Dalton Caldwell thinks so. GigaOM reports that Caldwell, founder of Imeem, announced a project to turn App.net into a for-pay Twitter. The service would cost around $50, revenue shared with developers on the App.net API. That is, of course, the whole point behind the project: to build a super-open and agile API. But is $50 too much, especially when weighed against a for-free product with a built-in user base?
Caldwell has spit vitriol against Silicon Valleys “advertising-supported monoculture.” Caldwell argues that advertising-powered products, which turn users and user-generated content into the product, is bad for developers and consumers. Free products are forced to control their APIs and the user experience in order to maximize advertising value. The user-incentive behind App.net is, well, the applications that would emerge around its API. Yet, if no one opts-in and ponies up the fee—if App.net’s user base is small—it will be unable to provide value to clients. And if App.net charges a fee, it will be difficult to demonstrate an attractive opportunity-cost to potential clients. Meaning that barring a spectacular PR campaign, App.net will be impotent against the “too big to fail” logic of Twitter.