My heart did not leap from my cynical ribcage in excitement at the overnight fund-raising success of App.net. It’s a social network that’s in very early stages of development. Its business model is very different than that of most similar online services: it charges money for membership. In exchange, you are promised to never ever see an advertisement on their site.
Overnight, they raised over $500K from 7,000+ people. In my mind, this is by no means an indication of the potential of such a business model. Instead, it’s an indication of the fear that people have of the all-too-powerful Facebook compromising their private information, and the hope for a Utopia where where we could all share peacefully in a environment without greed, deception, and used car salesmen. Questioning “the man” is a very popular cyber activity, and this latest social network fundraiser is just a reflection of that.
All that said, from everything I’ve seen online, people simply hate paying for a membership to a social network, no matter how cool that network is. Apps and iTunes are slowly breaking down the psychological expectation amongst the majority that everything on the internet is free, but we’re still far from a global paid social network site being able to grow beyond a few thousand members.