Way back in the olden times – 2011 – Twitter was more and more being seen as an internet utility, something akin to a personal version of RSS (Really Simple Syndication). It was almost impossible to find any app that DIDN’T include twitter integration in some fashion. Our scales were tweeting us. There was constant innovation in what things could tweet, consume tweets, reuse our streams, and generally make us, our friends, acquaintances, brands, and yes, even things, more connected.
Then something happened at Twitter – they realized there was very little money in being a utility company on the internet. No one ever paid anything to use RSS, it was the antithesis of everything RSS was – a basic standard to allow anyone or anything to communicate easily with apps, sites and people. A backbone of communication on the free and open internet. In order to control the experience and ensure maximum ad potential, Twitter began restricting how developers could use their platform, and over the last two years, have wiped out several entire categories of apps and services that used to proliferate the web and mobile app stores. Just ask Twitterific, Seesmic, Tweetgrid, or any number of similar apps – the Twitter developer ecosystem had turned hostile.
App.net entered the scene around this time, for pay, promising an ad-free, real-time social feed. One that would never crush its developer ecosystem. It has since dropped the fee, and with the help of its developer community, has constantly iterated, changing itself into something very different than Twitter, but something much closer to what many idealists had hoped for from Twitter as a “utility” company.
App.net just released its new Broadcasts platform, something I’m personally declaring as the successor to the syndication throne. If RSS and Twitter made a baby, it would be App.net Broadcasts and it would be better and smarter than either of them could’ve ever been alone.
Broadcasts is about “push” technology. It’s a service that allows content publishers, brands, bands, you name it, to push messaging and content directly to users. With a simple “subscribe” button on your page, users can subscribe for updates. App.net gives a list of useful examples:
- Bands letting fans know about tickets on sale, album releases, surprise shows, etc.
- 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 crowd funding or grassroots campaign who needs a real time 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, meet ups, festivals or 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.
App.net says that successful broadcasters would post at most 1-2 times per day, or even less. When you broadcast your message, a push notification is shown to your subscribers. There are a lot of apps in app stores that exist primarily for this purpose, and App.net could replace the need for those.
How it Works
Broadcasts are not limited to blog posts, events and podcasts – nearly anything can send a push notification. Dalton Caldwell’s vision is that Broadcast will plug into the internet of things to let you know when nearly anything happens. “You should be able to get a push for anything that happens on the internet,” said Caldwell in an interview with The Verge. You can send a link, a photo, GIF or text.
Users will find their recent alerts in the Broadcast tab in their app, and can easily search for and find new “Channels” to subscribe to for new content. The promise of Broadcasts is that you will receive everything you subscribe to, no more and no less. Publishers can easily create channels to push content to their audiences. While other networks (Facebook and Twitter) allow you to get notifications for someone you follow, App.net is much more modular. New York Times, for instance, may not create a Twitter account just for movie reviews, but it’s easily possible for them to create a content Channel for that feed… in fact, it could create a multitude of feeds for every section of its website.
App.net’s Place in the World
Email is still king for responsiveness – for both online content publishers and e-commerce retailers. App.net’s Broadcast, however, gives publishers a way to cut through the noise of older channels and have real-time communication with their audience.
According to Caldwell, Broadcast isn’t a revolutionary idea, but it is a revolutionary implementation. If you take capabilities of RSS for syndication, and combine it with Twitter’s idea – that following someone is just as simple as pushing a button. Push services aren’t new, Boxcar’s app, years ago, was allowing people to combine notifications from social signals. However, App.net’s open architecture, the ability to plug-in with existing sources, and a founder who is willing to actually build a “utility” company makes this an incredibly attractive bandwagon to jump on early. With a Hootsuite plugin already available, they are serious about making Broadcasts even easier to use than RSS ever was.
App.net is a Freemium Service. Broadcasts is free, according to their company blog post, but they will charge for analytics in the future.