it for either.
Paradoxically, I think App.net’s future is bright. I imagine the investors in the company are going to make out well. It’s generally agreed that the future of social networks is going to be more decentralized than the Facebook/Twitter era, and the frameworks App.net is building will be a good tool for someone to build something ambitious. The eventual future of App.net is being sold as spare parts to a Yahoo or a Google. It won’t be as financially dramatic as the Tumblr sale, but Dalton and Berg will do well. And they’ll shoot off to other projects, the way Silicon Valley people tend to do.
When did I realize that, like a relationship that’s ending, App.net and I were moving in different directions? I think it was a few months ago when Bill Kunz announced that he found it impossible to make money with Felix. You’d think that a beloved developer with a beloved client announcing he found the platform financially untenable would sound red alarms at App.net. You’d think they’d record a podcast, communicate with the community, participate in the thread, announce a change of tactics. You’d think they’d do SOMETHING to assure the developers of App.net clients that there was a future.
But no. We got radio silence. Contemptuous radio silence.
Something I’ve learned in gamedev is not everyone approaches things like I do. I don’t mind being a public figure. Speaking my mind, doing interviews and even making enemies. But, I’ve also run into more than a few Daltons at this point of my career. They’re more comfortable back channeling and taking closed meetings. They’re more interested in doing their thing privately, and don’t really want to debate things publicly.
It’s a fine approach, but I do think it has a serious cost for the community. It’s my opinion that what might work for running the App.net office comes off as tergiversation to the users of App.net. It feels like a serious leadership vacuum being on this side of it.
It’s May of 2014. It’s time to face facts. There will never be a marketing push for App.net. There will never be professionally made iconography for App.net. There will never be a Sandwich Video to promote App.net. To App.net, we’re a pool of beta testers. We are a number on a chart when Dalton has meetings with people in San Francisco about using the App.net frameworks for something like Broadcast.
And I’m okay with that. To me, the value of App.net isn’t in the clients. I’m spending $36 dollars a year for the friendships I’ve developed here - which are the best I’ve ever had in the history of social media. I know, no matter what the future is of App.net, I will keep contact with many of you.
But, I no longer believe in App.net. It’s hard to have emotional attachment to something that’s just a framework to be used in an eventual sale. And it’s hard to feel attachment to something when the leadership doesn’t seem to make the community or the developers a priority.
They’ll still get my $36 a year until it closes. But, it’s more like paying my electric bill that funding something I believe in. We’re just into different things, App.net. I encourage you to set your expectations of the service accordingly.