Freemium.

Today, App.net introduced a free tier, effectively "going freemium." From the blog post making the announcement:

Although App.net has had only paid account tiers thus far, we initially conceived of App.net as a freemium service. It took some time to get to this point, but we are now ready to make this vision a reality.

So what does this mean? Well, that depends on who you are. If you're someone who has always been interested in the service, but were reluctant to make the payment required to join, or simply could not afford it, then this announcement is huge for you. You can finally gain access to App.net without having to pay a dime, and you can keep this access forever. (Instead of the month long free trial program that was previously in effect.) There are, however, a few limitations:

Free tier accounts can follow a maximum of 40 users

Free tier accounts have 500 MB of available file storage

Free tier accounts can upload a file with a maximum size of 10 MB

This means, of course, that you will have to savor your limited amount of follows, but 40 is a decent enough sized number, and you can certainly live within this domain. In terms of storage, 500MB is definitely large enough to store all the photos you want to post to App.net for a long time.

These are actually very lenient limitations, and I could certainly see new users using the service perfectly fine within them. And if you're unsatisfied, $36 per year is really no that much at all.

But what does this mean if you're a paid user? Well, for starters, it means ADN is going to become a whole lot bigger than you're used to it being. It means that you may get a lot more followers, and it means that you might find a lot more people that you will enjoy following. However, it also means that ADN as we know it could be in jeopardy. I posted just last week about what the App.net environment is like right now:

App.net is an ecosystem that has fostered an inundation of conversation and new relationships. I go to App.net every day not to get my daily dose of news, but an extra dose of camaraderie and confabulation to add to the real relationships I maintain throughout the day.

This is what ADN is to me. It's a place where I go to enjoy good company and have good conversations. It's not somewhere I go just to read rapid news flashes and hateful comments, and navigate through a sea of spam bots. That's what I was afraid of ADN becoming when I first saw the news come in that a free tier now exists.

But I should have known that Dalton Caldwell and the App.net team are not that foolish.

To get access to the App.net free tier, you must have an invite. These invites are being distributed to current App.net members on paid plans.

So while App.net is now accessible for free, it is not accessible for everyone. By only giving out invites to members on the yearly paid plan, App.net has stopped a lot of the massive flow of users that would be coming in. Many of these users could just be spam bots and people who don't particularly care about the values App.net has been founded upon. Instead, the only way to get in is by a friend inviting you, or by actually going in search of an invite, which could be difficult, as they are going very, very fast.

This approach will very likely stop the vast majority of atrocities that we don't want to see or deal with on App.net, but still let in all the friends and interesting people that we have been missing on the service.

So, to conclude, I'm very excited about the future of App.net. Freemium is a method that has seen great success with services like Dropbox and Github, and I can't wait to see how it can launch the growth and success of App.net. I'm also very happy to see the App.net team is continuing to keep its users in mind, and not open itself up to the problems that completely free services like Twitter have no choice but to deal with.

Let's see where this takes us.