I asked that question in a challenging way because I want the answer. Lots of people seem to think it does have a future. Why?
We're all going to be looking for Plan B at some point, where Plan A is Twitter.
Because Twitter is moving. It's necessary because they're on a certain track, and they won't be able to get off that track now that they're going public. They will have to add more features that are present in Facebook, unless they can get investors to see them differently and let them lose money, as they have with Amazon. But that's a hard needle to thread, and profits are relatively easy to find for them, as long as they draw themselves closer to Facebook.
And Twitter, without the open API that it used to have isn't my Plan A even if they stay exactly where they are. And I suspect it will be less useful over time for the elite influencers and the reporters who cover them. Twitter could build an advertising model around them, others have, but they say they're going mainstream, and I believe them.
To me, the only interesting product in this space is one that is infinitely hackable. app.net has successfully positioned themselves as the hackable Twitter, because a lot of developer types say "app.net" when you say "hackable Twitter." But I don't think it is that.
Hackable and open are the same thing as far as I'm concerned. The Internet is open, because I can put up a server and have it do anything I want it to, as long as I'm not hurting anyone else. Twitter used to be like that, but it's very far from that now.
I could do that now, I assume, with app.net, but what guarantee is there that my code will be legal in the future, if they decide they want to control the whole market themselves?
Time is a factor in openness. Part of being an open platform is the potential for it being open in the future. Twitter appeared to be a fairly open platform, if you could overlook the power that Twitter had to close it. Many of us chose to look the other way, hoping we could make enough to justify the investment before they closed it. Or build enough of a user base that when Twitter outlawed us, they would want to use our product anyway, without Twitter. Well, the only product I can see that made it there is Instagram. The rest either got bought by Twitter, or went away. So we lick our wounds and go on. But am I interested in making the same mistake twice, so soon after the last one? I am not.
So if you think app.net is the answer, tell me -- don't you worry about them closing up their platform after they attain a certain measure of success? And don't you think the fact that other developers see this problem has something to do with the fact that their application base is so small? It's not a reflection on their ethics, it's just it's hard to follow Twitter, in their own space, after Twitter did such a nasty thing to developers.
If you really want developer cacophony, lots of crazy innovation, a thousand flowers to bloom, you have to let go of all control. No half-measures that can be revoked later. Maybe if you find another group of developers who haven't been burned you can sell that story. But not here, not now.
Anyway, maybe I'm wrong -- if so we'll find out in the comments.