App.net wants to be “Twitter that you pay for” and, so far, that has been a bit of an uphill battle. Now they have introduced a File API and have started talking about the idea of an “unbundled” future where your data is separate from the social networking service. Dalton Caldwell writes:
The promise of “unbundling”
Imagine a world in which your social data (e.g. messages, photos, videos) was easier to work with. For instance, imagine you could try out a new photo sharing service without having to move all of your photos and social graph. In this world, your photos are held in a data store controlled by you. If you want to try out a new service, you can seamlessly login and choose to give permission to that service, and the photos that you have granted access to would be immediately available.
The direction appears to be towards becoming a social web service platform:
What kinds of applications could be built with this API?
- Photo sharing applications
- “Glue” to tie together desktop/mobile/tablet photo applications (in a way that is not tied to a specific platform such as iOS or Android)
- Collaboration tools. (When tied together with the Messaging API)
This new File API adds a third-party app feature that works similarly to third-party Facebook or Twitter apps, where the user grants access to apps to use their App.net cloud storage. All current (paid) App.net users get 10GB of free space (not bad for $36/yr). Dropbox has a similar API but it is not typical of most cloud storage providers and opens up some interesting possibilities. Perhaps users can take control of their data in this “unbundled” world, keeping their data theirs and requiring service providers to comply with their rules instead of the other way around.
Michael Mahemoff calls it the “battle of the next decade”:
Bring Your Own Data is the cloud battle of the next decade – with the potential to disrupt Google Apps as much as Google Apps has disrupted MS Office. Likewise for any other SAAS app.
By unbundling data from the apps that manipulate it, Dropbox, Evernote, and now App.Net are threatening the “traditional” cloud model of a “hero”, official, app suite with only peripheral access from third-parties.
It’s very early days, but if service providers continue to annoy people with constant changes, inscrutable terms, and violations of expectations of privacy and rights, perhaps this idea will set in with mainstream users and they will demand better than the likes of Facebook.