Two years ago this week, Glass launched for iPhone. I had subscribed right away because I wanted to support their work and saw potential in it, even if I will always default to posting photos to my own blog first. Since then, Glass has added an Android version and a web version, along with other improvements like tags and appreciations.
Not long after Glass launched, we added special support in the Micro.blog iOS app for it. You can see a video of how it works in my blog post here. Unfortunately in the rewrite for Micro.blog 3.0, we had to temporarily remove the feature, although it’s slated to come back in version 3.3.
In that post about supporting Glass in 2021, I wrote:
Glass is so new that it remains to be seen where the app will go, and how it might expand in the future. It shares some of the same principles as Micro.blog — no ads, no algorithms, no likes — but Glass lacks important open web features like domain names and IndieWeb APIs.
Glass still lacks those features for the open web. After a couple years, if having an open API was at all on the radar, it probably would have happened by now in some form. The founders seem more interested in creating an Instagram alternative — another silo without an API or federation with other networks. And in 2023, I don’t think that works.
There is now mainstream pushback against big centralized platforms. We have Micro.blog and Mastodon. We have free photo platforms like Pixelfed. It is a harder sell for customers to spend $5/month for a photo service that is mostly disconnected from the rest of the social web.
I was thinking about Glass while looking into their export format, in case we wanted to support importing it into Micro.blog. I don’t plan to cancel my subscription, but I would not be surprised if many Glass customers have slipped away. The latest big announcement from Glass — an optional $99/year Patron membership — is geared toward increasing revenue from existing customers rather than growing the customer base.
We’ve been running Micro.blog for 6 years. I know how hard it is to balance marketing to new subscribers, keeping churn down, and offering new features regularly, including upgrades to higher subscription tiers. We barely have it figured out now and we were certainly a long way off after only 2 years. The default for SaaS platforms is the slow ramp of death.
There are effectively no success stories for Glass’s current business model. Small clones of Instagram and Twitter usually fail. To break out, there has to be something fundamentally different. For Micro.blog, the answer is simple: we are a social network but our business is blog hosting, a proven model. For Glass, the answer is less clear: they care deeply about photography, community, and design. I think the founders deserve a lot of credit for creating something beautiful. Is that enough?
I don’t know what the right model is for Glass, but I’m confident that it should include a strong foundation for open web standards. I hope that can be part of their vision. It might even be critical to the future success of the service.