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App.net plans to launch a file storage API on Monday, allowing developers to build apps that use photos or files in their products, which are hosted by the users connected to their App.net accounts. Users will start with 10 GB of space to host information.

iphone camera
photo: jesus-leon

Needless to say, photo ownership is a sticky topic. Just ask all the people who left Instagram in December over Instagram’s terms of service and the question of photo ownership and rights.

So not surprisingly, one of the biggest champions of personal data ownership and paid services when it comes to social networks is forging an experiment in file storage and ownership. Dalton Caldwell plans to announced Monday that App.net will be launching a file storage API, giving each of its existing users 10 GB of file storage space connected with their accounts, so they can personally host their own photos and files and then authorize App.net apps to access those files.

App.net launched in the summer of 2012, and it’s still a little unclear exactly how Caldwell’s vision for the network is going to play out. He is currently committed to a paid network strategy where users have access to all the apps created on top of the App.net API, including everything from group texting apps to a network that looks pretty much like Twitter. Developers are paid from users subscription fees based on the popularity of the apps developers build.

Central to Caldwell’s thesis is that a paid network creates more value for the developers and gives users more ownership over their data and information. For instance, if you have an Instagram or Flickr account, you upload photos to the services which are then hosted on those companies servers even if you retain copies of the photos yourself. With App.net’s storage API, you would host your own photos in the cloud, and give authorization to different apps to access your photos (just as you give an app access to photos on your iPhone’s camera roll, for instance.)

“It’s like your personal Dropbox,” Caldwell said. “You want to maintain the originals and feel like they’re yours.” He noted that allowing for photo and file apps will be an important part of growing the App.net developer network, which is now fairly focused on text-based apps.

Caldwell said he thinks moving into photo and file storage will provide App.net developers a good deal of flexibility in what they design with the service’s API, and moves App.net into a potentially more useful and lucrative area for both users and developers.

“It’s an attempt to get away from some of the downsides of a siloed data storage,” he said.

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