Caldwell believes that advertising creates incentives for companies to treat developers badly, and abused developers result in unhappy users.
So he created App.net to be an open platform paid for by users. It costs $36 per year to join, or $5 per month if you pay month-to-month.
His intentions are noble, but the end result is a bad thing. The subscription fee sounds trivial to Stanford grads and elite technology pundits, who generally praise the initiative. But to the majority of people around the world, and to many people struggling in the industrialized world, a subscription fee is simply a bad or impossible investment.
As a result, App.net is by definition an elitist private country club where the riff-raff are weeded out by virtue of their inability or unwillingness to pay.
Despite Caldwell's reasonable points about developers being abused by advertiser-supported social networks, ads are still the best way for them to monetize.
Social networks are a precious public resource, providing contacts, information, ideas, learning and more to the global public. They should be a place where everyone is welcome and everyone is equal, and where the free exchange of ideas can take place without the majority being excluded, or systematically ignored, because of money.
At least, those are the kinds of social networks that I want to participate in. What about you?
Mike Elgan writes about technology and tech culture. Contact and learn more about Mike at Elgan.com,