Dalton Caldwell (throw some Scrabble tiles in a bag and pull them out at random... he's American after all) is trying to build a social network that values its users over advertisers... because it doesn't have any. Advertisers, I mean. Um. From the horse's mouth:
We believe that advertising-supported social services are so consistently and inextricably at odds with the interests of users and developers that something must be done.They're running a Kickstarter-like site where people can pledge from between c£30 and c£640 to help get the thing off the ground. When you pledge you can reserve your username, or import it from Twitter.
The concept of a social network as a "utility", like water or electricity is an interesting one, but I doubt it'll see mass adoption by anyone other than power web users, just because I don't think most people ask the questions about why the likes of Facebook and Twitter act the way they do.
Free social networks will always, should they want to, boast that they're "truly open" because the only barrier is a web browser, so I think app.net will end up more like the Apple to our Microsoft, eschewing good user experience and all-round integration (and a price that reflects that) over swap-out-able...ness.
But it's early days and there's not a huge amount of hard info on what the service is or will be. But I've pledged my $50 and hope others do too. It's only got four days - at the time of writing, natch - so they're pushing it a bit, but I wish Dalton massive luck.
join.app.net is the site. Peep it out, as they say on the streets. Somewhere.