Alternative social network brings promise of ad-free future

By Duncan Craig | 15 August 2012
Image source: Wikimedia Commons.

The next generation of social networks could end up being advertising free if one new service, App.net, gets momentum.

This week US-based niche geek social news feed App.net announced it had raised a shade more than US$800,000 from a community of fellow web developers to fund the creation of its new private social network. It exceeded its target of raising more than half a million dollars, sparking global interest in its ad-free model.

The Twitter-like micro-blogging service has been set up as a reaction to increasing cynicism towards the big social platforms treating consumers as products to sell to brands.

Enthusiastic supporters of App.net were offered the chance to spend US$50, US$100, or US$1,000 to support the service, which has achieved blanket media coverage at the same time Facebook and Twitter are rapidly enhancing their advertising offerings.

The company says its first iteration will be “very similar to what Twitter was like before it turned into a media company” and then it will build an ecosystem that allows other developers to build apps on its platform.

The sheer volume of media buzz about App.net’s ad-free service at least indicates there is a desire to see a challenge to Twitter, which has recently shut down its content syndication arrangements with LinkedIn and Instagram.

Its CEO Dalton Caldwell, a former consultant to MySpace, said he was frustrated by the social giants pandering to the needs of advertisers, not customers.

“Many people have become so cynical about user-hostile, privacy-violating social services that they refuse to participate at all,” App.net says on its website. “We will never sell your personal data, content, feed, interests, clicks, or anything else to advertisers.”

App.net may only be tiny compared to Facebook and Twitter, but there is a genuine desire for technology and social start-ups to build an open web platform that stands up to the power of the big two players.

Another alternative model is celebrity-based private social networks, which could suck further traffic away from the established players.

Since launching LittleMonsters.com on July 10 Lady Gaga's social network has amassed more than 250,000 followers, and has many innovative features such as multilingual chat rooms, as well as a vast torrent of visual updates.

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