Social networking is too important to the future of the Web to be reliant on the advertising industry. That's the argument put forward by the founder of an effort to create an open, ad-free social network closely modeled on Twitter but supported by fees from users.
Dalton Caldwell, who founded one of the Web's earliest successful social networks, Imeem (see "IM-based Social Networking"), and sold it to MySpace in 2009, announced the project, App.net, last week to widespread interest from Web startups and developers. Caldwell has decided to divert the efforts of his current startup, Mixed Media Labs, to begin work on the project, and wants to raise $500,000 in donations to fund the rest. The project has already secured over $65,000 towards that goal. Donations have come from people paying the $50 annual member fee the service will charge, or larger amounts for the access that software developers need to build apps on the service. Mixed Media Labs received $5 million in investment funding in 2010 and originally worked on tools to help creators of mobile apps market them online.