Aral on identity, privacy and app.net - One Man and His Blog

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September 4, 2012

Aral on identity, privacy and app.net

Liveblog of Aral's talk at Hacks/Hackers Brighton:

Aral Balkan

He's going to talk to us about identity and privacy. He's an experience designer. He makes things for people - mainly virtual products, his focus is on the human side of things.

Aral Balakn

If you could send free letters to everyone you like for free, would you sign up? Yup, say the audience. OK - but what if that service could read everything you said? Only two people went for that. How many are on Gmail? Way more. But that's exactly what Gmail does - reads the e-mails to show you advertising. They have to examine you, build a profile of you. Whatever they do: a phone, a tablet, a computer - they want you do given them your data. That's what their business is built on. Imagine if that were the case with the telephone. 

It all began with Web 2.0, amongst the starburst and rounded corners, with free web apps. The steps of creating a free web app:

  1. Get loads and loads of users. Go to venture capitalists and get them to lend you money based on your users
  2. ?????
  3. Profit

It's the second step where you get screwed. The VCs want money, and you have no business plan. So you go for advertising, and optimise your sites for advertisers not users. Free... is a lie. The cost is your personal information, your privacy. 

The Kindle Fire compresses your web browsing and squirts it down the internet to you. Great, right? Well, they know exactly what you're browsing and buying. They know every site you go to. Any government would give their right arm to get the information you give for free to Facebook. Facebook is a prime example. Their shares have collapsed to $18 since their launch. But they do have $6bn cash in the bank, so they're doing not that great.

Twitter? It used to look far more simple than it does now. It was a friendly place - he had warm feelings towards it in the early days. They had a lot of problems scaling it. The early adopters built a lot of the conventions - @ replies, retweets. Twitter paved the cow paths - the places people have already been. Hashtags were the same. What Twitter has was an API - a means of getting just the data out of the system. That allowed people to build their own clients. Tweetie was one of the best iPhone and Mac clients using the API. Tweetdeck was one of the most widely used. 

The developers built a lot of the platform, the infrastructure and the culture. Things wents south in 2010, when Twitter built Tweetie. For the first time their was an official Twitter client. They they bought Tweetdeck... The in March 2011, they published a blog post telling people not to build client apps. "Explore other verticals" - a suit phrase. On June 29 2012, they followed it up with a post that started implementing limits that make it very difficult to have a successful Twitter client. The reaction of the developer community was negative and shocked - because they loved Twitter. 

Like Flipboard? It could die under the new rules. Twitter wants a Tweet to look the same everywhere. Flipboard contravene this. The CEO of Flipboard quit Twitter's board. July 13th - Dalton Cladwell wrote and audacious proposal for app.net - an alternative people paid for. That's crazy. We never pay for shit. So what is ADN? It's an ad-free, open standards-based alternative to Twitter for real time social communication. They did a Kickstarter-like pitch to get $500,000 to start it. They did it with 38 hours to spare. In the last 38 hours they hit $803,000. 

Aral's conclusion? Web 2.0 is dying. ADN's API is completely open. It's on Github. You can add notations - metadata - to the posts. It's been going for a month - and there are dozens of apps being worked on already. 121 of them, in fact. Some of them are really, really polished. 

Right now - it's not for the general public. It's for the geekier amongst us. But this allows us to get it ready for the general public. 

Have you looked at Twitter lately? The trending topics are nonsense. They way he views it is that Facebook and Twitter are targeting the same audience as McDonalds. It's the McDonaldsification of social media. It's good that we have alternatives to McDonalds - not all of us want to eat there. But there's been a backlash about the $50 charge, but it misses the point. Is your identity, privacy and security worth $4 month? Is it worth a pint? 

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Q. How is app.net different from identi.ca, a free and open source equivalent? 

A. Part of it is that it has a sustainable business model. With a lot of open source projects you don't have that focus. Plus, app.net is very focused on the user experience. Aral doesn't believe that open source and great user experience are mutually exclusive, but the examples out there right now don't support that. Design thinking is sorely needed in open source. Indenti.ca doesn't have the mindshare.

Q. Will you be able to use the funds raised for marketing?

A. Exactly. Dalton has said they can go for two years with what they've raised so far. Plus, we're emotional creatures - we like the underdogs. 

Q. It's not the only game in town I've got nowdly in review in the app store.

A. I hope Libya doesn't do anything nasty to your domain name - but there's a groundswell - a trend. 

Q. Are we being anti-capitalist? I like Amazon knowing what I read, I want this pub to know what I drink.

A. First time ever we've discussed paying for something as anti-capitalist. Twitter and Facebook aren't going away. It's good to have an alternative. 

Q. Is the fragmentation of the social networks a problem?

A. Things aren't set in stone. MySpace was huge. Bebo was huge. People move around. 

Q. App.net doesn't have to be the only one - it can be interoperable. You could build another service that talks to it.

A. To sum up, we're living in a very exciting time, when there's going to be a lot of upheaval. 


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This page contains a single entry by Adam Tinworth published on September 4, 2012 6:24 PM.

Hacks/Hackers Brighton tomorrow: popup newsrooms and community clinics was the previous entry in this blog.

Joanna Geary: So, that online community stuff - it's all sorted now? is the next entry in this blog.

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