Tag Archives: clients

App.net’s great start

Today, App.net passed its $500,000 funding goal. A few weeks ago when I signed up with my $50, I didn’t think they could do it. And Daniel and I were both pessimistic about their chances when we talked about it on Core Intuition 50.

In less than a month, they went from a mission statement video that seemed just a step away from vaporware, to following through on an API spec and then alpha version web site. They delivered. The momentum of shipping something real brought in new users and drove them to the finish.

What I love most about App.net is the transparency. Founder Dalton Caldwell is a blogger, like one of us. Where we only hear from Twitter’s CEO, Dick Costolo, through big news publications or at conference keynotes, for Dalton we hear it directly from his own blog posts, the way a small company should communicate. Being on the ground in posts and tweets is a perfect complement to his goal of treating users and developers as real customers.

App.net will never overtake Twitter. Look no further than hashtags all over the Olympics as proof of that. But App.net can put pressure on Twitter to respect third-party developers, and with thousands of paying customers, all with a vested interest in making App.net something worthwhile, App.net has already surpassed every other Twitter clone that has tried and failed to build a community.

From Paul Graham’s essay on ambitious startup ideas:

“The way to win here is to build the search engine all the hackers use. A search engine whose users consisted of the top 10,000 hackers and no one else would be in a very powerful position despite its small size, just as Google was when it was that search engine. […]

“Don’t worry if something you want to do will constrain you in the long term, because if you don’t get that initial core of users, there won’t be a long term. If you can just build something that you and your friends genuinely prefer to Google, you’re already about 10% of the way to an IPO, just as Facebook was (though they probably didn’t realize it) when they got all the Harvard undergrads.”

He’s talking about search engines, but it could be anything. Get those 10,000 passionate users and you have a chance to take on the giants in the industry. As of this writing, App.net has 8000 paying customers. And 25% of them signed up at the developer tier. I’m sure every developer with a popular Twitter app has already looked at the App.net API documentation.

As John Siracusa tweeted after App.net successfully funded: “Now comes the hard part.” Totally true, but just reaching this point was difficult — a perfect mix of great timing and even better execution. In the first 30 days, we saw a team that knows how to win. Let’s see what they can do next.

Professional email app

Ignore that this post is a week late. While I was out sick last week there was a great discussion across blogs about email clients, starting with “Brent Simmons”:http://inessential.com/?comments=1&postid=3425 and then to “Paul Kafasis”:http://www.rogueamoeba.com/utm/posts/Article/Rise-of-the-OS-2007-07-05-12-00.html while passing through several good blogs in between.

Some of my additional gripes about Mail:

  • Text editor is terrible for text-only email, especially when quoting.

  • UI refresh glitches with mailbox unread counts.

  • Sluggish showing new smart folders.

  • Search is not powerful enough without making smart folders.

  • Overall stability problems.

I started writing an email client last year and worked on it in my spare time for a couple of months before abandoning it. It added a few new twists that other clients don’t have, including a server component in an attempt to embrace the benefits of both Gmail (access anywhere, automatic sync) and a native Mac client (better UI). No one I described it to thought they needed it, and I gave up before the UI was polished enough to actually show. Turns out the server piece was too complex and no matter how I juggled the numbers, it just didn’t seem a profitable endeavor.

The recent discussions really make we want to take some of the core pieces (great performance for huge amounts of mail and a tag-based filing system), rebuild it on top of IMAP instead of my custom web services gateway, and see what happens. But I probably won’t. Email clients are a tricky thing to get right, and I don’t have time right now to make it perfect.

I have no doubt that there is a market waiting for a great email client. You don’t need to compete with Mail.app, you just have to appeal to anyone who has been burned by an email client before. People who are serious about email.