Why I’m Not Using App.net, Even Though I Like It

When I first heard of App.net, the idea didn’t appeal to me. I’m not the kind of person who pays for a social network because I’m not that serious about chatting with people online. Sometimes Twitter is very useful, though. I use it to chat with a few people each day and even though I’ve taken breaks from it time to time, I always end up going back because I like the simplicity. That’s what App.net promised, along with a third-party API, so why wouldn’t I like it?

Since I didn’t want to pay for the service, I simply dismissed the thought of trying it out. Then a way to get free access was officially added. You have to be asked to the network by a current member, and there are limitations to storage and following counts. All in all, it sounded like a fair way for me to get a taste of this fresh site.

I was invited to this free tier by Andrew Kunesh, one of our other writers here at AppStorm. I’ve been using the service since the day its “freemium” version was announced, but I actually don’t use it every day. I’m going to explain what I like about App.net, followed by what’s holding me back from visiting the site every day.

Check back later this week for another perspective from our editor, who’s been an App.net user since its early days.

What I Like

It’s Well-Designed and Solid

I really like the design. People that know me will tell you, with anything I use the design must be top-notch. I like what the developers have done with App.net. The clean white and gray with some orange and green accents is very pleasant. It reminds me of Twitterrific’s new iOS app.

A clean timeline.

A clean timeline.

Clean, minimal design is clearly the future. People are tired of needing to sift through all the sidebars websites have on them, and for good reason. I like to see the horizontal rules in the top navigation menu expand when I hover over them. (Though I don’t think there’s much of a need for a large button promoting apps since the website is a perfectly fine way to experience the service.)

Overall, the design is very appealing. It does its job and I like that.

The Apps Are Good and Getting Better

App.net’s whole purpose is to give developers a social network to write third-party clients for. That’s great because you don’t have to worry about the service buying your favorite app and then removing all the features from it (that’s what Twitter did). Developer security is good, and so are some of the apps so far.

Kiwi for Mac: an App.net client.

Kiwi for Mac: an App.net client.

Kiwi, for instance, is a wonderful Mac app for browsing your feed and talking to friends. On the iPhone there’s either Netbot or AppNet Rhino, and the latter is a good example of an app that needs to get much, much better. There’s potential in this market, so it might be a good idea to take the initiative and build your own client for the service, right?

If you’re Paul Haddad from Tapbots, the promise of App.net sounds very appealing. Their team developed a client titled Netbot, released it, and quickly reduced the price to free, simply to “spur adoption” and presumably get a larger slice of App.net’s developer incentive money. I think this move was wise, and they probably wouldn’t have gotten a lot of purchases because App.net isn’t going to gain that many users. It’s a niche thing, after all.

What I Don’t Like

It’s Hard to Understand

At first, the point of App.net was hard for me to understand. But now that I’ve moved beyond that, I’ve discovered another strange thing about the network: it’s not easy to navigate — at all. I can’t figure out how to find anything on there. Usually there’s a way to look for something, but I don’t even know where to start. It’s all so confusing.

Finding a user, for instance, isn’t as easy as you’d expect. Yes, you can put in the person’s username at the end of the URL, but that’s never convenient. What if I don’t know his or her username? There’s a nice “Find People” button in the left sidebar, but it took me forever to find it. I always think search will be on the main page; it’s a unified feature that should grant you access to any type of info on the website. Instead, search is hidden all over the place. First there’s the user finder, then the “Explore” section which doesn’t make any sense, and finally the home page, which offers no consolation.

I can’t find my way around this service, and it’s really frustrating. I keep looking for that search button, only to find that I have to scroll through stuff in the Explore category. It makes me feel like I really need to trek through the woods just to see what people are talking about. I’m not that determined.

Then there’s Trending, which makes absolutely no sense. Are the posts in here popular? If so, how? Have they been starred multiple times or maybe reposted all over App.net? It only tells me if I click the post. I don’t want to do that, though. I’m used to the expanding world of Twitter where all the info is there in just one click. App.net could at least have an overlay or preloaded info screen, but it’s stuck with a whole separate page. While I do like the clean design, I can’t comprehend what comes with it.

Why Apps When the Website is Great?

I use a Mac with either Safari or Chrome as my browser. When I browse App.net on my computer it looks great and I see no reason to use an app at all. You may be helping the developer by spending $5 or so on their creation, but what’s the point if the website is already very nice? It’s clean, has all the functions you need to socialize, and doesn’t really have bugs. Save for my other complaint about its user-friendliness, what’s not to like?

I Still Don’t See the Point

In the end, I’m not going to be using App.net in my daily social life on the Internet. The reason behind that is simple: I don’t find it appealing. Yes, I like the aesthetics and it has potential, but I see no point in using the service when everyone is still double-posting to Twitter. If all the people I want to follow are on there and it’s still a well-developed network, the only reason to stick with App.net is to help the (more) independent developer. Other than that, I can’t find a viable reason to switch.