Dalton Caldwell is a successful entrepreneur who recently pivoted his startup to create App.net a real-time social feed without ads. Its basically a for profit driven social service platform where the customers are the developers, not the advertisers. This is in stark contrast to the Facebook model.
He is currently trying to raise $500K via social funding to launch this service and is asking developers to buy into it. The big benefit of App.net for developers is that they would own their content and have full control over their data.
He made a big splash when he wrote a blog article entitled What Twitter could have been about how Twitter in the early days fostered a great developer community but has recently been burning those bridges as they shifted their model to cater to advertisers.
That controversial article led him to start the App.net platform. It didn’t take long for Facebook to notice what he was up to and invite him out to their offices to talk about it. Dalton agreed to the meeting on the pretense that it was to work out some way to work together, but when the meeting started, things went an entirely different direction. According to Caldwell, instead of discussing collaboration Facebook presented a threat of acquisition or destruction.
Dalton left the meeting and wrote an open letterto Mark Zuckerberg criticizing Facebook and the practices of its employees. In the letter he discussed how the financial motivations of Facebook do not line-up with their users and developers.
I believe that future social platforms will behave more like infrastructure, and less like media companies. I believe that a number of smaller, interoperable social platforms with a clear, sustainable business models will usurp you. These future companies will be valued at a small fraction of what Facebook and Twitter currently are. I think that is OK. Platforms are judged by the value generated by their ecosystem, not by the value the platforms directly capture.
I like the concept of a non-ad driven social media platform, but I think its up to Facebook to shift into that role because a startup competing with Facebook and Twitter really has no chance of gaining the critical mass to support such a venture. At the time of writing this article, Dalton’s App.net has only raise 150K of the 500K target proving that developers are wary of backing a social platform that isn’t Facebook.