The Implicit Meaning of Advertisements

Dalton Caldwell on his latest creation, App.net:

App.net is a different kind of social platform.

We’re building a real-time social service where users and developers come first, not advertisers.

We believe that advertising-supported social services are so consistently and inextricably at odds with the interests of users and developers that something must be done.

Help us create the service we all wish existed.

It’s no secret how much I love Twitter and what it does. App.net looks to do a similar thing, except this time you pay up front for it.

There’s essentially two routes of monetizing something on the Internet today:

1) You pay an up-front fee for the service or product.

2) You access the product for free with the understanding that you will see advertisements at some point.

I like the first model better. Not because I hate seeing advertisements, but because what seeing advertisements implicitly means. Everything that is sold is slave to to who or what is paying the money for it. If I pay, that means the product is slave to me. If advertisers are footing the bill, it means the product will adhere to what the advertisers want.

In the instance of using ad-supported products, what the user wants and what advertisers want are inherently at odds. Users want to enjoy the product. Advertisers couldn’t care less about that; they’re more interested in you buying what’s being advertised. Because advertisements without people seeing them are useless, it then becomes the job of the product providers to strike the right balance. Within reason, product providers are going to first look to the needs of who or what is providing the funding.

I want to be explicit here: some people don’t like advertisements because they don’t like being the product sold. This doesn’t particularly bother me. Yes, I understand that Facebook and Twitter essentially advertise products that they think I’ll buy based on personal information that I’ve given them. I’m saying I’m OK with that as long as Twitter and Facebook put my wants and needs above those advertisements. The problem is that this is not the world in which we live.

There are a ton of arguments against App.net. (The one that worries me the most is that the majority of people won’t buy in, thus rendering what makes Twitter great–its ubiquity– null.) But, if I truly like the first model better and I feel a well-designed Twitter-like service is something that adds value to my life, it’s my job to fund it.

You’ve got about 17 hours to throw in your $50.

Update: I assumed the App.net alpha would be private for those who funded it early, but it looks like you can join anytime.