Revealed: the reason hyped startup Amen ditched the web

Amen founders Felix Petersen, Caitlin Winner and Florian Weber

As we reported earlier this week, hot opinion app Amen has just undergone some major changes that generally indicate a quick maturation of its platform.

Amen founders Felix Petersen, Caitlin Winner and Florian WeberNow it turns out that several of those changes – the addition of comments, the removal of the ‘new feed’ and the abandonment of the web version – were specifically intended to shut down a certain kind of conversation that was taking place on Amen.

Judging by a blog post the team put up on Thursday, some early adopters had started using Amen as a messaging platform, rather than the like-dislike system it was originally intended to be.

The service lets people tag items, people or ideas as “the best thing ever” or “the worst thing ever”. But some people were choosing a different route. To give an example of what was going on, the team stuck up examples of good Amen usage and bad Amen usage: “New York is the Best Place for Rooftops in the World” versus “I have to go the Gym now, see you Sonja and all the other Ameners is the Best thing to mention right now. Amen.”

It’s certainly become clear why those changes were made. The addition of comments means conversations can happen in a way that doesn’t pollute the main stream: the ‘new feed’ — now abandoned — had made Amen into a place where people could discover new contacts rather than interacting in a new way with people they already knew, as intended.

And the web version went (or was at least neutered) because it’s much easier to type on a desktop than on a smartphone, so that had become the main vector for ‘chitter chatter’.

“Imagine for a second what would happen if Instagram released a bulk upload client and people began uploading archives worth of holiday pictures. Right? We are faced with a similar dilemma of how to encourage quality over quantity without dampening overall activity,” the team wrote.

What’s ironic about this situation is that Amen CTO Florian Weber was the first engineer for Twitter, a platform that famously just provided an engine and let the users establish the norms of its usage.

I can certainly see the point of trying to keep Amen’s usage aligned with its creators’ vision – especially when millions of dollars in investment are contingent on that vision’s execution – but it’s a move that raises interesting questions about who should be in control of what an emerging platform gets used for.

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