App.net State of the Union

As many are aware, the first major round of subscription renewals from the original App.net launch happened a few weeks ago. We have been anxiously anticipating what our subscription renewal rate would be in order to do budgetary planning. Since we have not been sure what to expect the renewal rate to be, we mentally prepared ourselves for a wide variety of outcomes.

The good news is that the renewal rate was high enough for App.net to be profitable and self-sustaining on a forward basis. Operational and hosting costs are sufficiently covered by revenue for us to feel confident in the continued viability of the service. No one should notice any change in the way the App.net API/service operates. To repeat, App.net will continue to operate normally on an indefinite basis.

The bad news is that the renewal rate was not high enough for us to have sufficient budget for full-time employees. After carefully considering a few different options, we are making the difficult decision to no longer employ any salaried employees, including founders. Dalton and Bryan will continue to be responsible for the operation of App.net, but no longer as employees. Additionally, as part of our efforts to ensure App.net is generating positive cash flow, we are winding down the Developer Incentive Program. We will be reaching out to developers currently enrolled in the program with more information.

App.net will continue to employ contractors for help with support and operations. In addition to operational and support help, we will also be utilizing contract help for specific new development projects.

App.net was envisioned from the beginning as a service that could be sustainable, something intended to operate on a longer timescale than a typical online service. It is often the case that services that are important to people can get caught on the wrong side of a boom-and-bust cycle, which is something we explicitly wanted to avoid.

We will be open sourcing a larger and larger percentage of the App.net codebase. We would love to get community contributions and improvements. Today we are launching a new open source page at opensource.app.net. The first new piece of software we are open sourcing is our microblogging web application, Alpha. The source code to Alpha is available here.

The continued support and interest of the App.net community is vital the continued health and wellbeing of the platform. Depending on the revenue that App.net makes, we are open to increasing or decreasing the budget we can allocate towards additional development. If revenue rates start to tilt upward we would be excited to budget additional development resources. In any event, our intention is to have the App.net service continue to operate for as long as there are customers willing to support it.

We continue to believe in the usefulness of a sustainable social platform where users and developers are customers, and not the product being sold to advertisers. If this were a company without a clear business model, App.net would have disappeared long ago. The market conditions that were the driving force behind App.net’s creation have not changed, if anything, there is more of a role for a social platform like it. We would like to thank the developer and member community for taking App.net from just an idea two years ago to a fully realized service today. Needless to say, it’s been humbling for all of us on the App.net team to have the support of so many amazing people.

Thanks,
Dalton Caldwell and Bryan Berg, co-founders

New API Feature: Extended Scopes

Today we’re announcing some changes to make it easier for you to control which apps can see your data. There’s no reason why a private message app like Whisper also needs access to your Ohai journal or your Sunlit photos. Starting today, we’re giving developers the tools to ask you for access to just the data they need.

As developers integrate this feature, you’ll see an explicit list of what kinds of messages and files a developer is asking to access.

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Developers, we’re calling this new feature extended scopes. To get started:

  1. Fill in descriptions for any File or Channel content types you’ve created. See the Content Types documentation for more information.
  2. Review the Extended Scopes documentation.
  3. Migrate your app

If you have questions please ask them in the App.net developer Patter room.

 

What is Vitajot?

Your App.net account lets you access a network of apps – like photo-sharing, group messaging, and mircroblogging – and Vitajot is a new (free) private journaling app for Android.

The idea behind Vitajot, as its developer @rrbrambley writes, “was to have somewhere to put all my unfiltered thoughts and photos – without having to worry about how other people would feel about them.”

With Vitajot – similar to Ohai for iOS – your content is organized by day, and you can keep track of what you’re doing or thinking and where you’re going by adding photos, text, or location information. So often there are things you’d like to remember or document that you don’t want to share but DO want a record of. Vitajot gives you that option.

Additionally, because Vitajot uses your App.net file storage, photos you add to a specific entry can be accessed in another app on the platform (if you give it permission).

Vitajot  is free, although you can upgrade to a paid subscription to access premium features, like passcode lock and the ability to save journal entries offline. Not sure you want to upgrade? You can try out the paid tier free for thirty days.

@rrbrambley wrote a blog post about the app with more information.

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What is Sunlit?

Your App.net account allows you to do a lot more than send and receive Broadcasts. Your account gives you access to a network of great social apps, from microblogging and private messaging to check-ins and photo-sharing.

Sunlit is a completely fresh take on a photo-sharing app, letting you collect photos into stories — rich, detailed albums that you collaborate on with friends. Built by @manton and @cheesemaker, Sunlit is like nothing we’ve seen before (in the best way).

For too long, there was no easy way to collaborate on photo albums via mobile with friends and family of a trip you took, a wedding, a party…any shared experience. Sunlit, for iOS, is your answer, and it makes the process simple, beautiful, and intuitive.

Sunlit is free to use (a $4.99 in-app purchase unlocks unlimited stories), and you can download it now in the app store.

You can take photos, import photos from your camera or Dropbox, add filters, tag your location, include descriptions, and even publish to a web page with a single tap. Then, you can invite friends via private message to participate and add their own photos to the story. You’re then left with a beautiful, living document.

Sunlit is built on top of App.net’s infrastructure — you need an App.net account to use it — and is a shining example of what can be done. Your photos are saved securely in your App.net file storage, which means you can access them in other apps like Favd, if you wish to share them with your followers. If you’ve been using Ohai for private journaling and check-ins, you can import check-in location and text into a Sunlit story. Bottom line: your photos will always remain accessible and in your control.

“You have that feeling when hanging out with friends — everyone snapping pictures of their surroundings, of people, events, food, anything — that photo sharing should be better,” writes @manton about why he wanted to create Sunlit. “That years later, you should be able to go back to that time, to see the best photos collected together from several people. And not just photos, but maps of where you were, and text to describe its significance.”

Download Sunlit now in the app store.

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Announcing App.net Broadcast

broadcast-pressIt’s a noisy world out there. Important news posted to social networks is only seen by a small percentage of the folks who want to receive it. It’s an unfortunate situation for both publishers and subscribers.

Push notifications are a powerful tool for sending and receiving important messages, but the high costs of developing and distributing an application make it beyond the reach of most.

That’s why we are releasing a new feature: Broadcast. Broadcast makes it easy for anyone to publish and subscribe to push notification “Broadcast Channels” for free.

What is a “Broadcast”?

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A Broadcast is a new type of message that is always received as a push notification. A user only receives a Broadcast when they have explicitly subscribed to a Broadcast Channel. No “promoted content”, no black box algorithms, just a simple way to subscribe to valuable information that might otherwise get missed in a busy feed or overloaded inbox.

A Broadcast is more expressive than just a simple push notification: when a subscriber opens a Broadcast, they will see content that is determined by the publisher. Broadcasts can be composed with a photo, an animated GIF, additional text/links, geographic information, as well as a “Read More” link that takes the user to a URL of the publisher’s choosing.

Subscribing to Broadcasts is not the same as following a feed. A publisher first needs to create a new Broadcast Channel (a single App.net account can create multiple Channels). Once the Broadcast Channel is created, the publisher can share it with their audience, as well as embed a subscribe button anywhere on the web. Anyone who wants to subscribe will receive real-time push notifications each time the publisher sends a Broadcast.

A good Broadcast Channel will send at most 1-2 Broadcasts per day, and most likely even fewer. A successful Broadcast publisher will only publish the most important and high value messages to their subscribers. Just like an email list, subscribers can easily unsubscribe and will have a very low tolerance for noise. Hooking up a high volume RSS feed, or replicating the same content from a Twitter or Facebook page is far too noisy for anyone to want to receive in the form of push notifications.

Who is Broadcast good for?

  • Bands letting fans know about tickets on sale, album releases, surprise shows, etc.2013-11-12 17.05.35
  • Public safety messages, severe weather, etc.
  • Podcasters letting their audience know when they are recording live, and when new episodes are available
  • Internet publishers who publish on a low-volume, sporadic schedule. For instance internet comics, part-time bloggers, analysts, etc.
  • App developers letting folks know when new versions are released (which may be missed due to new auto-update features)
  • Anyone running a crowdfunding or grassroots campaign who needs a realtime way to mobilize their supporters
  • Companies running mission critical services that want to let folks know about scheduled or unscheduled downtime
  • Coordinating a large group of people for parties, meetups, festivals, conferences. Imagine if you had a last minute change of schedule or venue; you’d want to make sure people on their way don’t miss the message.

The advantage of Broadcast is that the publisher knows their subscribers will see their message as a push notification and can take action in real time.

How do I use Broadcast?

There are several ways to publish Broadcasts:

To receive Broadcasts, a subscriber needs only to download the free App.net app for iOS or Android.

There is a directory of Broadcast Channels available. This is meant to aid in discovery and give subscribers an idea of how frequently each Channel sends Broadcasts.  Subscribe and unsubscribe will always be one simple tap, so that you are never stuck receiving push notifications you no longer want to see.

Broadcast and the goals of App.net

broadcast-icon-largeAt the heart of our company values is the principle that that our users are our customers, and everything we do must put them first. With Broadcast, users are completely in control: a person will receive exactly what they subscribed to, no more and no less. App.net is functioning as the “pipes” connecting publishers with subscribers.

In terms of business model, all of the Broadcast features released today are free and will remain that way. Our goal is for the benefits of Broadcast to be available to everyone. We plan on offering additional Broadcast features for paid accounts, including advanced analytics and publishing tools.

We look forward to the developer ecosystem integrating Broadcast features into existing and new apps. Broadcast is a great example of a novel experience created with the App.net platform, as well as a crisp and simple reason for the average person to want an App.net account.

The App.net team has enjoyed creating and testing out Broadcast, and we hope you enjoy it too!

Dalton

ADNpy: a new python library from App.net

The App.net team spends a significant amount of time writing software on top of our core API. We are doing our best to release the pieces of software that other developers could find useful. For instance we have open-sourced PourOver, Omega, and our small Angular library.

adnpyToday, we are announcing the release of ADNpy. It’s a python API client (built on top of kennethreitz’ fantastic requests library) that collects a number of tools we use internally and packages them into a simple library.

Just like ADNKit and ADNlib, ADNpy is aimed at making it easier to get started building App.net-enabled software in your development environment of choice.

ADNpy on Github

A simple way to get started with the App.net API

Starting today anyone can create an App.net application for personal use — ideal for someone trying to familiarize themselves with the App.net API. To get started, visit account.app.net/developer/apps/ and create your first app.

Apps created by non-developer accounts can only be authorized by the account that created them, have relatively low rate limits, and are not able to create app access tokens. If you have an app that is ready to be used by more than just yourself, you will need to upgrade to a developer-tier account.

We would like to thank @duerig, a member of the App.net community, who created an unofficial tool called “dev lite” as a way for users to generate access tokens for personal use over a year ago. Dev lite demonstrated the demand and value of having an easy way for everyone to get started with the App.net API.

To learn more about how to use the App.net API, please check out the developer documentation.

App.net Passport for Android now available, Passport for iOS updated

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This is a big week for App.net Passport, the easiest way to create a free App.net account, find friends, and browse the App.net directory. Passport for Android is now available, and Passport for iOS has been updated with our new onboarding tools. Our Passport apps are an important part of making the “out-of-the-box” experience smooth and simple for App.net users.

With this release, an Android user has a simple way to create an App.net account, find friends, and discover the great apps available on Android. Both versions of Passport feature our revamped onboarding tools for finding friends and verification, like address-book matching and profile search. You can also invite friends via text and email.

(Note: a minor phone number validation bug made it into the latest version Passport for iOS. A fix is being submitted to Apple for approval ASAP.)

 

App.net Passport Download Links:

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Information for Developers

Passport for iOS and Android are both built with the help of open source libraries. We have been contributing bug fixes and functionality to libraries on both platforms.

The App.net library for iOS is called ADNKit. The App.net library for Android is called ADNLibADNKit and ADNLib make the “out-of-the-box” experience for new App.net developers as smooth as possible, and hopefully our usage of them in Passport demonstrate how powerful and useful they are.

Additionally, we suggest that 3rd-party developers enable single sign on via Passport in into their applications. Open source SDKs for integrating Passport into your application are available for Android and iOS.

Thanks,

The App.net Team