Just one geek's opinions and epiphanies

Paying for Ad Free Twitter


Alright, if you haven't heard by now there is a new player in the social space, App.net. They are setting up a forever ad free social network, where people who want to use the service have to pay yearly. Right now the price point is $50/year.  This of course gets me thinking, because ... well let's face it, Twitter is NOT anything special anymore.

The Early Days of Twitter

The early days of twitter were amazing! Smartphones weren't nearly as prevalent as they are today, and so people had to really work to spread messages to all their following. In fact that is the niche that Twitter filled. Group/Mass SMS for events and groups. When Twitter first came on the scene you would text things to Twitter, and twitter would send them out to your followers. This is where the 140 character limit comes from.

What made Twitter great was that it worked on all phones (as best I can tell it can still be used without a smartphone!).

The Downfall of Social Media

Free is the price point everyone wants to work in now. Free as in beer. However, it is extremely hard to run a company on free alone. As a result companies like Twitter, and Facebook are forced to sell advertising. Depending on how you use Twitter that could result in paid ads in your stream on Tweetdeck (not too bad) or annoying ads being texted to you from your stream on your phone (very annoying). Twitter doesn't know or care how you receive your tweets, as long as you do and they get paid for it.

This is where App.net wants to get into the game. They want to stop making things free, and start making people buy into better experiences. So they set a price point of $50/year. Will it work? I don't know, but I don't think so.  The truth is, people don't need Twitter or Facebook. If they both went to charging $50/year, right now, today, they would lose millions of users. People would instantly stop using the service. We have to acknowledge that $50 is cheap too. $6/month! To think people will give up what is the most important thing in their day right now for a mere $6/month. Believe it!

On the other side of the coin is the $100 developer buy in. In order to use App.net as a service, maybe to build the next Tweetdeck, you have to purchase a license to access their API. $100/year is the ticket here. The same that Apple charges to be able to put apps in iOS. So if you wanted to write an App.net app for iOS you are now looking at a $200 start up cost. $125 for Android.  Is it worth it?

Retailers?

Although App.net won't be taking revenue from advertisers they are more than welcome to join App.net (for the $50 fee) and SPAM their own feeds as much as they like. Commercial entities are treated just like all other users. You can follow or unfollow anyone at anytime. The difference here is that these posts won't show up in your feed, unless you directly ask that they do.

My Best Bet

Personally I think $50/year is too much for something like Twitter. Even Facebook. I could honestly see people buying for $20/year. Which brings the question of how little is too little?  There are factors to consider here. Folks under 18 can't join (no credit card). So parents would need to run their accounts, or some other form of payment would have to be setup. What is the server cost, per person per year? To be honest, $50/year could pay for a single VPS per person. In a sense giving each person who joined their own hardware to interface with, and that would be cool.

Maybe I will spin off the App.net idea, and fire up a $10/year social network.

Twitter, Facebook & Last.FM on Xbox360 Suck


I don't often shed my fanboy for Microsoft's entertainment side. I love my Xbox360, the Zune is amazing, but these latest additions to the line up really suck, and I am going to tell you why I think they suck.

Last.FM

Last.FM in my eyes had the potential to really add some awesome to the Xbox experience, by after the new update and installing the new app I have to say that as it is now, I will probably never load Last.FM on my Xbox ever again. Why? It is useless.

You can connect your Xbox360 to a myriad of sources for entertainment, the most common being a Zune (or iPod) or a networked computer. On these sources you may be limited to how much content you can hold, but the advantage of these sources is immediately seen against Last.FM. Streaming, while in game. Using a normal source you can start music playing, jump into a session of any game, and you listen to your tunes while you game. This is a really sweet feature of the Xbox360 because the Gears of War, Halo, [insert any FPS game title here] soundtrack gets old quick.

When I heard that Last.FM was coming to the Xbox360 I was stoked, I figured that Microsoft would do things right and you would be able to start a stream of music from Last.FM, jump in a game and jam out to music while you play a game. Nothing could be farther from the truth. You start streaming music, and if you leave the Last.FM app, you leave the music behind. I tested this once, and that was the last I will be in Last.FM unless they make it more intergrated.

Twitter

Basically Twitter falls short on the Xbox360 as well, and really for much the same reason. You have to leave everything you are doing to get to Twitter, and then there is no support for images, or links. I might update my status once in a while in Twitter on the Xbox360, but only because I already own the keyboard for the controller.

What Twitter should have been for the Xbox360? It should have been a few things in my mind. First it should have given the option to auto tweet my achievements and unlocks. Last night I was awarded an Avatar Award, but the world doesn't know that because Microsoft didn't make the Twitter integrate with the achievement unlocks.

Secondly, I think Twitter should have had a notification style interface (for supporting games). Basically while in game if someone @names you or DMs you, you should get a Gears of War journal update style notifier. A quick popup that lets you know the world needs your attention. Simple, yet affective.

Finally I really wish they had added Twitpic/yFrog or some other type of image support for Twitter, I loves my TwitPic... loves it!

Facebook

Facebook of the three new apps is the one that came the closest to being useful. In fact I have actually spent more time "on facebook" through the 360 than any other device in the history of Facebook.

The Facebook app suffers from the horrible app problem that you have to search for it on your system, the apps should be readily available from the main menu but they are not, we will talk about that some more in later articles I am sure.

Once you locate Facebook and login, you are given access to a lot of the things facebook can do. Check your friends statuses, look at their pics, give them Likes, and leave comment. It is a pretty full app. Does what you would expect it to do.

I would have loved to see the Xbox360 team really strive here though and maybe have the Facebook app able to upload images to your Facebook account (maybe fron USB storage or networked computers?).

Like I said I have spent more time on Facebook on my 360 than I have anywhere else, ever, and that means something is right there.

Again I think things with Facebook could have been a little more integrated, maybe the same notification system, ability to upload, maybe some ability to find friends, search the site etc.

Over all I am pretty disappointed with the new Xbox360 apps as a whole though. Maybe Microsoft will go back to the table and work these up to a second version that is much more integrated and works the way people would expect them to work. Until then I will keep iTweet open on my G1 for Twitter, and I will continue to stream my local collection of music.