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Earlier this month, App.net, a social service supported by donations and subscriptions instead of advertising, held a hackathon in San Francisco.
Business Insider was on the scene to see what the coders were up to.
App.net isn’t actually trying to kill off Twitter or Facebook, as some early coverage suggested. But it is trying to provide an alternative that lives alongside the social giants.
Dalton Caldwell, the CEO of Mixed Media Labs, the company behind App.net, wanted to give developers like himself a place to experiment, play, and build that wasn’t subject to bigger companies’ sometimes capricious-seeming rules—backed by the users directly. App.net developers pay $100 a year, while users pay either $5 a month or $36 a year.
Last month, App.net unveiled a free, more limited version of the service, considerably expanding its reach; the hope is that paying customers will subsidise the free ones, while the free users make App.net more valuable.
The hackathon, App.net’s second one ever, wasn’t a huge startup jamboree, but the one-day event, held at the WeWork building on the border of San Francisco’s SoMa and Financial District neighborhoods, drew a passionate crowd of coders, designers, and tinkerers. One developer, Jonathon Duerig, drove in from Salt Lake City.
Besides Caldwell himself, there were a few tech celebrities who showed up. One was Marc Andreessen of Andreessen Horowitz. (While Andreessen stepped down from Mixed Media Lab’s board last year, Caldwell invited him to see if some of the independent developers had ideas he might want to back.) Another was Steve Streza, the lead developer of Pocket, an app for saving online articles for reading later.
The results are encouraging. As Streza subsequently noted, many of the new tools coming out of App.net look nothing like the ones we’ve seen built on top of Twitter’s platform. The next target for the community: Providing a substitute for Google Reader, the news-reading tool that Google recently announced it planned to close in July.
That incident highlighted the need for something like App.net—a user-supported platform that won’t fold up shop if it’s not fitting into some big corporation’s goals.
An old-school dot-matrix printer that runs off App.net shows how you can plug almost anything into the service.
Brenda Neigbauer, Randall Leeds, and Brett Slatkin work on projects. Leeds and Slatkin are working on Heartbeat, a service that graphs data like website visits over time.
Ashley Nelson-Hornstein and Andrew Haskin work on an app that transforms text chats into comic-book panels.
Jonathon Duerig chats with NewsBlur founder Samuel Clay. NewsBlur's now touted as an alternative to Google Reader.
Shannon Whitley, shown here chatting with App.net's Ben Friedland, writes apps for HR and marketing tasks. He also built a Windows Phone client for App.net.
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