Paul McAleer

Was app.net designed for empowerment?

Paul McAleer

I am absolutely torn on app.net.

On the one hand, it gives people exactly what they’ve asked for: a way to pay for a Twitter-like service that has no ads.

On the other hand, it costs $50 per year.

I was thinking about this when Anil Dash shared a rather insightful piece about how app.net, Svbtle, and other emerging social networks are being created. A big quote:

The answer’s simple: In today’s world, where the social web is mainstream, innovating on the core values of tools and technology while ignoring the value of inclusiveness is tantamount to building a gated community. Even with the promise that the less privileged might get a chance to show up later, you’re making a fundamentally unfair system.

Boom.

Hey, how about places where the web (and internet) are not yet mainstream?

There was a SXSW panel I attended this year, “Africa, Tech & Women: The New Faces of Development” that was one of my unexpected favorites. One of the anecdotes shared was about how quickly and easily anyone could instantly publish their thoughts via Facebook or Twitter and get responses from anywhere in the world. How empowering!

And isn’t that the power of the internet?

Yes, yes, it’s not “free”. But in a case like that, I would be highly surprised if one of those young women would be interested in ponying up fifty bucks for it. The outlay was zero dollars for them, and boy is that powerful.

While we’re thinking about freemium models, in-app payments, and stuff like that, many more people are just encountering the internet for the first time, and aren’t jaded. Why the hell aren’t we designing for them, too?

Miscellaneous, potentially related note: I checked out the app.net live stream a few days ago and saw exactly one post by a woman out of the, ah, 50? or so posts present. This was different the next day, but that rubbed me the wrong way. First impression.