Introducing a free tier

As of today, App.net is a freemium service

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.

Some background

On July 13, 2012, the App.net project was announced. From that announcement:

…a site called Github came out. It was good. They had no advertising, but charged money for certain features. They quickly became profitable because the service was so good and so important, people were willing to pay. Github has become a much-loved brand and service, and many would agree that it is a key piece of infrastructure in the technical renaissance we are currently experiencing. Github is apparently profitable, and it sounds like the people that work there spend their time trying to make the best service possible, as opposed to spending their time trying to extract additional pennies out of their users.

Contemplate for a moment how scary a theoretical purely ad-supported Dropbox would be. I can easily imagine the overly-cheerful corporate blogpost explaining why placing ads in my personal documents, or selling the file-listing of my music collection to the music industry, or shutting down IFTTT API access is “important to the health and welfare of the community.”

It’s worth quoting the initial App.net announcement to remember that Github and Dropbox were explicitly cited as models for the (then hypothetical) App.net platform. Both of those services are “freemium”, i.e. they have both free and paid tiers of service. The fact that the App.net announcement argued that these freemium services are better aligned with the interests of users than ad-supported ones are was not an accident.

Why now is the time to introduce a free tier

App.net was created to support and empower a vibrant ecosystem of applications built by 3rd-party developers. However, in the very beginning there was a significant chicken and egg problem: there were no 3rd-party apps. The good news is that at this point, the chicken-and-egg problem has been eliminated: there are now over 100 3rd-party App.net apps in existence, available on a wide range of platforms.

We wanted to take sufficient time to build a robust and powerful API. One of our explicit goals is to help empower different types of applications, not just microblogging. We have now completed the Message and File APIs, both of which enable a multitude of possible applications.

We wanted to build a pleasant out-of-the-box experience for new users. We have since introduced a 3rd-party app directory, dramatically improved our signup experience, and have constantly tweaked aspects of the service based on feedback.

Remember, a very short time ago App.net existed as an idea proposed in a blogpost… not a functioning service. As stated at the time, the goal of the backing period was to determine whether a paid market existed for our platform. Since there are numerous examples of freemium business models which didn’t succeed, we wanted to be very careful in our approach to pricing. We have been spending the past few months learning and analyzing data in order to come up with a plan for a sustainable and beneficial free tier.

Free tier details

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.

Free tier accounts are similar to paid tier accounts, but with a few limitations. These limitations are as follows:

  • 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

More about the invitation system

As an added bonus, members can earn additional file storage by inviting friends. Both the inviting member and the invited member will receive 100 MB of additional storage if both of these things happen:

  • The invited member follows at least 5 other accounts
  • The invited member authorizes a third-party app

Accounts that were previously invited to a 30-day free trial are now automatically enrolled in the free tier, no action is necessary. Additionally, any existing invites that have been sent and unclaimed will also function as invites to the free tier without needing any additional action.

The road ahead

We’d like to thank all of the existing members of the community for being part of manifesting something amazing out of thin air in just 6 months. The rate of innovation and participation in the nascent App.net ecosystem has been astounding. We look forward to seeing this pattern continue!

In the coming days we will be closely monitoring how the invitation system is working, and will adjust the availability of invites accordingly.

Don’t forget: invitations aren’t the only way to create an App.net account. Anyone can go here to get instant access by signing up with a paid plan.

Thank you,

Dalton & the App.net team

Upcoming App.net events in NYC, San Francisco and Austin

If you’re in, or around, New York City, San Francisco, and Austin the next few weeks, come meet a few of your fellow App.net community members.

First up: ADN Meetup in New York City on Thursday, February 21 at Salvation Taco from 6-9 pm. @jhubball and @orian from ADNHQ will be on hand, joined by many others, to eat tacos and talk shop. RSVP to attend.

peeps

On Saturday, March 2, the 2nd App.net Hackathon goes down in San Francisco, 10 am – 10 pm (exact location TBD). Last time, projects like LongPosts, Apparchy, Vidcast, among many others, came to life. We’re fired up to see what’s in store this year. Please RSVP if you’re planning on attending.

A week later, on March 9, @dalton will be speaking at SXSW. If you’re in town, let @adn know, as we’re finalizing the details on a casual meetup someplace nearby.

 

What is ADN File Manager?

App.net is a social network and a platform for applications – a network of independently developed apps – that members can choose between. Depending on your preferred method of connecting to App.net, there is an app for you. This series will showcase the variety of apps you can use.

Screen Shot 2013-02-12 at 3.43.04 PM

Two weeks ago we announced the App.net File API which gives users a 10GB “bucket” to store files on ADN.  It was an exciting announcement for us to make but, if you are not a developer, this announcement had little immediate impact on your App.net experience.  As a user it was hard to “see” these files or manage them in any way.

While we did add an image uploader to Alpha to demonstrate use of the File API, like any API release, we look to the developer community to build this functionality into their apps.

 

Thanks to @ludolphus, you can now find ADN File Manager in the App.net Directory to help you manage and monitor your file storage.  You can upload multiple files at once, delete files and view your available storage space / current usage.  You can even hover over image files to see a thumbnail preview of the image.

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This is the first file management application that we’ve seen but we expect to see other options and uses of our File API in the near future.  We’ll keep you posted.

New Notification Preferences

Screen Shot 2013-02-08 at 2.17.29 PMMany of you have requested the option to receive an email notification when you are mentioned on the service. Today, we have made this possible.

You can now OPT-IN to receive these in your Settings->Profile->Notification Preferences. You have the option to be notified when you are mentioned publicly and/or sent a private message.

Note: Everyone is opted out of these notifications by default, so you will not receive the emails unless you turn them on. The last thing we want to do is send out a bunch of unwanted emails.

We are still experimenting with the exact frequency of these emails, but top talkers will not be bombarded with notifications if you choose to OPT-IN.

As always, send feedback to @ADN or directly to support.

 

Seven Questions with App.net Developers: @kosso

This is the latest in our series Seven Questions for Developers on App.net, where we ask a different developer the same set of questions to learn a bit more about the people behind the apps. If you’d like to participate, contact @ben.

bli.msOur next developer is @kosso, who is currently living in Bristol in the UK, after many years in London and also a few years living out of a suitcase, back and forth to San Francisco and Boston helping to build startups as an entrepreneur.

@kosso calls himself ‘a Createc’, since he designs as well as codes (and all the various back-end and front-end aspects required in between).

@kosso’s last big project was a fully multimedia-powered social network making it easy to share content of any type, from as many devices and existing sources as possible. Before that, he had built some time-based multimedia applications using SMIL which led to his time at BBC News developing systems used by journalists to publish multimedia content to anything from a pocket sized screen to huge billboard-sized jumbo screens around the country.

Tell us about your App.net app. What are you looking to accomplish with it?

As soon as the App.net API came out at the begninng of August last year, I was on it like a shot. I had been in the middle of putting together yet another mobile multimedia site to make it easy to share photos, video and audio from a mobile to any of the major social networks, as well as have a rudimentary social network built in. I was already in ‘the zone’.

So my goal for my first app called #PAN was to enable easy sharing of *all* the media types – photos, video and audio – to App.net.

All apps were going to do just photos. That bit’s easy. But I’ve been working for many years now, with code to process any media a mobile could throw at it, so it seemed like a great opportunity to build on the API here.

Since then I have also built a service called BLIMS for other app developers to use to enable multimedia uploads in their apps. This uses a part of the App.net API called ‘Identity Delegation’ to connect a user’s account with the service from another app. Clever stuff.

As it happens, I was thinking about this when I spoke to @tonymillion (developer of Rivr) about solving these needs for his app. Now Rivr and other apps such as Dash and Robin on Android and other iOS apps are using it. It also makes sense to collaborate, rather than compete and it’s very rewarding to see other people use other developer’s apps which are using my service too. I’ve built a few things on top of the BLIMS API for App.net users too. Deskface.com and a Chrome Extension called BLIMSHOT which I’m about to get to the WebStore.

App.net’s recent File API has obviously caused me to rethink a few things, but in a good way. I’d much rather the file uploads went on after processing to be hosted in the users’ paid-for App.net filespace. It solves a lot of potential issues from a legal standpoint too, but it shouldn’t change the great experience you get from browsing through the bli.ms site and connecting with people’s posts on a visual level, rather than always reading things. I’ve found people through it I might not have otherwise connected with. Multimedia rules!

http://bli.ms/3229

What qualities make a great app?

Simplicity and no-brain-required ease of use. It’s very hard to whittle down ideas and plans for an app into its simplest form. Especially if there are core (and unique) features which you need to get in. I struggle with this all the time.

Sometimes I like very simple ‘does one thing’ apps. But I always very much enjoy to use and build ‘swiss army knife’ apps, which perform a multitude of related tasks. As long as the experience is enjoyable and I can tell the developer has put a lot of effort into it, I tend to appreciate that a lot in an app.

Another thing that makes a great app is great testers. With good feedback (and responses!) comes a better app for as many people as possible. It’s great to have so many other pairs of eyes go over things I build and pick up on things I’ve missed. I couldn’t do it without them.

 

What tools are important to you as a developer?

My laptops go with me everywhere. Day and night. I’ve been on Apple for a few years now after very many years on Windows and find that I’ve saved literally hours not having to keep cleaning out malware and trojans etc. since making the switch. It was also a requirement for developing for iOS devices. It’s incredible to think that what I used to have to use a honking great desktop machine for, I can now do on an 11 inch MacBook Air. And then some.

I write most code in a basic text editor, so that and Photoshop are my main tools. I’ve never been a fan of IDEs. I’ve recently started using Sublime Text 2 and after a bit of getting used to, I’ve found it to be a great time saver in writing the PHP, JavaScript and Python I’ve been needing to do my work and get things done faster. I’m very much at /home (see what I did there?) on the command line to various Linux boxes I have to set up and keep running.

I’ve also been using Titanium by Appcelerator to build iOS and Android apps since their early days, so I’ve seen their tools and SDK evolve over the years into a hugely powerful system which enabled and empowered me to use my existing JavaScript skills to build native apps on both platforms. It’s also taught me a great deal about the underlying Objective-C and Java too, as I need to build and extend their SDK with modules to do specific things, like record audio etc.

bli.msWhy did you decide to build something on App.net?

I can’t resist a good API. I instantly knew that what was available here was exactly what I needed from the standpoint of someone who has been building social networks for many years, and on them too.

Also, the fact that I paid for it. I’m a customer, not a product. That’s very important to me. In fact, I’d been talking along these lines to people (including my mother!) around the time @dalton did his blog post about the idea to start with. We’re on the same page. There’s also the fact that when the doors opened here, there were no apps at all and a user base hungry for them, so they could use this new network on the move. There’s a market. It’s also just damn good fun.

The experience back when the API opened here, with all the developers on the network was absolutely fantastic as the new features rolled out. It was great to be a part of the start of something which I felt had great potential and feel even more so now.

 

What got you started writing code?

I had a Sinclair ZX-81 when I was about 10 years old (which I still have in working order!) which got me interested in the whole logic going on. I have a very logical mind and I really enjoy solving puzzles, so it struck a chord with me. I love to learn new things. Also my father has a very technical background, so in many ways, I’m a silicon chip off the old block. ;)

 

Any advice for aspiring developers (all the young coders out there)?

Yes. Please give up coding and go get a different job in Starbucks or something and stop eating my lunch!! :)

Only joking, of course. The best advice is to never give up. Use Google. You’ll always find that someone has had the same problem as you somewhere and has had the question answered. To begin with, you might be intimidated by the way experienced developers talk online, with their vast knowledge of things you don’t yet understand, but you will more often than not find that most of them are the nicest and smartest people you’ll ever meet who are more than willing to help you solve an issue and get you on your way.

The main thing to remember is we’ve all been through it. We all had to start somewhere.

YOU CAN DO ANYTHING!

 

 

When you’re not coding you’re…

If I’m not out watching live music, I’m usually always thinking about apps and code and ideas for apps. I’m cursed as an ‘ideas person’, always coming up with something. Day and night. I never stop. I also like a good Guinness. :)

I love brainstorming and bouncing ideas back and forth in my spare time (if there is such a thing), so for the past couple of months I’ve been collaborating and brainstorming with a great user I met on App.net called @michelelewis who isn’t a developer, but she totally ‘gets it’ when it comes to knowing what’s needed and what might be a good idea or not for the things we want built for all the growing amount of users out there. We make a great team. It’s lots of fun.

Being a lone codeslinger can be great most of the time, and it can be great working with other developers. It’s also great to be working with someone who isn’t a dev to get feedback about the big picture and the experience rather than the technical intricacies. @michelelewis is very much a part of the core BLIMS-powered team/engine/’empire’ (lol) now, helping me keep my ducks in a row and in order when it comes to the products I’m building and creating great fun things for the future, while creating order from the chaos in my app-riddled mind. It’s made me more productive and efficient.

 

What is NoodleApp?

App.net is a social network and a platform for applications – a network of independently developed apps – that members can choose between. Depending on your preferred method of connecting to App.net, there is an app for you. This series will showcase the variety of apps you can use.

NoodleApp is a web-based App.net application which automatically embeds media, making for a more visual experience.

@ednapiranha, who makes NoodleApp (along with other contributors, as it’s an open source project), said its web experience “caters to an audience that prefers minimalism, simplicity, and generally enjoys a media-centric experience.”

 

Noodle2

Part of what makes App.net unique is the versatility of the service: the more than 100 apps, clients, and integrations (that span platforms and functionality) members have the option of using.

For many App.net members, Alpha stands as the main (and often only) web app they interact with. Alpha was launched as a proof of concept during our crowd-funding campaign back in July to show the world what was possible with our API.

Today, there are twelve different web applications, including NoodleApp, which all offer a different feature set.

NoodleApp supports private messages, displays your interactions (who starred or reposted your post, etc.), and supports markdown for making links with custom text, for those used to that. Learn more about @ednapiranha’s approach in our Seven Questions with Developers series.

 

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How do you use App.net’s 256?

For many, one of App.net’s defining features is our 256-character limit per post. Many members say the 256 lends itself to more thoughtful posts, which in turn leads to more in-depth discussions.

We’ve already seen how this shapes the community’s use of the service. Take @imyke, host of the podcast CMD+Space, among others, on the 70Decibels network, who regularly takes to App.net to seek out listener feedback.

 

@imyke
imyke What are your thoughts on ads being dropped in to a show post-recording?

How do you feel when you hear these as opposed to ads that are read/performed live in the recording?

Can you hear the difference?

 

@imyke
imyke Nerds:

So, new show idea. Limited run topics on a fixed show. For example, 6 episodes about Comics, 10 episodes about top movies of all time, etc.

Specialist guests.

Working title: Limited Edition.

Thoughts?

(Don't steal it..)

On Bionic, @imyke‘s podcast with @mattalexander, he explained, “If I want feedback from the listeners, and I want good feedback…If I want people’s thoughts and ideas, App.net is where I go.”

@imyke went on to say, “I got so many responses–great responses.”

So, how do you use App.net’s 256? How does that shape your App.net experience? Join the conversation by attaching the hashtag #256 to your posts. We may even post some of the most interesting responses right here on the blog.

 

This Week’s RecApp

It’s time again for another recApp of what’s new in the App.net Directory.  Some sharp looking iOS clients, one for Mac and nifty little polling app.  It’s great to see the continued innovation from our developer community.  Keep up the great work!

 

RiposteRiposte - for iPhone - Riposte…is designed specifically for App.net, with native support for Stream Marker, Interactions, and more.  The optional full-screen view hides the main navigation bar, making more room to see those lengthy 256-character posts.  Created by @jaredsinclair & @jaminguy

 

 

QuestionQuestion App.net - integration - Question App.Net is a question poll service. You write your question and users can vote on up to ten options you create.  Created by @misterpoppet

 

 

 

RaptorRaptor for iPhoneRaptor is a unique, easy to use, fast and free iOS client for App.net.  The app contains many features that make browsing App.net on the iPhone a great experience.  Created by @domness

 

 

 

PikaPika for iPhonePika is a full-featured app.net client for iPhone with a unique approach to interface: minimize navigation while you’re browsing, all you see are posts. Scroll up a bit and the navigation pops back into view.  Created by @phil

 

 

 

moapp#moApp - for Mac - moApp is a cute and sophisticated AppDotNet client. It’s already very stable and almost feature complete and polished. It offers Notifications, Global Hotkey, Gestures, Favorites (Stars), Disabling of the Dock icon and lots more…  Created @moapp

 

 

If this were the Mickey Mouse Club, it would be time for everyone to sing that sad goodbye song.  It’s not the MMC and we don’t have a sad goodbye song but you get the idea right?  Until next time…