The Verge has an interesting story with an awful headline, so rather than point directly to it, I wanted to get a chance to frame it in a way that I think is fair to app.net.
They say that only 250 users account for over half the messages posted on the new system. There are over 20K users, each of whom paid $50 to use the system.
They say this means that app.net is off to a "slow start" but I wonder how that compares to Twitter. I have never seen any good numbers, but I think there are really several classes of Twitter users, I have a sense of how they break out in numbers.
1. Celebrities, whose grunts and snorts are fascinating to their fans. They don't really provide information, just the tiniest glimpses into the reality of their lives, which are suprisingly like those of normal people.
2. Link machines, like myself -- people who spend a lot of time online reading stuff, and share links with followers. We post a lot more than the people in category #1. We're not very famous and we don't share a lot of our lives. The product is a linkflow. Another way of looking at it, we use Twitter the way others use del.icio.us (perhaps why the YouTube guys bought it, to turn it into the interesting part of Twitter, imho).
3. Active readers who use Twitter as if it were a river-of-news aggregator, which of course it is. Yesterday I posted a screen shot that illustrates that sometimes Twitter is providing almost exactly the same flow as the Media Hackers tabbed river.
4. Darknet users. I have no idea who they are or what they do or if they are even real people. A huge portion of the numbers on Twitter. Who they are is totally unknown. Like the interior of Alaska or Siberia.
Unless we know how things break down for Twitter how can we judge what's happening on app.net. For one, I am impressed. They have managed to get uptake, with a $50 pricetag, for an offering that is actually less functional than Twitter in many ways, from a technical standpoint. And it's a very small community relative to Twitter. Even so, they have managed to get a lot of people to part with a significant amount of money. And they're smart to go into a quiet period for a while to consolidate, and presumably get some new software ready, and perhaps some content deals.