The Plug's Been Pulled

Today was the day that App.Net, an application platform that turned out to be best known for its social network, came to an end. Dozens of people who had moved on over the years returned to say goodbye, and just about everyone thanked the two main creators of the platform, Dalton Caldwell and Bryan Berg. Looking at the numbers from NiceRank, the last 48 hours of the service were the busiest for human-powered posts in months, which was certainly a nice thing to see in the waning hours of the service … but then came the silence.

Requests go nowhere. There is no server on the other end of the line.

The CDN has come down as well.

The last of the email notifications have been sent.

The community has dispersed one last time.

To say that my time on the network fundamentally changed me would be an understatement. Through the network I interacted with hundreds — perhaps thousands — of people and learned so much more about humanity. I learned about the struggles of transgendered people. I learned about cultures from all over the globe. I learned genuine empathy. Close knit communities can be found all over the web, but few were as inclusive and welcoming as the one found on App.Net throughout much of its life.

Now that community has split one last time. Some people have chosen to go offline completely, being socially exhausted. Some long returned to Twitter and Facebook, where the audience sizes are exponentially larger than anything ADN could have offered. Some people have gone to Some people have come to 10Centuries. Most, however, are spread across multiple places and waiting to see what might come next.

I'm conflicted.

On the one hand, I am thankful for the many years of enjoyment ADN provided. The community rallied around a number of my ideas and helped out. The community also railed against ill-considered ideas and helped out. A lot of what I learned about effective RESTful API design came from studying the interfaces for App.Net and being incredibly frustrated by what I found, which encouraged me to go learn how to build a system that would work according to my expectations1. The most popular English podcast I have ever produced continues to be Discover ADN. Heck, 55% of the funding that keeps 10Centuries afloat every year comes from people who I met and interacted with on App.Net. I'm very thankful to the community.

But when I think about all the difficulties in communicating with the people at ADN. When I think about the years of radio silence since the project was sidelined and a complete unwillingness to discuss anything with the community — paying customers — I wonder just what it is that the organization hoped to accomplish by abandoning ship. Sure, people needed jobs to pay bills and lead lives full of meaning, but is it really so difficult to drop in once in a while and chat? Or respond to offers to write features or fix bugs that would add value to the paying customers, many who continued to renew subscriptions for years in the hopes of keeping the service alive. Sure, everybody is busy and has a tough job. That's life. I'm busy as heck with a tough job, an attention-seeking puppy, a new baby, and a wife, too. Yet I can dedicate a fraction of my day to blogging, podcasting, social interactions, and more. I don't ignore the people around me in the real world, and I don't ignore the people interacting with me in the digital world. Am I just an anomaly in this fast-paced century?

Perhaps I am.

Perhaps I expect too much.

Perhaps I'm unfairly criticizing due to assumptions that were made as a result of feeling unappreciated by a for-profit business that took my money in exchange not just for a service, but an idea. An idea that I and a lot of really good people invested a great deal into. An idea that was presented, then abandoned by the very people who sold it to us.

Regardless. What's done is done. ADN is gone. The community is dispersing. The ideals that ADN was founded on may not have been enough to make that service as profitable as its creators hoped, but the ideals are worth holding on to.

  1. We should own our own data.
  2. We are not products to be sold.
  3. APIs should be accessible.

10Centuries has long shared these ideals, which is why ADN was so attractive for such a long time after it was left idle. 10Centuries will continue to hold these concepts, too, for as long as is humanly possible.

  1. I would not say that my way of designing a RESTful API is superior or anything like that. It's just different in the ways that I prefer.