I’ve been reading a lot of discussion on App.net about how the concept of reblogging/retweeting is going to grow on the network. Since I don’t know how the idea of a retweet (RT) grew on Twitter, I went hunting for information. Turns out, Wikipedia details out the growth of the RT on twitter in this article here. Turns out, the concept of using @ to signify a user and RT to signify a re-post grew organically among twitter users around 2008. This troubled my mind a bit. So, in essence, the growth of culture on twitter was independent of what the company wanted and instead, was in the hands of the users.
Now we come to a discussion on App.net. This discussion right here – Echoes, RPs and “>>” talks about people using the “Share” button on Google Chrome via an extension called Succynct by developer and App.net member Abraham Williams. The point to note is that since the platform is still in it’s infancy, a proper lingo for re-posting has not yet been decided and the creator, Dalton Caldwell has just been using the lingo “RP” for RePost. The conversation flows to discuss the concepts of “>>” and finally, that of “Echo”. Here is where the biggest problem lies. The developer, having a distaste for “>>”, says that in the next build of his extension, he’ll consider adding the “Echo” keyword.
App.net started as a way to hand over control of the flow of conversation to the people. The promise is that no longer will we be plagued by advertisements and spam bots. The promise did not talk about who would have control over the ideas and the culture. This means that people building on top of App.net have the ultimate control. Now here’s the thing – A common user of App.net pays $50 per year while a developer pays $100. Obviously, there will be a lot fewer developers than users. This also means that those making all the apps, extensions and services on top of App.net will be very few. Compare this with Facebook, Twitter and other ad-supported networks. Anyone can get up and create an app. Thus, the onus of deciding lingo rests either on the common users who popularize concepts (as in the case of Twitter) or in the hands of the company (Facebook).
App.net is pretty young right now and because of the promise made to it’s users, the company has rested control of the culture into the hands of the common users. Or maybe not. The disparity between paying users and paying developers means that a concentrated few will get to decided how things formulate. The reason, if it’s not clear to everyone is that a lot of users for all social networks nowadays are mobile. That means that the default web interface for App.net is not going to dictate culture as well as iOS apps do. Even when users are on their desktops, extensions like Succynct will rule the platform and create culture.
Maybe these predictions will come true and maybe not. But the fact remains that as long as App.net retains this business model, the power to create something on top of it will not be in the hands of the masses. Perhaps when App.net has proven it’s point and penetrated a large chunk of the market, it should revisit it’s developer strategy and open doors to many more people, thus making sure that it remains true to it’s goals.