Last week App.net celebrated its one year anniversary. App.net, of course, started as a response to Twitter’s stupidity and hostility towards developers. Since App.net launched it has become so much more than just a Twitter clone — App.net is a platform.
But the real problem with App.net is that it’s too difficult to explain to non-geeks. Mat Honan illustrates this in his so-so Wired article on the anniversary of App.net where it takes him more than 700 words to get to this:
In simple terms, App.net is a tool that affords you control of your data and network. It lets developers write apps and tap into users’ existing social graphs and stored files. Its first app was a Twitter-esque status updating service.
Once you use the term “social graphs” you have failed to explain something. Honan seems like a sharp guy, but 700+ words to explain App.net? Yikes — that doesn’t bode well for the service. I know I couldn’t do better.
Explaining the product is only part one of the issue, part two is that App.net failed to capture the “top” nerds. Yes John Gruber, and Marco Arment are on App.net, but they don’t actually use it. I suspect they pop in from time to time and they stay on Twitter.1
As of this writing Gruber is the second most followed account on App.net (trailing only the official App.net account) and the last time he posted was two weeks ago and then a little over two weeks before that. It’s safe to say, Gruber is not an active user. Why should any of his followers on Twitter follow him over to App.net, when it’s clear they aren’t missing much? Marco Arment is in the top five followed users too, and he’s not using App.net much more than Gruber.
This is the problem.2
App.net is hard to explain to geeks that tolerate Twitter and even those geeks don’t use the service in full-force. Personally, I love App.net and use it daily, but I am clearly an outlier. There’s some very cool stuff happening with the App.net service and I look forward to seeing it, but I can’t quite shake the feeling that Honan may be right and in a couple of years we will be thinking, “App.net? What was that again?”