App.net: a Quickly Maturing Infant Social Network

This week, while Twitter again tightened their restrictions on 3rd party apps, App.net passed its funding level, and developers quickly started releasing new web and native apps built on the new platform. App.net was designed to be an open social network that encourages innovation and 3rd party apps. In fact, its own Alpha app is only built as a design reference, to show what could be done with the network.

That doesn’t mean that the Alpha app isn’t interesting, though. In fact, it’s already received a number of new features and tweaks in its first week of existence. Let’s take a look at where App.net stands this week, and what the best apps have to offer.

Alpha: The official App.net app

App.net was built largely in response to Twitter’s changes from a developer friendly platform to one that’s largely built only around Twitter’s own apps. With that, App.net is designed from the ground up to be great for 3rd party development. That hasn’t kept the App.net team from building their own great app.

Right now, if you have an App.net account, Alpha.app.net‘s likely the first way you’ll use it. It looks much like a sparse, older Twitter, one with 256 character long messages and Facebook-style profile banner pictures. It’s already changed in its first week, moving the main interface buttons to a top toolbar, and adding an option to delete messages and see what app was used to post an update.

My App.net Profile

If you were looking for a great Twitter-style service, Alpha.app.net almost would have everything you’d be looking for. It gives you an easy way to view the posts of people you follow, reply and keep up with conversations, and tap into the global feed of messages from all App.net users. It has a very nice conversation view that shows the original message, all replies, and gives you a space to add your own reply.

Conversations in App.net alpha

Alpha.App.net is the only place to tweak your main account settings, for now at least, and it has almost everything you could want. In addition to options to change your name, password, profile picture and cover image, it also has an option to export all of the data from your App.net account. Additionally, you can revoke 3rd party apps you’ve added to your account, just like you’d expect from a service that lets you authenticate other apps.

App.net’s sparse settings

Other Apps

After being open to backers for just one week, App.net has already seen a ton of developers rush to make great apps for the service. There’s a full list of 3rd party App.net apps already, including web apps, search engines, mobile apps, browser plugins, and more. Some web apps you might already use have added App.net support already, including Buffer, the popular app to share posts on Twitter and Facebook on the best possible schedule. Zapier has also already added App.net support, giving you a way to tie all of your other web apps into the new network.

Then, from the new apps that have sprung up just for App.net, there’s many that are exciting enough to start using. One of the most polished so far is shortmsg, a mobile web app to help you keep up with App.net on the go. It includes all the features you’d expect, much like the Alpha app, but in a fully responsive interface.

App.net for your mobile browser

Another great App.net app is App.net Search. It’s a fast search engine for the App.net network, showing search results from messages and user profiles on it. Plus, it already shows trending hashtags, ones that will likely be much more relevant to most people that’d try out App.net than Twitter’s trending topics.

App.net Search

If you’d like other ways to use App.net from your desktop browser, QuickApp is one of the most full-featured desktop web apps for the service so far. It gives you a real-time stream of your timeline and the global feed, so you can keep up with App.net without refreshing the page. It also lets you add extra columns to your interface so you can keep up with topics being discussed, much like Twitter saved searches.

App.net in real-time

Then, if you want to quickly post to App.net, Twitter, and Facebook, to not leave your old social networks behind, Poster.ly is a great way to post on all of them without taking up extra time. App.net Stats, another 3rd party app, is a rather geeky fun app that shows the networks’ realtime metrics, a rather powerful demonstration of how much info App.net’s API lets developers access.

Making Sense of App.net

App.net, with its lively 3rd party development and crowd of early adopters, could easily remind one of the early days of Twitter, when most of us couldn’t figure out what it was good for. Remember: @replies, hashtags, retweeting, and more came from users and were added officially to Twitter later.

Much the same, App.net’s vocabulary and uses hasn’t precisely gelled yet. Messages on App.net are typically called posts, right now, and its version of retweets are usually called RP for repost. Some people call the network its full name, while many others have taking to calling it ADN. These are things that’ll make more sense over time. For the most part, it’s a network where anything goes right now, where we can all try out and see what sticks, and that’s a rather exciting possibility.

Just as Twitter seems to want to keep Twitter on Twitter.com, and has started discouraging 3rd party development, App.net is showing potential as the most developer friendly messaging system and social network ever. It’ll definitely be interesting to see how it grows and changes over the next year.

If you’re on App.net, feel free to share your @name below. I’m @maguay on App.net and Twitter, and would love to hear your thoughts about App.net and its potential as a brand new social network.


  • Shawn

    Surprised that in this review the $50 a year membership wasn’t worth discussing, or am I missing something?

  • http://jasonhobbsllc.com Jason Hobbs

    @jasonhobbsllc

    I just got into the Alpha and plan to fill out my profile and play with the Alpha once I get caught up on work. Hopefully this weekend :( lol

    I know some have qualms about the price, I paid the developer plan, because I like the idea behind it, no ads with the users as the focus. Something that is not the actual case with other social networks who must keep advertisers happy to make money.

  • http://svahastudio.com/ Helena

    @helena enjoying app. net.

  • http://www.JeremyBuff.com Jeremy Buff

    I’m really looking forward to see where App.net goes. Hopefully they’ll come up with a better name, but I already feel like this is going to be better than Facebook and G+. Right now, I’m struggling to see it replace Twitter. However, with more API changes coming from Twitter, it is certainly a real possibility.

  • http://desbest.uk.to desbest

    The best thing about App.net, is not only can I freely make my own smartphone app for it (as an interface), but I can also make my own alternative website for it, without fearing any repercussions.

  • http://www.mycitysurat.com/ Priya Naik

    The name itself doesn’t suggest much for a social network. I would like to wait and see the response to it before signing-up.

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