Creator of HandBrakeBatch, photo-app.net, ShelfMenu, and JustTime. Who is John Galt? More information on 'cesare.me'.
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A rundown of Photo Stream alternatives

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Photo Stream Alternatives

When Apple unveiled iCloud to us back in 2011, Steve Jobs said:

I pick up my iPad and it doesn’t have that song on it. So I have to sync my iPhone to my Mac. Then I have to sync my other devices to the Mac to get that song, but then they’ve deposited some photos on the Mac so I have to sync the iPhone again with the Mac to get those photos and keeping those devices in sync is driving us crazy. So we’ve got a great solution for this problem. And we think this solution is our next big insight. Which is we’re going to demote the PC and the Mac to just be a device. Just like an iPhone, an iPad or an iPod Touch. And we’re going to move the digital hub, the center of your digital life, into the cloud.

We all agree that device syncing prior to cloud services was an absolute pain. If we fast forward to 2014, we’ve come a long way:

  • My songs are shared amongst my devices from iTunes Match.
  • My documents are spread among (and synced via) Dropbox, Google Drive, iCloud and Evernote.
  • My audiobooks are available from Audible and they have apps for just about every device.
  • My books are spread among iBooks and Kindle. They are also available for most devices.
  • I’ve become a new fan of comics and the ComiXology service works across my iPhone, iPad, and the web. Services like iTunes In the Cloud, Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Video allow us to enjoy our movies and TV shows among our multi-device lives.
  • Apple’s podcast app remembers your place in an episode and your subscriptions. Pocket Casts also has a built in sync solution.

When it comes to syncing data across our devices, we’ve largely “arrived.” If you predominately use all Apple or Google apps and services, then most of your data and documents are synced through those first-party services. And if you use 3rd-party apps and services (such as the aforementioned ComiXology, Kindle, Audible, et al.), many of them provide their own syncing with apps available on all our devices.

One of the last major hurdles for syncing across all our devices and computers is with photos and home movies.

I think the question is, why do we want our personal photos and videos to be accessible from anywhere? It’s because the line between what is and isn’t a computer is blurred.

Let’s look again at Apple’s vision of iCloud, from the above quote of Steve Jobs’ WWDC Keynote in June of 2011:

Which is we’re going to demote the PC and the Mac to just be a device. Just like an iPhone, an iPad or an iPod Touch. And we’re going to move the digital hub, the center of your digital life, into the cloud.

Steve Jobs iCloud slide

I consider my iPad to be as much my computer as my MacBook Air. In fact, my work laptop rarely leaves my office. My iPad is my “home computer.” The technology exists to make our photos and video accessible from all our devices, so why would we not want that? In most situations, the times I want to show people photos of my children is not at home, but when I run into them at the mall, church, etc.

If you try to tackle multi-device photo management using Apple software and services, you would upload your iPhone photos to Photo Stream. They don’t last forever on Photo Stream, so be sure to do this regularly. Videos don’t sync over iCloud Photo Stream, so you’ll need to sync them with a USB cable.

When you break down Apple’s solution to multi-device photo management, it’s actually quite astonishing that this is their offering. If you look at Apple’s iPhone ads, you see a lot of attention given to the camera quality. Having an incredible camera in your pocket is a huge reason to own an iPhone. Apple’s methods still largely require a computer and syncing with a cable. When you consider the growth of iOS device usage, iCloud Photo Stream seems rather backwards.

A few companies have tried to step in with a solution where Apple has failed. What do we want? Our photos and videos on all our devices without having to store them all locally on our storage constrained iOS devices.

Two of our previous favorite services for easily syncing all of our photos and videos to all our devices were Everpix and Loom.

Everpix (RIP)

Oh my beloved Everpix, how I miss you. Everpix was honestly almost the perfect service for multi-device photo management. It took all of the hassle out of it and offered unlimited storage for $49/year. They automatically uploaded your photos from your iOS devices and had a menu bar uploader for the Mac (You basically point the app at the folder where your media lived). It was great and I was a big fan of it. Sadly, it didn’t survive.

Loom (RIP)

Loom was a similar service to Everpix. Functionally, it was the same, but the pricing wasn’t quite as simple. There were various storage levels that had different pricing with them. Their iOS apps were modern and supported new iOS 7 APIs like background uploading. I enjoyed the service and it largely solved the problem with multi-device photo management. Sadly, it was purchased by Dropbox and is being shut down.

So, where do we go from there? Apple still doesn’t have the solution we want and two of the best independent players either shut down or have been acquired. The problem is still here and our media needs are growing with each new iPhone released.

PictureLife

The one major independent player left is PictureLife. Are they fantastic? Absolutely. In fact, they were a few minor things away from being my preferred service over Loom after Everpix shut down. The problem I’ve begun to realize is that our media storage needs are growing faster than our devices are. The $199 iPhone is still a 16 GB device, but we keep taking more photos by the day.

PictureLife photo

The real question to ponder is if you get enough value from PictureLife to warrant the additional cost. For some, the answer is yes, but others will say no.

I’ve come to realize that there are three types of people when it comes to multi-device photo management.

  1. People who want a dedicated cloud photo service such as Loom, Everpix, or PictureLife.
  2. People who are okay with using something like Dropbox or Google Drive as their only cloud photo management tool.
  3. People who don’t have any desire to deal with any of it.

If you are in camp #2, then you really have two options: Dropbox or Google Drive.

Dropbox

Dropbox has been around for years and they are starting to show some interest in tackling the photo problem directly by purchasing Loom and also by releasing a dedicated photo viewer app.

Carousel photo

I’ve tried Carousel, Dropbox’s dedicated photo app, and I wasn’t hugely impressed. It pulls all the photos from my Dropbox, which includes work images, images inside of Day One journals, and other random photos. I’d like to be able to point it at a folder rather than being shown everything. They offer the option to hide individual photos, but that would take me a long time to cherry pick one by one.

Carousel does offer automatic uploads via iOS and the Dropbox app for Mac can automatically import from your SD card or camera. If they can make some changes to Carousel (allow me to select a specific folder and release an iPad app), it will be a really nice app.

Google Drive

Google Drive really just came into the picture for me with their recent price cut. For $2/month, you get 100 GB of space that you can use across their Mac and iOS apps. This is $24/year compared to $99/year for Dropbox’s 100 GB plan. Neither their iOS or Mac apps support automatic uploads, though. It works very similarly to the way Dropbox works in that it’s a folder that syncs. Early versions of the Google Drive Mac app were buggy, but it has come a long way. Their web uploader is also fantastic. I uploaded my entire 65 GB library with no issues.

Google Drive photo

With both of these services/apps, once you upload your media it is available from pretty much any device.

PictureLife

If you want a dedicated photo service and app, then PictureLife is really your only option. With all the shake up in this industry in recent months, I reached out to their CEO and Co-founder on Twitter and via e-mail and they seem happy to be the “last man standing.”

Will they survive as an independent company? Only time will tell.

 I am certainly rooting for them. Even if they get acquired, I hope they are allowed to remain an independent product.

What makes PictureLife a great choice if you want a dedicated service?

1. It’s focused: PictureLife’s main focus is uploading, organizing, and allowing you to view your photos from anywhere. They aren’t concerned with file management, Microsoft Office alternatives, or anything else that is unrelated to photo management.

2. It’s automated: Between automatic uploads from iOS and your Mac, PictureLife is aiming to make multi-device photo management an effortless process. Their goal is for you to take the pictures and they will do the rest. It’s frictionless.

3. Clear Business Model: Google’s in the business of selling its users attention and data. PictureLife manages your photos in exchange for a set price. Depending on your privacy concerns, this may be very important to you.

Flickr

flickr-app

There is also another option: Yahoo’s Flickr.

If you are looking for multi-device access to all your photos for free, Flickr is certainly the way to go. Flickr gives you 1 TB for free, so that is very attractive if you are want something for free that can scale up to a lot of photos and videos.

However, even the newest version of their iOS app (v 3.0) is still built around Flickr’s foundation as primarily being a social networking service. But their iPhone app does have automatic uploads, which are set to private by default. A friend of mine also developed a Mac menu bar uploader for Flickr as well. This can certainly help automate it on the Mac side since the iPhone app already has automatic uploads.

My Pick

With all this being said, many of you are looking for my pick. I’m currently using Google Drive. It’s less convenient than PictureLife, but I’ve been burned by 2 photo services in less than a year. I’m using CameraSync on my wife’s and my iPhone to automate the uploading. I have it set to upload whenever when we get home and join our WiFi network.

The Google Drive iOS app is actually a good photo viewer and loads thumbnails very quickly. At $2/month for 100GB, it’s less than the cost of a Happy Meal at McDonalds. I’ve got a very specific photo organization method that I outlined in my book, and Google Drive fits nicely into my methods.

So, what is the best multi-device photo management solution? Like a lot of things in life, it depends.

The answer will vary depending on where you value convenience versus cost when spending your money. PictureLife is the most convenient service and has one core focus: your photos. Google Drive isn’t really focused on being a photo management service, but it does a pretty good job at a really inexpensive price. Flickr is a good third place. This is mainly due to the fact that it’s still a social service. As they evolves the iOS app, it’s trying to be more like Instagram than PictureLife. With that being said, 1 terabyte for free is hard to ignore.

Service 100 GB Price* Auto Uploads on iOS Finder integration Key Feature Weakness
Google Drive $2/mo Using 3rd-party app Yes In-expensive Many people distrust Google
Dropbox $10/mo Yes Yes Defacto folder syncing service and many people already use it Expensive as your library grows
PictureLife $7/mo Yes Yes Photo focused, automatic organization and best overall experience Expensive as your library grows
Flickr Free Yes No Free for 1 TB More focused on being a social network (like Instagram) instead of a photo management platform for individuals

* I didn’t list all the various storage options on each, but just the 100 GB mark.

My advice to you is to sit down and look at what you are willing to spend based on how much effort you want to put into managing your photos. If you want frictionless, use PictureLife. If you want free, use Flickr. If you want someone in the middle, though Dropbox has promise, it’s not there yet, so I’d recommend Google Drive.

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taglia
2014 days ago
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Adobe Revel is missing in this list. It is inexpensive and keeps improving, I've been using it since Everpix closed. I did not trust Loom to last, and I do not trust PictureLife either.
Singapore
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lardissone
1995 days ago
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I would like Flickr follow the rest of the kids and make it more focused on cloud storage too. I like the social part, but would love to have all my iPhoto collection and share the ones I want.
Pergamino, Argentina
benwhiting
2016 days ago
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This is a great summary of the available cloud photo services.
Fort Worth, TX

What's New in Editorial 1.1

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Editorial 1.1 will go live in just a few hours, and I couldn't be more excited. I've been working on this for over nine months, and in a lot of ways, it feels more like a 2.0, or at least 1.5. There's a new look for iOS 7, an iPhone version, tons of refinements everywhere, and several major new features for building even more powerful workflows.

This post is a rundown of the most important additions; I won't mention every single bugfix here; if you want all the details, head over to the release notes.

New UI and iPhone Support

Editorial 1.1 has an entirely new look that fits in with iOS 7 – gradients, drop shadows and textures are out, and the experience is overall more minimalistic and focussed on your content. I went through several iterations with this, and especially the workflow editor looked quite different while in beta. I've also taken the opportunity to change the main UI font from Helvetica (the iOS default) to Source Sans Pro, which has already been the default text font in 1.0.

Editorial is also a universal app now, so you can use it on your iPad and iPhone without paying twice.

For the most part, the two versions have the same feature set, so when you use it on an iPhone, you can still build complex automation workflows, write Python scripts, etc.1 Of course, the iPhone has a much smaller screen than an iPad, so I had to move some things around to make it fit, but if you've used the iPad version before, it should feel very familiar on your iPhone.

TaskPaper Mode

I've been a big fan of the TaskPaper format ever since Hog Bay Software shipped the first version of their Mac app. In short, it's a very simple plain text format for writing tagged todo lists, and I've used it a lot to track my progress during the development.

Screenshot

If you use TaskPaper, you probably know that the official app for iOS is no longer available. Since it's a plain text format, it always seemed like a good fit for Editorial, and a few people have already created TaskPaper-specific workflows.

Now, before you get too excited, the new TaskPaper mode is not a full replacement for the TaskPaper app, it's actually more like an additional syntax highlighting mode with a couple of convenience features for editing lists, but it should be possible to build workflows for a lot of the other things.

Apart from syntax highlighting for projects and tags, the following features are only available in TaskPaper mode:

  • You can rearrange lists via drag'n'drop.
  • Color labels can be assigned to tags (e.g. to make tasks marked as @due stand out).
  • There are checkboxes for marking tasks as done with one tap (iPad only).
  • The outline view shows projects instead of Markdown headings.

Custom User Interfaces

This is arguably the biggest new feature, and – as far as I know – unprecedented on iOS. Editorial now includes a UI Editor to build custom, "native" user interfaces for your workflows and Python scripts.

Screenshot

Screenshot

You can build UIs without writing code, using the new Custom UI workflow action. The way this works is basically that you assign sub-workflows to UI controls, e.g. "run this workflow when that button is tapped". While this can already be quite powerful, you can also build UIs by writing Python code (using the new ui module), or mix and match the two approaches.

I tend to think of this as a "plugin" interface. It's not for everyone, and there is definitely a learning curve, but it enables the creation of workflows that are nearly indistinguishable from native features.

File Search

There has been a "Global Search" workflow for doing full-text search in 1.0, but in 1.1, this is now a native feature of the file browser. The search uses fuzzy matching for file names and also searches the entire text content of your files, highlighting occurrences in the list of results.

Screenshot

Live Word Count

A lot of people have asked for this. You can now enable a live word counter in the settings. The word count is shown unobtrusively in the corner of your document, and updated as you type. When text is selected (as in the screenshot below), the label turns blue, and shows the word count of just the selected text. You can also tap on the label to show the number of characters instead.

Screenshot

Custom Keyboard Shortcuts

If you use your iPad2 with a hardware keyboard, you can now assign custom keyboard shortcuts to your workflows. There are also a lot more built-in shortcuts available.

Screenshot

Workflow Tags

When you've added a lot of workflows to Editorial, the list can get difficult to scan quickly. To add some organization, you can now assign tags, and filter the list to see just the ones you need in a particular context. For example, you might use a different set of workflows when editing your todo list vs. a blog post.

Tags are entirely optional, if you don't use any, the tag filter bar won't get in your way.

Screenshot

Color Labels for Workflow Actions

In addition to custom titles, you can now assign color labels to individual workflow actions. This can be used to highlight important parts of a workflow, give it more visual structure, or remind yourself of what you're still working on.

Screenshot

New Bundled Workflows

There are three additional workflows included with the app to demonstrate a few of the new features:

  • Print – a very simple workflow that uses the new AirPrint workflow action
  • Lorem Ipsum – An interactive Lorem Ipsum generator – it's a custom UI with sliders to determine the amount of sentences/paragraphs, a preview area, and buttons to copy or insert the generated text.
  • Calculator – Another custom UI that shows a simple calculator popover (this one is not available on iPhone).

Improved Workflow Sharing

With the release of this update, the workflow directory finally leaves beta, and it's a lot more integrated with the app itself. You can now view a list of all your shared workflows in the settings, and more importantly, it's possible to update a shared workflow after you've posted it (just share it again, you'll be asked if you want to update the existing workflow, or create a new one).

Shared workflows are now public by default, but you can of course still share workflows privately. You can also delete workflows that you've shared accidentally now.

Screenshot

Wait, There's More!

These have been the highlights, but there are lots of other new features that are worth mentioning briefly:

  • Support for Multi-Markdown in the HTML preview (optional, can be enabled in the settings) – additionally, you can now customize the HTML template that is used for previewing Markdown documents, for example to match the style of your blog.

  • TextExpander support is back – in 1.0, this didn't work on iOS 7. Please note that you now have to manually import/update your TextExpander snippets from the settings. The automatic way in which snippet sharing used to work on iOS 6 is technically no longer possible on iOS 7.

  • You can now copy local documents to Dropbox more easily.

  • There's a new Open x-callback URL action for easier integration with apps that support the x-callback-url standard

  • The Open URL action has a new option to automatically URL-escape workflow variables. This can simplify a lot of workflows, and you won't need the dedicated URL Escape action as much anymore.

  • A lot more icons for workflows are included, and when you import shared workflows, they retain the icon that was chosen by the workflow creator.

If you have any questions or feedback, please come over to the Editorial forum, or send a tweet.

It would also mean a lot to me if you could take a minute to post an iTunes review. Editorial will never prompt you for this, but there's a handy link at the bottom of the settings screen.

And finally, thanks so much to those who've helped me with feedback, bug reports, beta testing, and general encouragement! I'm very thankful for having such a great (and patient) audience.


  1. The most important things that are currently not available on the iPhone are the bookmarks bar and the Dropbox version/diff viewer. 

  2. ...or iPhone, though I guess that's less common. 

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taglia
2016 days ago
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This update to Editorial is incredible, it is difficult to believe it is just an iOS app.
Singapore
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“TrueCrypt is not secure,” official SourceForge page abruptly warns

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One of the official webpages for the widely used TrueCrypt encryption program says that development has abruptly ended and warns users of the decade-old tool that it isn't safe to use.

"WARNING: Using TrueCrypt is not secure as it may contain unfixed security issues," text in red at the top of TrueCrypt page on SourceForge states. The page continues: "This page exists only to help migrate existing data encrypted by TrueCrypt. The development of TrueCrypt was ended in 5/2014 after Microsoft terminated support of Windows XP. Windows 8/7/Vista and later offer integrated support for encrypted disks and virtual disk images. Such integrated support is also available on other platforms (click here for more information). You should migrate any data encrypted by TrueCrypt to encrypted disks or virtual disk images supported on your platform."

The advisory, which Ars couldn't immediately confirm was authentic, touched off a tsunami of comments on Twitter and other social media sites. For more than a decade, the open source and freely available TrueCrypt has been the program of choice of many security-minded people for encrypting sensitive files and even entire hard drives. Last year, amid revelations that the NSA can decode large swaths of the Internet's encrypted data, supporters ponied up large sums of money to audit TrueCrypt. Results from phase one of the audit released last month revealed no evidence of any backdoors. Additional audits were pending.

Matthew Green, a professor specializing in cryptography at Johns Hopkins University and one of the people who spearheaded the TrueCrypt audit, told Ars he had no advance notice of the announcement. He said the announcement appears to be authentic, an observation he repeated on Twitter. He told Ars he has privately contacted the largely secretive TrueCrypt developers in an attempt to confirm the site or get more more details.

The SourceForge page, which was delivered to people trying to view truecrypt.org pages, contained a new version of the program that, according to this "diff" analysis, appears to contain only changes warning that the program isn't safe to use. Curiously, the new release also appeared to let users decrypt encrypted data but not create new volumes.

Significantly, TrueCrypt version 7.2 was certified with the official TrueCrypt private signing key, suggesting that the page warning that TrueCrypt isn't safe wasn't a hoax posted by hackers who managed to gain unauthorized access. After all, someone with the ability to sign new TrueCrypt releases probably wouldn't squander that hack with a prank. Alternatively, the post suggests that the cryptographic key that certifies the authenticity of the app has been compromised and is no longer in the exclusive control of the official TrueCrypt developers.

In either case, it's a good idea for TrueCrypt users to pay attention and realize that it may be necessary to move to a new crypto app. Ars will continue to cover this unfolding story as more information becomes available.

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taglia
2017 days ago
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Sad decision by the TrueCrypt team, especially since no other encryption technology provided by an OS offers the same features
Singapore
MotherHydra
2012 days ago
I was hoping Apple would mention encryption at WWDC. No dice.
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French railway operator orders hundreds of new trains that are too big

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taglia
2024 days ago
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Oops, more bad news for French taxpayers I guess...
Singapore
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→ App.net’s unrealized potential as an API

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Friend-of-the-show Manton Reece:

I’m more than a little disappointed that fellow developers didn’t get the power of the App.net API. Does Sunlit look like a Twitter app? Give me a break. App.net is hands down the best API of its kind.

It’s not that we didn’t “get” the power of their API.

Requiring the App.net API in our app meant requiring all of our users to have App.net accounts. App.net launched almost 2 years ago as only a paid service — free accounts with open registration were only available for the past year. Trying to get all of your app’s customers to pay you anything for your app, then pay App.net $36 per year for something they don’t understand or care about, is a tall order.1

The high paywall and minimal initial differentiation from Twitter stunted its initial growth, so then it became an API of all different sorts. That’s fine, but now it’s a proprietary API doing some things like Twitter, some things like Facebook, some things like Dropbox, some things like Kickstarter, and maybe someday some things like Stripe… except with none of the users of those services, and only for users with App.net accounts — a userbase that never grew to a large enough number to matter.

Building an app on someone else’s API, rather than making your own, is a huge risk: it usually only pays off if the service provides a huge existing userbase and hard-to-duplicate functionality. App.net never offered either. They started out facing the typical social-network chicken-and-egg problem, put a huge paywall in front to prevent any growth, and tried to alleviate that by adding more chicken-and-egg problems to their offerings.

It was always a weak proposition for developers.

As much as App.net wanted to be — and eventually was — much more than a Twitter clone, it got the vast majority of its initial funding, enthusiasm, and developer support from people’s anger at Twitter’s dickification. But internet outrage doesn’t last long. Since App.net never became the new primary place where our friends all hung out, most of us never left Twitter — we all just accept that they’re dicks now, and we forgot about App.net.


  1. The now-dead Developer Incentive Program was created to address this exact problem, but from what I’ve been told, it never brought in a lot of money even for popular apps. The pool of App.net users has always just been too small. 

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taglia
2038 days ago
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I think Marco pretty much nailed it.
Singapore
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App.net State of the Union

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As many are aware, the first major round of subscription renewals from the original App.net launch happened a few weeks ago. We have been anxiously anticipating what our subscription renewal rate would be in order to do budgetary planning. Since we have not been sure what to expect the renewal rate to be, we mentally prepared ourselves for a wide variety of outcomes.

The good news is that the renewal rate was high enough for App.net to be profitable and self-sustaining on a forward basis. Operational and hosting costs are sufficiently covered by revenue for us to feel confident in the continued viability of the service. No one should notice any change in the way the App.net API/service operates. To repeat, App.net will continue to operate normally on an indefinite basis.

The bad news is that the renewal rate was not high enough for us to have sufficient budget for full-time employees. After carefully considering a few different options, we are making the difficult decision to no longer employ any salaried employees, including founders. Dalton and Bryan will continue to be responsible for the operation of App.net, but no longer as employees. Additionally, as part of our efforts to ensure App.net is generating positive cash flow, we are winding down the Developer Incentive Program. We will be reaching out to developers currently enrolled in the program with more information.

App.net will continue to employ contractors for help with support and operations. In addition to operational and support help, we will also be utilizing contract help for specific new development projects.

App.net was envisioned from the beginning as a service that could be sustainable, something intended to operate on a longer timescale than a typical online service. It is often the case that services that are important to people can get caught on the wrong side of a boom-and-bust cycle, which is something we explicitly wanted to avoid.

We will be open sourcing a larger and larger percentage of the App.net codebase. We would love to get community contributions and improvements. Today we are launching a new open source page at opensource.app.net. The first new piece of software we are open sourcing is our microblogging web application, Alpha. The source code to Alpha is available here.

The continued support and interest of the App.net community is vital the continued health and wellbeing of the platform. Depending on the revenue that App.net makes, we are open to increasing or decreasing the budget we can allocate towards additional development. If revenue rates start to tilt upward we would be excited to budget additional development resources. In any event, our intention is to have the App.net service continue to operate for as long as there are customers willing to support it.

We continue to believe in the usefulness of a sustainable social platform where users and developers are customers, and not the product being sold to advertisers. If this were a company without a clear business model, App.net would have disappeared long ago. The market conditions that were the driving force behind App.net’s creation have not changed, if anything, there is more of a role for a social platform like it. We would like to thank the developer and member community for taking App.net from just an idea two years ago to a fully realized service today. Needless to say, it’s been humbling for all of us on the App.net team to have the support of so many amazing people.

Thanks,
Dalton Caldwell and Bryan Berg, co-founders

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taglia
2040 days ago
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This announcement makes me sad, App.net's model is much more appealing to me than, say, Facebook's. I pay for what I use, and I remain in control of my data.
Singapore
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musafurber
2039 days ago
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Great to see what they built in two years. I'll keep subscribing.
Abu Dhabi, UAE
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