Why I am on app.net

*Update**: App.net has shut down

Take a look at Mastodon for a good Twitter replacement.

There have been plenty of arguments that making a Twitter-ish service that requires payment for access is elite, exclusionary, and so on. I’m not going to recite someone else’s arguments for fear of misrepresenting them. I’ll link to a few I’ve seen recently:

There has been at least one rebuttal already:

I suppose I sort of

am here to “stick it to the man” as van der Merwe says it. I reject the comparison to “white flight”. It’s the rich, overpowerful companies I’m trying to get away from, not the poor. And I do hope that this will demonstrate that such things are possible. And I do hope that some new mechanism will be created to allow something other than advertisements to pay for things.

I live in a city (London) where every vertical space is full of advertisements. From building sides to train sides to the insides of trains, the walls of the tube, the walls of the tube trains, you name it. If there is one vertical space where I would like more control, it’s the vertical space of the screen in front of my face. I own it, more than I own any of the buildings or vistas that I pass in my commute.

The advertisers own what I see as I walk down the street. They own what I see between episodes on TV and they even strongly influence what is IN an episode of something on TV. (Except, perhaps, on the BBC). The UK, as part of hosting the Olympics, passed a law (not a regulation, not a rule, a full-blown Act of Parliament) that enshrined the rights of corporate advertisers into UK law for the 7 years or so up to and including the Olympics. When money can buy advertisers a special standing in the law, something is wrong.

So a social network where I, the user, am the customer is attractive. A social network where I am a stakeholder is what I want. I’m not here to avoid the poor (e.g., the “white flight” metaphor), I’m here to avoid the mega, filthy rich non-person entities.

Not everyone can afford to pay. Is it a requirement that a social network must not charge a fee? What I have not seen is a proposal that would keep the lights on, make the end user and developer the key stakeholder, allow all comers without payment, and not be beholden to advertisers.

It’s all well and good to decry the fact that people have to pay in order to be the stakeholder, and thus not everyone can afford to be part of this community. But we need to have alternatives. Facebook and Twitter are the poster children for what we are trying to to be.

So it’s fine to complain that people are left out. What’s the solution? I’ve outlined an idea to provide ad-supported, free access to App.net without making major changes to what’s already out there. Can someone else do a better, non-exclusionary social network that somehow pays for itself?

I’m here because I want to be the stakeholder and I’m willing to pay to be the stakeholder. What else can we do?