How much would you pay for the privilege of tweeting without advertising? owner David Caldwell is learning that users will pay $50 per year to join the startup, use its features – and keep their Twitter handle.

Designed as a paid version of the massively popular Twitter, is already ahead of its funding schedule. The support suggests that users and programmers may be wary of Twitter’s recent restrictions (see – and are ready for an alternative service.

Although it’s currently just at the alpha stage, is gaining momentum, and Caldwell is happy to acknowledge his early adopter supporters. “Thank you for believing”, he blogs. “We couldn’t have done it without you.” was originally conceived as a platform for mobile developers, but evolved into a paid version of Twitter. Ryan Kim of GigaOM writes, “The product will offer a real-time feed and a social graph similar to Twitter available from a mobile application or website. Ultimately, will support third-party apps built on top of the ecosystem. Caldwell said the consumers aren’t given much choice right now in social startups, which are largely dependent on advertising for revenue. That leads to businesses that work to ultimately sell their users and their data to advertisers, he said. He believes there’s enough of a market for another business model that puts customer and their trust first.”

While some critics believe is just a Twitter clone without much of a future, others maintain it could be the beginning of something much larger – not just another app, but a complete platform. What if it allows users to communicate along similar services (Twitter, Facebook), instead of within itself only? By definition, it’s open platform nature could encourage this sort of interchange.

As David and Goliath scenarios go, there’s not much of a battle here, at least in the beginning. Twitter claimed 500 million users in February of this year, and the platform shows no signs of slowing down. But we’ve seen stranger developments in the world of social networking and computing: Facebook’s falling stock prices, Microsoft’s first quarterly loss, Apple’s Lazarus-like rise from the near-dead.

Is the beginning of a truly open social ecosystem? At the very least, it promises a choice.

Cam Levak, Raven5 Ltd., Toronto, August 2012

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